Hiking Trails Around Orlando
Take a step away from the theme parks and into the natural side of central Florida, not far from our villas in Orlando.There are endless hiking opportunities around the area, from flat multi-use trails to hilly scrub lands, offering unique terrain and picturesque settings.
Within these state parks and reserves listed below, you are likely to discover a variety of rare plants and wildlife found nowhere else in the world. You may even spot an alligator in the marshes, so keep your eyes peeled and have your cameras at the ready.
Being outside within nature also makes it the ideal place to soak up the Florida sun, but be sure to bring water, sunscreen and a hat for your hike.
Colt Creek State Park
Open from 8am to Sundown. $4 per vehicle to park.
Colt Creek State Park is located in the heart of Central Florida’s Green Swamp Wilderness Area, just north of the Withlacoochee River in Lakeland. With 5067 acres of land to explore and a variety of activities on offer, this park can be a great day out for everyone. It is also home to many species of plant and animal including bald eagles, white-tailed deer, American alligators, otters, and many birds and butterflies.
Hiking: There are 12-miles of marked trails that meander through and around several of the park’s natural communities, including pine flatwoods, natural creeks and wetlands. A portion of the trail skirts the edge of pastureland, providing plenty of scenic views.
Kayaking: Colt Creek State Park is home to two lakes, in which visitors can kayak on. For those wanting to hire a kayak or canoe, head to the ranger station at Mac Lake. The first two hours are $8 then an additional $3 (plus tax) for every hour after.†
Lake Kissimmee State Park
Open from 12:30pm to 8:30pm. $5 per vehicle to park.
Lake Kissimmee State Park covers 5,930 acres and features floodplain marshes, flatwoods and shady hammocks. 200+ species of birds and more than 30 listed species of flora and fauna have made this place their home, as well as white-tailed deer, bobcat, turkey, sandhill cranes, Sherman’s fox squirrel and grey fox, which can all be spotted on the trails.
Hiking: With 13-miles of hiking trails around 12 distinct natural communities, there’s so much to discover at Lake Kissimmee State Park.
Kayaking: The park is located on the shores of lakes Kissimmee, Tiger and Rosalie. Visitors can rent a kayak or canoe from the marina camp store (open November – April) and tour the scenic 10-mile Buster Island Paddling Trail, which leads you around the park and through each of these beautiful lakes. Look out for birds and other wildlife inhabiting the surrounding area.
Bring a picnic for your day out here, as there’s a large shaded picnic area to take a rest amongst this peaceful park.
How about getting married here? If you’re looking to get married surrounded by wonderful outdoor scenery, Lake Kissimmee Park has facilities to host a wedding, with options to rent a pavilion. Take a look at our wedding blog if you’re thinking about getting married abroad.
Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park
Open from 8am until sundown. $4 per vehicle to park.
Take a stroll through the breathtaking expanse of grassland at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve. This area of central Florida is part of the Everglades headwaters and is home to many rare, threatened and endangered species, such as the Florida grasshopper sparrows who only live within this habitat. The preserve protects the largest remaining plot of Florida dry prairie, a unique ecosystem shaped by cycles of flooding and fire.
Hiking: Walking around the preserve you will discover varied habitats, including wetlands, dry prairie and hardwood hammocks. It is excellent for seasonal birding opportunities. Scan the skies and see a crested caracara or bald eagle soaring overhead; listen carefully and you may hear endangered Florida grasshopper sparrows singing in their natural prairie habitat. Look out for white-tailed deer feeding on the grassland, as well as snakes that hide in the wiregrass.
Buggy Tours (November - March): These tours take visitors to more remote areas of the preserve. From an elevated seat, witness the spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife. It lasts approximately two to three hours. Tickets are $17 plus tax for adults, $9 plus tax for ages 17 and under. †
The Se7en Wetlands Park
Open from 7am - 7pm.
Comprising of marshes, uplands and lakes, this park offers more than eight miles for hiking and running. The park takes its name from the seven wetlands on the site. The first few wetlands are dense marshes and swamps covered with trees and scrub (good for filtering), while the last few wetlands are lakes. If you want to see alligators, you’ll find plenty in these lakes.
For more than 30 years the site has been treating wastewater. The site is the third and last phase of treatment, so the treated wastewater smells more like a swimming pool than a sewer. The water leaving Se7en Wetlands Park is released to the Alafia River or is used by Tampa Electric’s Polk Power Station.
Hiking: There are a two different trails to walk here, each loop about 3 miles long. Loop 1, the Wood Stork trail, leads you around 10,000,000 gallons of treated wastewater. Loop 2, the Gopher Tortoise trail, gives you the opportunity to walk onto a boardwalk overlooking a shallow lake usually occupied by plenty of alligators! Both trail heads have restrooms and water fountains.
It’s best to stick to the completed trails, which are well-marked and feature covered seating areas for a snack. There are no paper maps, but a digital version can be downloaded from the City of Lakeland website.
Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park
Open from 8am until Sundown. Free parking.
