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Balm-Boyette Scrub Preserve

You know IT when you find IT: It's something unique, something out of the way, something you could find only at one particular set of coordinates. It could be a masterful pedicure, a perfect waffle, a surly waiter, a greasy spoon. Divine or just delightfully dreadful, it's something that's unique to the Brandon and South Shore area. We encourage you to send us your picks, finds and hidden treasures. E-mail us at

Blink and you'll miss it at highway speed. A small turnoff on Balm-Boyette Road leads to an unpaved parking lot.

Those curious enough to double back are well rewarded: A trailhead starts at the edge of your car door. Within moments, stiff saw palmettos fronds are rubbing at your shins. Ferns and pine flatwoods unfold along the serpentine trail.

Hop onto the 6-inch-wide board to cross a small creek. The water is tea colored yet startling clear.

Keep hiking. The real prize is just ahead. And it's nothing, as in no car noise. No radios. Nothing unnatural.

There's only the occasional rustling of an unseen creature and early morning sunlight poking through the tree canopy.

The Balm-Boyette Scrub Preserve is 4,916 acres of bliss, where sand pine scrub meets hardwood hammock and where pine flatwoods give way to cypress swamp. A little luck might bring a fox or deer sighting.

But it's not all solitude. Mountain bikers revel in the 18 miles of trail that start across the street from the parking lot. Think there's no riding challenge in this tabletop-flat part of Florida? Just try it. There are easy double-track rides and single-track loops. But pay attention: Sudden drops and tight turns on some trails will bring down the inattentive or inexperienced rider. Still, the lakes and meadows along what was once a phosphate mine are worth the effort.

Getting there

Clear your head

Get off Interstate 75 at Big Bend Road. Go east to U.S. 301, then head south. Turn left (east) on County Road 672. Turn left (north) on Balm-Boyette Road. Parking is about 1.2 miles on the right.