On October 29, 1966, Jim Kern, founder of the Florida Trail Association, and like-minded hiking enthusiasts began building the Florida Trail at the entrance to Clearwater Lake Recreation Area in the Ocala National Forest. The first 26-mile section, completed in 1969, extended northwest through the forest from here to State Road 40. In 1983, the Florida Trail earned Congressional recognition, and was designated the Florida National Scenic Trail under the National Trails System Act of 1968. The Florida Trail is one of eleven National Scenic Trails and one of three contained within a single state. As of the 50th anniversary of the trail in 2016, more than 1000 miles of continuous trail have been completed through the efforts of many volunteers. The trail spans the length of the state from Big Cypress National Preserve in South Florida to Gulf Islands National Seashore in the Panhandle, with a spur trail into Alabama, connecting it to a national trail network from Florida to the Canadian border. Each year many thousands of Floridians and visitors from around the world discover the "real Florida" while walking this footpath that passes through the state's varied ecosystems.