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Best Hiking Trails in Central Florida
If you are planning on going on hiking trails in Central Florida, you have come to the right place! Central Florida is one of the best places to hike in the United States. It is not just because of its Miami-Dade-Esque tropical climate. It’s an excellent place for hikers at all levels. So if you’re an avid outdoors person or just someone who occasionally has friends visiting from out of town, check out some hikes around central Florida!
Best Hikes in Central Florida to Try
Here are our best hiking trails in Central Florida:
Trail 1: The Hillsborough River Greenway
This beautiful trail is part of a more extensive network called the Suncoast Trail. It runs from Pasco County down to Sarasota on the northwest coast of Florida. Here’s our previous post on the best things to do with kids near Tampa. This particular stretch of the greenway is perfect for biking and hiking (it’s best to hike it North-to-South, rather than South-to-North, because of the sun). You can take a detour at Progress Village Park. From there, you can check out the most exciting piece of cycling history in Florida: the 1950s Schwinn bicycle factory.
Trail 2: West Orange Trail
This trail is part of the larger Florida National Scenic Trail. It runs from Pensacola to Titusville. If you’re looking for the best hiking trails near Orlando, this one starts at Wekiwa Springs State Park. It also runs 30 miles north through Ocoee. It also passes through two other state parks — Apopka and Lake Harney — where more great things to do with kids. We’ve written about the best things to do with kids near Apopka before and the best things to do near Ocoee.
Trail 3: West Little River Trail
This trail is part of the Florida National Scenic Trail, too. It runs from the Ocala National Forest near Orlando down to Jupiter. At its southern end, it meets up with Tobacco Creek Conservation Area. It is an excellent place for bird watching and hiking. In addition, it is best to hike this trail from North-to-South. From here you can take advantage of more shade as summer progresses.
Trail 4: Bithlo Trail
This is an excellent trail for hiking near Orlando if you’re looking for tracks that are not part of the Florida National Scenic Trail network. Both valuable and picturesque, the best way to make this trail is by mountain bike. It starts on State Road 50 in Bithlo and runs 15 miles through hills and swampland along a canal before ending at Alafaya Trail. The best day-long trip will be to bike from SR 50 to Alafaya Trail via Lockwood Blvd. Then, it goes back from the Alafaya terminus to SR 50.
Best Places to Hike in Orlando, Florida
Orlando is best known for its theme parks and other tourist attractions. But hiking is a great outdoor activity that the whole family can enjoy. Here are some of Central Florida’s best hiking trails near Orlando:
Trail 1: Turkey Lake Wilderness Area
This place has almost 2,000 acres of park space dedicated to hiking and biking trails. In addition, there’s a 5-mile loop trail that takes you through grassy fields. It runs along a lake where you can catch glimpses of alligators sunning themselves onshore.
There are hundreds of species of birds living in the wilderness area, so bird watching is a popular pastime here. Trails go both North-to-South and South-to-North. The best hiking near Orlando is the trails in this area. It starts near SR 434 and runs South-to-North, so your return trip will be in the shade.
Trail 2: Alexander Springs
This state park has 30 miles of trails just waiting for explorers! It’s best to hike the trails nearest the springs (such as Delancy East Loop Trail) first. After that, you can head back toward camp for trails like River Trail. You’ll want to keep an eye out for wildlife here. There are bobcats, black bears, foxes, and gopher tortoises in the park. For best results when hiking trails in Central Florida that aren’t super experienced hikers, try sticking to marked trails.
Trail 3: Wekiwa Springs
This state park is best known for its great kayaking and canoeing. But it’s also a great place to hike, with more than 10 miles of trails that wind through pine Flatwoods, past sinkholes, and along the Wekiva River. If you’re looking for hiking trails near Orlando that are best done in winter or fall, this is ideal. It is because nearly all the park’s amphibians breed here from May to October. In the summertime, hiking trails near Salt Springs and Juniper Springs will be best.
Try sticking to marked trails for best results when hiking trails in Orlando with friends or family members.
Trail 4: Florida National Scenic Trail
This long trail runs from the Ocala National Forest near Orlando down to Jupiter. There are more than 100 miles of hiking trails in or near Orlando along this path. With that, it’s best done for several days if you don’t have a few weeks to spare.