Located in Haines City, this state park features long, sugar sand trails along the Lake Wales Ridge. It is a landscape unlike any other, with incredible sweeping views of Central Florida from atop the ridges, as well as excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. Several protected animal species live here including Florida scrub-jays, bald eagles, gopher tortoises and Florida scrub lizards. The preserve is home to numerous rare plants too, such as scrub morning glory, scrub plum, pygmy fringe tree and cutthroat grass.
Hiking: Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park offers 6-miles of challenging hiking trails. The trails are deep in soft sand, broad like roads, and have little to no shade, so make sure to bring a hat and sunscreen. Also, be prepared for rugged conditions, typical of the scrub habitat.
Circle B Bar Reserve
Open from 6am to 6:30pm (Standard Time), 5:30am to 8pm (Daylight Savings Time).
Cowboys once roamed the land at Circle B Bar Reserve, when it was a functioning cattle ranch. It is now the prime destination for biking and cycling, home to rare nature and many species of wildlife. This 1,267-acre preserve is one of the best places to see wildlife in the state. Visitors are likely to see alligators, bald eagles soaring through the skies, wading birds, waterfowl and ospreys.
Hiking: Circle B Bar Reserve has a series of well-maintained marked trails of different lengths. The Alligator Alley Trail is the most popular, as it runs alongside Lake Hancock, which is home to many alligators. They can be observed at a distance from shore or from a number of piers. There are eight other trails to discover as well, so you could certainly have a few trips here. Take your time on all the trails to soak in nature, as there's so much to see.
Trail maps are available from the volunteers that greet you at the front desk of the Discovery Center.
Polk Nature Discovery Center: This educational building is the perfect place to start your adventure before trekking into the reserve. Here, you are filled with information on Central Florida’s ecosystem with interactive exhibits that are sure to stimulate young minds (and adult minds, too!)
Tram Tours: This is a unique way to enjoy the beautiful reserve. Circle B Bar Reserve staff and volunteers offer free guided tram tours a few times each month. You can experience the local ecosystems on wheels rather than foot.
Lake Louisa State Park
Open from 8am until Sundown. $5 per vehicle to park.
With a diversity of wildlife at Lake Louisa State Park, as well as an abundance of ways to explore and enjoy the park, it’s certainly one not to miss. Visitors may come across deer, bobcat, gopher tortoises, fox squirrel and flighted creatures like bald eagles and osprey, whilst strolling around. This 4,500 acre state park is noted for its beautiful lakes, rolling hills and scenic landscape.
Hiking: There are over 20 miles of trails winding through Lake Louisa State Park’s natural plant communities. Be sure to ask for a map on your way into the park, which takes visitors on a shaded and picturesque trail, winding through three of the park's 11 natural communities
Biking: Cycling is popular on the park’s seven miles of paved roads over rolling hills. To enjoy the scenery by bike, head to the Dixie Lake Picnic Area, where you’ll find rental bikes for all ages. Rental rates per bike are $10 + tax per hour; $48 + tax per day. †
Water Activities: The park has three major lakes including Louisa, Hammond and Dixie, with canoeing, kayaking and paddle-boarding on offer. All equipment for these activities can be hired from the Dixie Lake Outpost for use on the beautiful Dixie Lake. There is the option for visitors to join a tour or explore the lake at their own pace.
Horseback Riding: Visitors to the park can also take part in horseback riding trails, which lead you through a variety of natural eco-communities and terrain, where you can see an abundance of wildlife, flora, and fauna. There is no better way to experience the real Florida than on horseback. 1 hour guided trail from $55pp. †
Crooked Lake Prairie
Open from 6am to 6:30pm (Standard Time), 5:30am to 8pm (Daylight Savings Time).
Crooked Lake Prairie is a 525 acre preserve in Babson Park and is home to the less common northern harriers and kingfishers, as well as a variety of other animal life and native plants. Enjoy the shoreline of Crooked Lake, the second-largest lake in Polk County. There are four ecosystems within the preserve: scrub, scrubby flatwoods, wet prairie and depression marsh, so there’s lots to discover here. You might catch a glimpse of bald eagles, osprey and other birds searching for food along the shore. Signs of wildlife such as tracks, scat, nests and burrows, are seen more often than the creatures that made them. Look for gopher tortoise burrows and the tracks of sand skinks, rabbits and deer.
Hiking: The preserve has 2 miles of sandy trails to explore – 0.4 mile Lake View Trail and 1.6 mile Scrub Trail. One leads to a scenic viewing area overlooking Crooked Lake, and the other loops through the scrubs, where you can search for Florida scrub-jays. But watch out for the native prickly pear cactus, or you might step on one of the gopher tortoises' favourite foods!
† All prices are correct at time of publishing this blog. Please refer to the state park websites for up to date prices and information.
- Colt Creek State Park: Wikimedia commons user Ebyabe
- Kissimmee Prairie State Park: Wikimedia commons user Daniel Di Palma
- Circle B Bar Reserve: Wikimedia commons user Miosotis Jade