We’ve listed some of the best hiking in Florida! On these Florida hiking trails, you’ll experience plenty of scenic views, plants, and wildlife.
We wanted to put together a list of best hiking trails in Florida so we asked some of our fellow bloggers for their suggestions. Along with some of our own suggestions, we have listed 10 parks and reserves all around the state.
We love our home state of Florida, but feel that so many times people only focus on its beaches and/or theme parks. So, this post is for all the nature lovers who want to spend their time outdoors and on a trail. Enjoy!
We’re defining South Florida as being about from about Sarasota on the west coast to West Palm Beach on the east coast and everything below.
Myakka River State Park located in Sarasota, Florida and is well-known for its diverse wildlife and wetlands throughout its 58 square miles. One of our favorite reasons to visit Myakka River State Park is to hike on the Myakka Trail. The Myakka Trail is a 38.9-mile loop trail but there are many designated back roads that allow you to shorten or lengthen your hike.
While hiking in the area we’ve often seen alligators, otters, and a variety of bird and plant species. One of the best areas in the park is the Myakka Canopy Walkway. It is the first public treetop trail in North America which includes a suspension bridge that is 25 feet off the ground and expands 100 feet across. After crossing the bridge you can then make your way up a few flights of stairs to a tower that is 74 feet off the ground for a panoramic view of the wetlands and treetops in the park!
CREW Bird Rookery Swamp is one of our favorite Southwest Florida hiking trails, just 13 miles from downtown Naples near Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. In fact, this reserve is part of the 50,000 acre Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed and an incredible place to hike or bike. Right from the parking lot you’ll see wading birds, ibis, and alligators in the canals along the road. But once you follow the trailhead to the start of the boardwalk, you’ll immediately feel you’re in the thick of things.
Black vultures are everywhere (bring plastic bags from the grocery story to fly from your window while you hike, to scare the vultures away from the rubber on your tires), and there are numerous varieties of wading birds. This is really a birders paradise – egrets flashing white through the trees, cormorants swimming and drying their wings, herons of all shapes and sizes fishing in the shallows, a pileated woodpecker busy boring holes in a tree.
The Trail is a 12-mile loop and is open to bicycling the entire way, and begins with a flat, elevated boardwalk which keeps you out of the wet and mud. After that, the tramway trail begins – a grass-covered section of trail with cypress trees gently arching above and water on either side. The tramway is the remains of a small gauge railway that was used for logging many years ago. You’ll see alligators in the water, and maybe even up on the trail sunning themselves. Best of all, the trail is free and open year round!
Of all the things to do in Sanibel Island (which lies just off the coast of Ft. Myers), visiting the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge is by far my family’s favorite. Named after the early 20th century Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist who headed what became the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and founded the National Wildlife Federation, Ding Darling encompasses 6,400 acres of mangrove forest, marshes, and seagrass beds.
Most people drive or cycle the 5-mile loop through the refuge, but you can also hike the main road as well as the numerous hiking trails that veer off from it. Along the way, you’ll see an array of wildlife ranging from Alligators, Blue Crabs, River Otters, and Turtles to an incredible array of birds (Egrets, Herons, Osprey, Roseate Spoobills, etc). Best of all, the entrance fee is only $1 for pedestrians, and if you time your visit right you can catch spectacular sunsets from the observation tower.
Enjoy an easy hike to excellent bird and wildlife viewing on the Marsh Trail, the only on-foot access to the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. The level 2.2 mile out-and-back hike features paved and gravel surfaces with interesting water views on both sides. A highlight of the Marsh Trail is a two-story Observation Tower with expansive views of the marsh. A telescope is available on the second level, and the first level is wheelchair accessible.
A wonderful variety of birds visit the marsh, and you will likely see alligators as well. In fact, a huge alligator made a leisurely trip across the path right next to the tower during our visit. Bikes are allowed on the trail, but pets are not. Note that there are no facilities and there is no shade on the Marsh Trail hike, so bring water with you. The Marsh Trail is our favorite place to get some exercise after indulging at the restaurants in nearby Naples.
