When asked what the best Florida hiking trails are, I always end up scratching my head. It is a tough question with no right answer. The best hiking trails in Florida are so numerous that to have a shortlist does not do justice to the Sunshine State.
Nevertheless, I will attempt to name five that I think are some of the best hiking trails.
Renowned for beach action, this state is no slouch either when it comes to hiking trails. The nature trails in Florida are diverse ecologically, creating breathtaking hiking experiences. Observing wildlife and viewing rich canopies of green welcomes hikers of every skill level.
The best hikes in Florida will have you thanking yourself once there, as they are some of the finest. Be warned, though, temperatures here can get quite scorching, so the best hiking backpack is one loaded with generous amounts of water. Likewise, many trails will also bring you near waterways, so a pair of the best waterproof hiking pants in your pack might be a good contingency.
Five of the Best Places to Hike in Florida
1. Black Bear Wilderness Area
Easily one of the nicest natural lands, Black Bear Wilderness Area has the best wildlife action. As its name declares, you will find bear prints, poo, scratches on trees, or perhaps even encounter the bears themselves (hopefully not). Expect abundant wildlife everywhere.
You will find fourteen boardwalks, bridges, and many old levees of varying widths along the trail. This relatively tough hiking trail will take you to uneven and rough terrain. It is a 7.1-mile loop trail found in the 1,600-acre Black Bear Wilderness Area in northwest Seminole County.
Part of the rugged trail runs parallel to St. Johns River. Animals commonly seen are bobcats, hawks, white-tailed deer, alligators, river otters, rattlesnakes, turtles, and owls. Be sure to wear hiking shoes and pack lots of bug spray and drinking water.
Should you decide to camp, bring a bear canister or a bear bag, as bears here can steal food.
2. Little Big Econ Kolokee Loop
Coming to the Little Big Econ State Forest in Florida always surprises most tourists. It is huge forestland near Geneva at over 10,000-acres, mostly virgin and unspoiled. If you want a quick immersive experience of Florida’s wilderness, I suggest the Kolokee Loop Trail.
The trail starts at Barr Street Trailhead, going eastward following several white-blazes (“blazes” are paint markers on trees to help guide hikers). It leads to a clearing from which you may follow the orange blazes that lead along the river bluff. As you go along, there is much to explore by the edge of the river.
You will encounter a wooden bridge, after which the hike makes a left turn to the Flagler Trail. You will get a chance for a brief rest as a couple of benches to become available. The white-blazes will begin again on the left and follow them. (Read Hiking Essentials List)
As you go through the forest, the white blazes eventually intersect with the orange-blazes, and you are back at the clearing. I consider this a nice, pleasant hike. Just bring lots of drinking water as the Florida weather can get quite warm.
3. Econlockhatchee Sandhills Conservation Area
Sitting on 706 acres, the conservation area encompasses about 1.5 miles of the Econlockhatchee River and its uplands and floodplain. Yellow and red blazes show hikers the path, and I enjoyed going through different types of native Florida ecosystems. There are many parts with no shade, so bring a nice wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen.
This simple loop goes through nice upland habitats found east of Orlando. The conservation section can be explored on foot, biking, or horseback. From the parking area, you can follow the red-blazed trail that connects with the yellow trail. Pine wooded area, open scrub, and oak hammocks await hikers here.
There are also ways to get to the Econlockhatchee River thru various access trails. You will see thriving wildlife here in these moderately challenging footpaths.
4. Orlando Wetlands Park
The Orlando Wetlands Park is an artificial wetland conceived and created to develop advanced treatment of reclaimed water from the City of Orlando and other areas. It is nestled on 1,650 acres in Christmas, Florida. Tourists may enjoy various activities like hiking, biking, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, photography, and even guided tram tours.
The massive manufactured wetland opened in 1987, and it has over 18 miles of nature trails and berms. The park is also a habitat for over 220 bird species, at least 1,500 alligators, various snakes, river otters, white-tailed deer, bobcats, foxes, and turtles.
Lake Searcy is one highlight of the park, along with the 2.5-mile Birding Route and 30-foot-tall Oyler Overlook, with the latter offering great panoramas of the wetlands.
The park is a favorite in the bird-watching community and can fill up rather quickly. Arrive early, so you get to park without any hassles and enjoy this easy-to-hike destination.
5. Bulow Woods Loop
The loop is an 8.5-kilometer trail found near Flagler Beach, Florida. The footpaths offer beautiful wildflowers and are great for hikers of every skill. It is famous for recreational walks, bird watching, nature trips, and dog walking for leashed pets.
I found that the trail took me into oak hammocks, mature forests, and the Tomoka Basin State Parks salt marshes. I was also told that Bulow Woods Trail resembles original Florida, as it was when the Seminole Indians were around.
The wooded area on the trail has various wildlife like the fox, deer, bobcats, and many bird species like the bald eagle and pileated woodpeckers. The oldest tree residing here is the Fairchild Oak at the southern starting point, believed to be 600 years old.
Hike the Sunshine State
With its range and assortment of topography and incredible ecological diversity, the Sunshine State treats hikers of every skill. Immerse yourself in the unique natural beauty of Florida in any of these five hiking destinations.
Read more: 4 Best Bass Fishing Lakes in Florida.