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From thousands of miles long cost to hardwood forests, rivers, lakes, springs, and just about everything in between, Florida is tailored for unforgettable hiking excursions. Here are some of our favorite fall hiking trails in Florida.
- 1 Finding Your Favorite Fall Hiking Trails in Florida
- 2 Essential Fall Hiking Tips
- 3 10 Enchanting Fall Hiking Trails in Florida
- 3.1 1. Blackwater River State Forest
- 3.2 2. Canopy Walkaway at Myakka
- 3.3 3. Florida Trail, Aucilla Sinks
- 3.4 4. Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
- 3.5 5. Big Cypress National Preserve
- 3.6 6. Seabranch Preserve State Park
- 3.7 7. Bulow Creek State Park
- 3.8 8. Osceola National Forest
- 3.9 9. Jonathan Dickinson State Park
- 3.10 10. Florida Caverns State Park
- 4 Wrapping Up
Finding Your Favorite Fall Hiking Trails in Florida
While Florida’s sweltering summers may make it hard to step foot outside, Florida’s cooler fall months entice tourists the most to explore outdoors. Taking some time off to disconnect from hectic modern life allows you an opportunity to witness the sunshine state’s crystal-clear waters, incredible wildlife, and breathtaking scenery.
Moreover, featuring varied terrain and marvelous ecological diversity, the state of Florida is so unique for hikers of every level. You can explore paths that meander through Florida’s crystal-clear springs, reveal stunning sandy beaches, or just curve through quiet, lush green forests.
Furthermore, while trekking one of Florida’s hiking trails, there is an excellent chance to see giant alligators, colorful wading bird species, rare tree species, and other incredible wildlife. Since there are hundreds of fall hiking trails in Florida, it can be hard to decide where to go first. So, we took some time and bucketed some of the most amazing and our favorite fall hiking trails in Florida for you. But before that, here are some fall hiking tips to help you make your hiking trip comfortable and memorable.
So, let’s get started!
Essential Fall Hiking Tips
· Check Fall Foliage Map
Fall is one of the most beautiful hiking seasons. However, keep in mind that fall foliage season varies depending on your location and latitude. Sometimes it can run for several weeks or seem to be over instantly, depending on the weather.
So, it is best to research thoroughly and determine when peak fall foliage season starts in your area. Also, keep an eye on the trees to ensure you don’t miss them. In this regard, the best place to begin catching fall foliage season is the Smoky Mountains Fall Foliage Map. The map covers not just the Smoky Mountains but the whole US.
Moreover, it is also an interactive, predictive fall foliage map updated each year, created on the frequencies during the spring and summer.
· Be Aware of Hunters
The fall season is not just suitable for hiking but for hunting as well. Since elk and deer love to roam in the same places as hikers, you should be extra cautious when hiking on a trail. For instance, you can put on a fluorescent orange beanie or a vest over your hiking dress to let hunters identify and differentiate you from wild animals.
· Let Someone Know Where You’re Hiking
Having someone back home who knows your location and when you will be back is always a brilliant idea. Let someone dependable know where you will be, when you plan to be back, and who to contact if you are not. Moreover, call or text your contact when you return safely. Additionally, if you change your trip destination, let your reference know before going out of range.
· Make a Gear List
It is irritating to get home from the grocery market and realize that we forgot a few items because we didn’t have the time to make a list. Well, it’s the same story when you plan your fall hiking trip. Even if you are planning to go for a short hiking trip, there are certain hiking essentials that you cannot afford to miss.
Remember that getting tangled in inclement weather can be life-threatening, especially if you are without proper hiking gear. So, it is best to take time and prepare an excellent hiking checklist before getting on a hike.
· Protect Your Feet
Pamper your feet, and they will take you to the top of the fall colors lookout. In this regard, choose the right hiking shoes for a comfortable excursion. Generally, it is best to wear lightweight, comfortable pair of hiking footwear. However, ensure that your shoes can withstand rockier terrain.
