This year, we have challenged ourselves to go after and acquire as many Jeep Badge Of Honor badges for our rigs as we can. Currently, there are over 50 Badge of Honor trails in the USA with the majority of them on the West Coast, however we do have many very good trails in Central USA and East Coast, most within a days ride of Georgia. With the weather in Atlanta near the mid 30’s this time of year, it seemed like the perfect time to head south in search of warmer weather, sand and sun to pick up Florida’s only Jeep Badge of Honor Tread Lightly Trail badge. Located just outside of Orlando, in Ocala National Forest is the Tread Lightly Trail. Follow us as we pack up the rigs for an interesting 3 day adventure through some unique terrain and amazing campsites.
The Tread Lightly Trail is classified as a 1-4 on the Jeep Badge Of Honor. While this adventure is not packed full of the giant rock gardens, switch backs and cliff sides that we are use to, it does have its own unique challenges known only to Florida. Soft sugary sand that almost acts like quick sand may require a couple of “full send” moments to get through them.
Even on a dry season in Ocala you can expect a few water forging sections. While we are all use to water crossings, the unique challenges that this brings in Florida are that they are very soft at the bottom, likely from sitting stagnate for so long. These typically sit in very shady parts of the trail that see very little light.
And probably most importantly, these trails can hardly be listed as Off Road trails. They should be more appropriately labeled as SXS trails or walking trails. The extremely overgrown and tight pathways will for sure leave its mark on the side of your Jeep. In many cases, the challenge here would be making it through the trail system without hitting something significant. The width of these trails are less than exactly the width of a Jeep with wheel spacers.
During this adventure, we spent 3 days in Ocala and explored much of what this 18 mile National Forest had to offer. Near the northern trail head is a large collection of (in my opinion) the best dispersed camping in Ocala known as Hopkins Prairie. This is a giant, wet marshy lake that spans for miles. The site we claimed could not have been more perfect. On one side of us was a little island of trees, strategically aligned to block any wind or weather and separate us from the neighboring campers. On the other side was a wide open view of the prairie that provided the most breathtaking sun rises in the morning, with a hot cup of coffee.
While on our exploration, we came upon a Navy Bomb Testing Area. Not much was happening until the Navy guards came out and asked us to move from blocking the entrance of the base. They were nice enough to tell us to come back at 3:30pm that day for a in-flight training session scheduled and pointed us to the best place to watch. We were able to catch a couple of F18 fighter jets flying maneuvers over the base, shooting large 50 cal shells at ground targets. This is the kind of stuff you only see in movies and tv shows. Super Cool.
It took us about 6.5 hrs to complete the Tread Lightly Trail with the help of a local Jeep club called The Florida Trail Stompers. They graciously offered to guide us on this trail system and camp with us for 3 days when they found out we were venturing down for the weekend. This made it extra special because they were able to take us places “the locals know about” and even avoid some places that were just cringing to our Jeeps paint job. We were honored and thankful to this group of Jeepers because not only did they plan out a perfect trail for us to follow, they even offered to cook for us throughout the weekend… Now that is some amazing Florida hospitality.
Join us on our adventure south and take on the unique challenges of Florida to obtain our Tread Lightly Trail Badge Of Honor badge.
If you are interested in going after your Tread Lightly Badge and are curious about “what you may be in for”, watch the Road Rash adventure video on Road Rash Off Road YouTube.