La Chua Trail, Paynes Prairie, Gainesville, FL

by Mary Miller
(Mt. Dora,FL)

Train Trestle from 1800s

Train Trestle from 1800s

Train Trestle from 1800s
Boardwalk leading to Trail
Traffic Stopper
animal of the day

Located on the north side of the prairie, not at the Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park main entrance on 441 in Micanopy. Pets are not allowed. Open 7 days 8 a.m. until 1 hour before sunset.

I was in Gainesville last week to see my daughter. Side trips are always part of our visit. I had never been to the La Chua Trail.

Angela had been several times and told me she had seen the wild horses, gators and amazing birds. I wanted to be there first thing in the morning. We both hoped we would also see the bison that roam freely.

Parking was available, but I can see how it may get crowded on a cooler day. We passed under an old train trestle, built in the late 1800s and went through an old concrete block barn (leftover from the days of cattle ranching) and continued to the Trail.

The plan was to hike the three mile round trip from beginning to the 50 foot observation tower and return. Photographers were already there when we arrived. There had been lots of rain, so there were plenty of birds and gators seemingly posing. The sandhill cranes were especially popular.

We were almost to the observation tower when we came face to face with one of the largest gators I've ever seen. (I lived in South Florida for many years and went to the Everglades often. I thought I knew what big alligators looked like. This one was huge!) Since it showed no signs of moving off the trail, we chose not to cross its path.

I saw no horses or bison that day, but the grandeur of the prairie was well worth the walk. I will go back soon!

Although Gainesville is known for being a college town, it has much more to offer. If you are a nature lover, bird watcher, hiker, history buff or photographer the La Chua Trail at Paynes Prairie is not to be missed.


Thanks for sharing your experience at La Chua Trail, Mary. It sounds like a place that is well worth visiting.

Comments for La Chua Trail, Paynes Prairie, Gainesville, FL

Click here to add your own comments

Sep 03, 2013
These Are The Simple Pleasures In Life!
by: Greg May

These are the simple pleasures in life . . . exactly what you described! The train trestle from the 1890's should be listed on the National Register of Historic Places before it disappears.

Sep 03, 2013
La Chua Trail
by: Julie Brown

Mary, your story has inspired me to go and visit the trail. When I was younger I lived in an apartment by the Prairie, but was too busy working to go visit. Thanks.

Click here to add your own comments

Return to Florida Day Trips.

Most of the information in our website has been published in a series of Amazon Kindle books for each of Florida's eight geographical regions.

Florida Backroads Travel, a separate Kindle book, covers all of the regions of the state in one volume.

All books can be read on a computer, tablet, Kindle and most smart phones.

Click on the book cover for free previews of these books at


First Name

Enjoy our free monthly ezine with news of day trips, towns, inns, festivals, food, history and more.

Recent Articles

  1. Plant City, Florida: America's Winter Strawberry Capital

    Oct 21, 16 12:16 PM

    Plant City, Florida has one of the top fairs in America: the Florida Strawberry Festival

    Read More

  2. Florida Towns: From Pioneer Villages To Large Modern Cities

    Oct 21, 16 11:51 AM

    Florida towns come in many shapes, sizes and flavors. There is a town for you whether you are looking for fun, Florida history, culture, shopping, dining or a place to settle down.

    Read More

  3. Florida Backroads Travel Site Map

    Oct 21, 16 11:49 AM

    The Florida Backroads Travel site map shows all of the website pages so you can find your way around.

    Read More