Regardless of what footwear you choose, remember these tips:
- Lace shoes that fit snugly help you prevent blisters.
- Wool or synthetic socks can protect you against insects and blisters.
- Always wear shoes that offer excellent support.
- Try to waterproof your hiking footwear.
· Dress Appropriately
Fickle fall can turn a sunny morning into a cold, wet afternoon. After a hike, the wind at the top of the lookout can be chilly, so dressing up in layers is crucial. You can take off a layer to prevent sweetening if the weather is warm. Similarly, you can put a layer back on if temperatures are cool. Moreover, ensure to check the forecast before leaving for a hiking trail.
· Stay Hydrated
Although summer heat waves are gone for the year, packing enough water and staying hydrated is vital in any season. Filling up your favorite water bottle might be enough if you plan a shorter hike. However, keep a hydration reservoir that can carry enough water for longer hikes. It is worth noting that reservoirs are lightweight, reusable, and can be easily adjusted in backpacks.
So, these are a few tips for enjoying a comfortable hiking excursion. Now, let’s talk about our favorite fall hiking trails in Florida.
10 Enchanting Fall Hiking Trails in Florida
Here is our bucket of favorite fall hiking trails in Florida. These hiking trails will drive you through the sunshine state’s most beautiful state parks, from rolling prairies hidden cave tunnels, and incredible treetop views. Moreover, these trails are perfect for hikers and bikers alike. You will breathe fresh autumn air while enjoying all the stunning views and wonderful wildlife.
1. Blackwater River State Forest
Holt, Okaloosa County, Florida
The trails at Blackwater River State Forest offer access to secluded and scenic forests, creeks, and wetlands. While hiking through these areas, you can expect to spot stunning wildlife like great blue horns, gopher tortoises, white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and opossums. Crowned with longleaf pine and wiregrass, the rippling landscape of Blackwater seems to stretch on forever.
Moreover, the area has something for everyone, featuring seven recreation spots, six campgrounds, and over a dozen hiking trails. Regarding fall hiking at Blackwater River State Forest, 40 miles of Florida Trail traverses the forest and covers between the Yellow River and the Alabama state line.
Furthermore, if you want to immerse in the botanical wonders, Juniper Creek Trail stretching about 7.5 miles, is a great place. In addition, the northernmost area of the Florida National Scenic Trail is Milton, a stunning hiking spot for spectacular scenery and incredible wildlife.
2. Canopy Walkaway at Myakka
Sarasota, West-Central Florida
Here is another one of our favorite fall hiking trails in Florida. The canopy walkway at Myakka is a stunning place to access and observe diverse life in treetops of oak and palm hammocks. Aside from hiking, the popular spot is also an exceptional place for research and education, allowing visitors to discover and observe canopy inhabitants up close.
Moreover, as one of our favorite fall hiking trails in Florida, the walkway extends 100 feet through the hammock canopy and is about 25 feet above the ground. The taller towers soaring up to 74 feet offers fascinating views of treetops, wetlands, and prairies. You can also see the beauty of vultures, hawks, eagles, and the top of live oaks by looking down while hiking.
Furthermore, the Canopy Walkaway is an exceptional experience for adults and children alike. You don’t have to pay any additional fee except the regular entrance fee. Also, note that the experience requires you to walk over 100 stairs, so be prepared for intense physical activity.
3. Florida Trail, Aucilla Sinks
Monticello, Sullivan County, Florida
North Floridians are attracted to the Aucilla Sinks because they are far more unique and mysterious than anything else in the sunshine state. A trail breezes past rocky pools and streams lined with walls of limestone. Running about 4.4 miles, ripples of dark water reflects against pockmarked limestone walls. What we are unearthing is bits and pieces of the Aucilla River.
The footpath will wind you through one of the most geologically mysterious pieces of the National Scenic Trail. Hiking northbound from Goose Pasture Rd to Long Suffering Rd, this section of Aucilla Sinks runs compass south with the river always to your west.
