Road leading to the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain
|Elevation||312 ft (95 m)|
|Prominence||245 ft (75 m)|
|Listing||Florida’s Highest Points|
|Location||Lake County, Florida,
|Range||Lake Wales Ridge|
|Topo map||USGS Astatula|
|Age of rock||~2,000,000 years|
|Easiest route||Hike, Road|
Sugarloaf Mountain is the highest point in peninsular Florida at 312 feet (95 meters) above sea level. It is in Lake County, near the town of Clermont. This compares to 345 feet (105 meters) above sea level for the highest point in the entire state, Britton Hill, located in the Florida Panhandle.
Sugarloaf Mountain, located along the western shore of Lake Apopka in Lake County, Florida, is the northernmost named upland associated with the Lake Wales Ridge, a series of sand hills running south to Highlands County. The mountain, really a ridge with rolling dome-like peaks, rises abruptly from the surrounding flat terrain. Its prominence is thought to be 245 feet (74 meters), with its highest peak having a local prominence of approximately 200 feet (61 meters) relative to the surrounding ridge. Despite not being the highest point in Florida (which is Britton Hill near the Alabama border, the lowest high point of any U.S. state), Sugarloaf Mountain's summit is the most prominent peak in the state, and in a national ranking, is more prominent than the most prominent hills in both Louisiana and Delaware.
Prior to the 20th century, Sugarloaf Mountain was a wilderness dominated by sandhill and flatwood pine forests. By the 1920s, logging had stripped the mountain of its hardwood vegetation, permanently altering its native environment. Scrub began to grow on the mountain’s slopes, in addition to grapes, which were planted mostly to the south of the mountain for a decade or so.
By the 1940s, grape farming had declined due to fungal diseases, and it was replaced by citrus farming. Citrus plantations flourished on the flanks of Sugarloaf Mountain, providing the basis for the local economy until the 1980s, when freezes began to systematically devastate local groves. As the citrus industry faded, property on the mountain was rezoned for residential development, with value seen in the mountain’s panoramic views of the surrounding area. Other lands abutting the mountain, primarily along Lake Apopka, were preserved with the intention of restoring long absent ecologies. Only a few citrus plantations and vineyards managed to persist to the present day.
Sugarloaf Mountain’s geology is tied to the formation of Florida’s sand ridges, specifically the Lake Wales Ridge. The mountain consists of relict sand ridges and dunes formed in a marine shoreline environment approximately 2 million years ago during the Pleistocene epoch. Since the Pleistocene, the sands comprising the mountain have probably been uplifted due to isostatic rebound of the crust beneath the Florida Platform. The uplift is attributed to the karstification/erosion of the platform, which is reducing the weight on the underlying basement rock, triggering a process similar to post glacial rebound.
Sugarloaf Mountain was recently recognized for its scenic, cultural, and historic value. The state of Florida designated the Green Mountain Scenic Byway, which primarily traverses the eastern side of the mountain. The route offers rare panoramic views of the surrounding landscape and access to newly acquired ecological preserves and historic sites. Biking along the Byway as well as on other roads on the mountain has become popular, due to the challenge imposed by the relatively rugged terrain of the mountain compared to the surrounding area.
Sugarloaf Mountain also features a golf course designed by the firm of Coore & Crenshaw. The course, part of the private Sugarloaf Mountain Golf Club residential development, is somewhat unique in Florida, taking advantage of the relatively prominent topography.
Media related to Sugarloaf Mountain (Florida) at Wikimedia Commons