The trail to the Fackahatchee Hilton is a true Florida trail. It’s flat, surrounded by marshy land with the occasional gator on the trail. It ends at the Fackahatchee Hilton with a pond full of gators behind it. You won’t be relaxing in a 5-star hotel here, but you will get to spend some time relaxing on the porch swing in the shade after checking out the pond full of gators.
The trail is in Fackahatchee Strand State Park on the west side of Everglades National Park. It’s about seven miles in on the park road. In February 2018 the road was closed at the parking area for the trail. It’s a two-mile (4 miles round-trip), flat, straight trail. It may be wet and muddy if it’s a rainy year. This is a great way to spend a few hours in the afternoon if you want to do an easy hike and see some wildlife. Keep an eye out for the elusive Florida Panthers and Skunk Apes, too.
We’re defining Central Florida as being about from Tampa on the west coast to Daytona Beach on the east coast and everything in between.
One unique hike we enjoyed in Florida was actually in Gatorland, in Orlando, Florida. Inside the park, they have alligator marshes where you can see over 130 gators inside. It’s not a strenuous hike, but we recommend walking the whole thing. But before you go, grab some food at the front, so you can feed the gators along the way.
It’s definitely not your typical hike, but it’s one that will add lots of fun and activity to it, that’s for sure. You do have to purchase entrance tickets to Gatorland, and they are $29.99 for adults and $19.99 for kids. Everyone in the family will enjoy this one, even if they aren’t your typical hikers.
Step back more than 100 years into Old Florida on The Yearling Trail in Ocala National Forest (entrance is about 6 miles north of SR 40 and SR 19 intersection). Two trail options both traverse Pat’s Island and you will sense that you are on higher ground than where you parked; a cool phenomenon for Florida. The short loop is 4 miles and the longer option is 5.5 miles and connects to the 1,000 Florida National Scenic Trail—which runs from Big Cypress National Preserve to Pensacola.
Pat’s Island was settled in the 1870s and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings wrote her Pulitzer prize winning book The Yearling about a deer fawn here at Pat’s Island. The movie The Yearling was filmed on Pat’s Island in 1939-40 and The Yearling trail passes buildings used in the movie.In one spot you can see where fresh water was collected from the ground. About 45 miles away is Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ homestead in Cross Creek, well worth a visit.
We think some of the most scenic hiking in Florida can be found in Three Sisters Springs, inside the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge is the only refuge created specifically for the protection of the threatened Florida Manatee. Although you can visit all year round, we recommend going during the winter months which are considered manatee season since they migrate to the springs to keep warm.
There is a nice board walk and even guided tours, so you can learn about native species as you take in the beauty of the springs. The trees, wildlife, and especially the hues of the crystal clear water will leave you breathless!
We’re defining North Florida as being about from the whole panhandle to St. Augustine on the east coast.
When someone mentions Jacksonville, you might not necessarily think of hiking trails, but this city has some great parks including the Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve. There are plenty of trails, some of which run next to beaches, under shady hammocks, or along wetlands.
The park is free to enter and the visitor center is located at Fort Caroline National Memorial. Inside, there’s a great exhibit called “Where the Waters Meet.” It highlights the local environment in northeast Florida and how humans have interacted with it for thousands of years.
Yes, Florida does have caverns! Just outside the city of Marianna, visitors to Florida Caverns State Park can go down into caverns and see stalactites, stalagmites, columns and flowstone. But although the caverns are the main attraction, the park also offers boating, camping, fishing, and hiking.
There are two nature trails that leave from the visitor center. We didn’t find the paths to be too difficult, although occasionally there were steeper areas. These trails are open to foot traffic only, but there are some other multi-use trails where you can walk, bike, or go horseback riding. Admission to the park costs $5 per vehicle and the park is open 365 days a year, although cavern tours are not done on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
There really are some great places to hike in Florida! And we know there are so many more parks and reserves to explore too. Hopefully we can continue to find more trails and do some more hiking.
Have you been hiking in Florida? Do you know of any other great parks or trails? We’d love to read your comments below! 🙂