It is worth noting that during the flood stage, the Aucilla River can rise, making it challenging for hikers to determine where the footpath is and where a sinkhole is. So, be sure and always check the river gauge before visiting. If you find water flowing across the footpath, avoid attempting a hike. Additionally, since seasonal hunting is allowed in Aucilla WMA, always wear bright orange during your hike.
4. Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
Micanopy, Alachua County, Florida
Paynes Prairie is incredibly unique, and rightly so. Nowhere else can tourists experience bison and horses roaming in the wild in the sunshine state! In addition, more than 300 bid species also frequent Paynes Prairie, along with other wildlife like deer, alligators, etc. The park features eight hiking trails, including its 16 miles paved Gainesville Hawthorne Trail, allowing visitors to experience the park’s interior and observe wildlife.
Bolen Bluff Trail is one of our favorite fall hiking trails in Florida’s Paynes Prairie. The 2.6 miles rounded trail leads visitors to the wildlife observing deck after it runs under the shady canopy of hardwood forests. These hardwood-dominated forests (hammocks) provide a perfect habitat for diverse wildlife, including wild turkey, white-tailed deer, gray fox, bobcat, raccoon, and barred owl.
Other popular fall hiking trails at Paynes Prairie include:
- La Chua Trail
- Wacahoota Trail
- Cone’s Dike Trail.
- Chacala Trail.
- Lake Trail.
- Jackson’s Gap Trail
5. Big Cypress National Preserve
Big Cypress, Florida
The rugged and stunning fall hiking destination is tailored for an exhilarating adventure. The National Preserve is also regarded as one of the most unusual in the US. Hiking within the National Preserve can be along the designated trails, or you can orienteer through unmarked territory.
Depending on the weather changes, be sure to prepare accordingly. For instance, while the dry season is ideal for comfortable hiking, wet seasons pose their own unique challenges. However, regardless of the seasons, hiking in any season can be rewarding.
It is worth noting that most of the hiking trails at this distinctive park are underwater, so preparing for wading more than hiking is essential. Most of the hiking trails are Primary Trails and located in the backcountry. Popular trails for experiencing fall hiking include:
- Florida Trail Loop Hike runs north to south for 1,300 miles. While it may not be possible for you to hike the entire trail, you can experience a short hike at I-75, where you will find a loop of over six miles. Moreover, while hiking the Florida Trail, you can expect to see alligators, birds, and other wildlife.
- Fire Prairie Trail is about 2.5 miles long round-trip hiking trail. It is located on Turner River Road and is open to both hikers and bikers. The trail’s surface is smooth and flat, so hiking or biking should be easy.
- Deep Lake Trail is a hikers-only, round-trip trail that runs about one mile. As the name suggests, it leads you to the Deep Lake – the deepest lake in south Florida.
6. Seabranch Preserve State Park
Stuart, Martin County, Florida
Seabranch Preserve State Park is also among the favorite fall hiking trails in Florida. The park allows visitors to experience diverse natural communities within a short distance. For instance, within a mile, you can observe scrubby Flatwoods, rare sand pine scrubs, and a mangrove swamp. The park also incorporates a picnic shelter, while future recreation development is also expected.
Exploring the State Park on foot is ideal for observing and appreciating its natural beauty. The hiking trails are divided into south, north, and east loops.
While hiking the north and south loops, you will have an opportunity to wind through sand pine scrub. You will walk on white sugar sand while sanding pine trees overhead. On the other hand, east loop hiking trails at Seabranch State Park offer a completely different experience as you will be winding through Flatwoods and baygall swamp. While hiking, you will also experience red and sweet bay, slash pine, and cabbage palm trees along the trail. Lastly, east loop trails entice visitors to explore a harsh and challenging baygall ecosystem.