Trail 5: Saint Johns River State Park
This park has more than 20 miles of hiking trails just waiting for discovery! Start with Big Slough Trail. Next, work your way to the more challenging routes like Orange Bluff Road and Fort Gates Ferry Roads. The best hiking near Orlando, if you’re biking, is the South-to-North trails that start near CR 46A. This place is also great for bird watching, especially in winter.
Trail 6: Rock Springs Run State Reserve
This state park has more than 5 miles of hiking trails, but many excellent biking trails are also available! The best hiking near Orlando is the South-to-North trails that start near CR 46A. There are several different habitats in this area, so bird watching is a must here.
You can spot herons and egrets nesting or wading through the wetlands during the summer months. Moreover, hawks hunt over cotton fields in winter. But, for best results, you should try sticking to marked trails.
Things to Prepare When Going on a Hike in Central Florida
If you are planning on going on a hike in Central Florida, you need to prepare a couple of things on the way. Here are the things you need to have when going on a walk-in in Central Florida.
Bag with water
Make sure you have plenty of water so that your body will not dehydrate during the whole trip. We recommend that you drink at least three liters of water every day. This is a must even if you do not plan on engaging in an activity that would require your body to produce more sweat. This is important, especially if you are engaging in exercise activities. It is essential as it increases dehydration.
As much as possible, always wear a hat or a cap and sunscreen before going on a hike. It is essential to keep your scalp and face protected from harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. If you don’t protect it, it can cause cancer and other skin conditions such as premature aging and blindness.
Bring food and snacks with you so that your body will not become weak and tired along the way. If you plan to walk or hike for a long time, this is a must. First, however, you need to know what to eat and how much food your body needs to have. Also, avoid eating the wrong kind of food.
Be sure that you are wearing comfortable clothes to walk or hike easily without getting distracted by the clothing itself.
Other things to keep in mind
Here are other essential things for you to keep in mind if you plan to hike in Central Florida.
If possible, wear hiking boots instead of sneakers.
Hiking boots offer sturdy soles which can protect your feet from rocks and other natural debris. Sturdy hiking boots also come with stiffer ankle support. This is good for preventing SPR along the way. In addition, these kinds of boots come with breathable, waterproof membranes that keep feet dry.
If you plan to do a lot of hiking, get yourself a topographical map
Depending on the trail’s distance and length, you should purchase a topographical map for your hike. This kind of map can help you determine whether you should carry an extra set of clothes. In addition, bring plenty of food and water or even look for shelter in case something goes wrong along the way.
Do not hike alone.
Your safety is essential, so make sure that at least one other person will go with you, a friend or family member. If possible, organize hiking trips when more people want to go on trails in Orlando. You can find like-minded people on social media sites like Facebook.
Do not forget to bring your phone.
If anything wrong happens, you need to have a working phone to call for help or even inform someone of your current location. Make sure that the battery is fully charged before leaving so that it will last the entire day.
Make sure to carry a first aid kit.
Your body needs all the help it can get while on trails in Orlando, especially if you plan on engaging in strenuous activities. Pack bandages and some pain relievers just in case something goes wrong along the way. You can also use applications to treat everyday aches like blisters and cuts caused by rocks on the trail.
Do not litter.
This is very important because you increase other hikers who might also litter once you leave trash behind. But, on the other hand, if everyone properly disposes of their waste, this means less trash along the trail. It also means more places where people can go and enjoy pure nature.
Do not engage in illegal activities.
It would help if you always respected the law when going on trails in Orlando. This is because it affects you as an individual and those who plan to use these trails for recreational purposes such as hiking. It is best to not engage in any illegal activity such as trespassing, hunting, or even doing drugs. These things will ruin the experience for other hikers just like yourself.
Always remember to take a picture.
This can serve as a great memory, especially if there are waterfalls, lakes, mountains, and other stunning natural wonders along the way. You can also share these pictures with your friends and family members who do not have time to go hiking or even take a break from their busy lives.
Now that you know the best places to hike in Central Florida, what are you waiting for? With so many trails to explore, it will be a shame not to visit any of them. Just make sure that you have everything you need along the way and that everyone else is aware of the trial’s conditions. This is in case if anything goes wrong before embarking on your journey.
Do not forget your camera because this can serve as a remarkable memory of the entire hiking experience. Also, share these pictures with friends and family members to get them interested in nature.