7. Bulow Creek State Park
Ormond Beach, Central Florida
The highlight of Bulow Creek State Park is among the most significant remaining stands of southern live oaks along the East Coast. The State Park incorporates several hiking trails that entice hikers to experience the park’s interior and observe stunning wildlife, including barred owls, raccoons, and white-tailed deer. The Bulow Wood Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails, running about seven miles and taking hikers to the Bulow Plantation Ruins.
Moreover, the Bulow Wood Trail is especially a nice hiking trail for visitors who wish to unhook from the hustle and bustle of city life and go on an extended hike. It leads hikers to the oak hammocks, old-growth forests, and along the Tomoka Basin State Parks’ salt marshes. The southern part of the Bulow Trail follows an original Native American path that was once a plantation road.
Furthermore, when at the Bulow Creek State Park, don’t forget to hike the Wahlin Trail, which will wind you into the small ravine behind the Fairchild oak. This fall hiking trail in Florida is a short loop, exploring the Bulow Woods.
8. Osceola National Forest
Sanderson, Northeast Florida
Occupying about 200-acre of original Florida, Osceola National Forest entices visitors to explore and be admired. Incorporating forested woodlands and swamps, Osceola National Forest offers plentiful opportunities for a vast range of activities, including swimming, fishing, hiking, wildlife and birdwatching, and more.
About 23 miles of the National Forest features scenic trails that wind through the forest. Visitors can see as many as 20 boardwalks, offering a drier view of wetlands and swamps habitat. There is also a primitive camp shelter along the Florida Scenic Trail. Popular fall hiking trails in Florida’s Osceola National Forest include:
- Olustee Battlefield Trail: It let hikers discover what life was for those who fought in the battle. The loop trail will wind you through the events that resulted in the battle, the tactics used during the war, and the aftershocks, all from personal diaries, accounts, and letters from soldiers who battled.
- Carrie Trail: You can also stop at the Mt. Carrie Trail and gain a new experience at the sideway of the one-mile barrier-free trail. This trail is where rare species like red-cockaded woodpeckers and gopher tortoises live.
- Trampled Track Trail: It is a short one-mile free historic hiking trail situated at Olustee Beach. There you can experience the history of the sawmill and the community that flourished along the shores of Ocean Pond.
9. Jonathan Dickinson State Park
Jonathan Dickinson State Park, the largest state park in northeast Florida, is another favorite fall hiking trail in Florida. Rare environments, such as the pristine Loxahatchee River, upland lakes, coastal sand hills, and scrub forests, make this park an incredible spot waiting to be explored.
The extensive hiking trail system encompassing 16 natural communities entices the hikers to explore. These trails are ideal for new and professional hikers alike. Seated hiking trails include Wilson Creek Nature Trail, Kitching Creek, River Trail, and Lake Hiking Trail.
Moreover, a two-mile paved multi-use trail runs adjacent to the park drive from the main picnic and river area. Closer to the entrance, you will see a short yet beautiful Hobe Mountain trail, running through the scrub community to the observation tower.
Furthermore, other multi-use trails in Dickinson State Park include Ocean to Lake Trail and Eagles View, which are accessible through other trail systems.
10. Florida Caverns State Park
One of the most exciting parts of Caverns State Park is its interconnected group of the nature trails system. However, most hikers don’t step off that paved path and into the forest; for those who do, a fascinating landscape awaits.
The park’s trail system incorporates seven hiking trails on limestone bluff over the floodplain of the Chipola River. If you plan to hike within the park, start your excursion from the Floodplain Trail near the parking area. However, if you wish to experience the cave tour first, making the outer loop without backtracking can be challenging.
It is worth highlighting that one of the delights of Dickinson Trail State Park’s trail system is Tunnel Cave. It is the only place in the sunshine state where a hiking trail runs through a cave.
There you go – 10 of our favorite fall hiking trails in Florida. With varied terrain and a diverse ecological system, the above-mentioned fall hiking trails in Florida offers a memorable adventure for hikers of every level. Whether you want to wind through crystal clear springs, curve through secluded forests, or discover remote, sandy beaches, there is something for everyone.
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