15 Must-See Florida Hiking Trails

Must-See Florida Hiking Trails
Photo by by Bkamprath from iStock

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Not too many people associate Florida with hiking. Florida is actually one of the most interesting places to go hiking in the US. It has a diverse natural landscape (with over 80 distinct habitats), unique wildlife, 11 national parks, and countless trails for varying skill levels.

Where should you start? Below, we highlight 15 of the best Florida hiking trails and what they have to offer.

1. Anhinga Trail

Homestead, Miami-Dade County

Anhinga Trail is a short hike just a stone’s throw away from the entrance to Everglades National Park. This easy 1.3-km loop takes less than 15 minutes to complete and provides hikers with plenty of opportunities for birding and spotting gators. Among the birds you’re likely to spot in the marsh are egrets, cormorants, roseate spoonbills, and herons. 

The boardwalk is kid- and wheelchair-friendly. Visitors are advised to leave their pets at home as alligators abound!

2. Little-Big Econ Kolokee Loop Trail

Oviedo, Seminole County

This trail is located in Little-Big Econ State Forest, a 5,000-acre forest found in the triangle connecting the cities of Orlando, Daytona Beach, and Cocoa. As you make your way along the 5.6-km loop, you’ll get acquainted with Florida’s rugged and humid subtropical forest – and potentially spot critters like raccoons and alligators.

Kolokee Trail runs along the Florida Trail and connects to the Flagler Trail as well, providing hikers with lots of options for exploration.

Warning: The trail could be closed due to flooding caused by Hurricane Ian. Check with the State Forest before heading out.

3. Florida Caverns Trail System

Marianna, Jackson County

If you’re drawn to the awesome mystery of caves, this group of trails is for you. Located in Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna, this interconnected trail system will have you scrambling over limestone bluffs, crossing creeks and sinkholes, and squeezing through the creepy Tunnel Cave. 

Yes, that’s right, you’ll have to pass through a cave to complete your hike! Don’t worry, you won’t have to crawl your way out. You might want to avoid the tunnel if you are claustrophobic.

Tip: Make sure to do the cave tour, a guided exploration of the only show cave in Florida.

4. Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park

Copeland, Collier County

Located near Everglades City, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve is Florida’s largest state park. This expansive, 80,000-acre park is teeming with hiking trails and bike paths, but the most popular option is the 2-mile-long East Main Trail. 

Along the path, you’ll find yourself surrounded by massive, ancient cypress trees and wild orchids. In fact, Fakahatchee Strand is renowned in the wild orchid enthusiast community as one of the best places to spot these beautiful flowers.

If you’re lucky, you may be able to spot some Florida panthers or black bears in the wild. There is also a variety of bird species here, including bald eagles!

5. Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail (LOST)

Okeechobee, Okeechobee County

Spanning the counties of Glades, Martin, Hendry, Palm Beach, and Okeechobee, the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail (LOST) is a 110-mile designated segment of the Florida Trail. It circles the second-largest freshwater lake in the country, Lake Okeechobee.

The trail is built on top of the Herbert Hoover Dike, which protects the communities and land surrounding the lake from flooding. As such, this hiking and biking (and fishing and bird watching) trail also provides a nice panoramic view of Lake Okeechobee.

6. Golden Orb Trail

Long Key, Monroe County

Long Key State Park’s Golden Orb Trail is a 1.5-mile hike through a variety of habitats that are unique only to Florida. This trail takes hikers to shady, hardwood forests where dozens of species of songbirds take refuge. Passing a tidal barren or salt marsh where mangroves and wild dilly take root. Traveling along the Long Key shoreline, where hikers can take in the beautiful scenery of the Atlantic Ocean.

7. Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Naples, Collier County

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a birder’s paradise. The swamp can be toured via one of the longest boardwalk hikes in the state, which weaves between hundreds of old-growth cypress trees. These trees blanket the sanctuary with an impressive canopy that houses nearly 200 species of birds.

The hike itself is relatively easy. It’s a 3.2-km loop that is fully accessible for wheelchair users and has tons of benches and rain shelters scattered throughout. As such, many families flock to this trail, especially in the summer when the elusive ghost orchid blooms.

8. Tiger Creek Preserve State Park

Babson Park, Polk County

Tiger Creek Preserve is located in the rolling hills of Central Florida where one of the highest concentrations of rare plant species in the US exists. Like the Galapagos Islands, Tiger Creek is home to plant species that cannot be found anywhere else on earth.

There are about 10 miles worth of trails in Tiger Creek Preserve. Here, hikers can walk for miles without coming across any signs of urbanization, like paved roads or tall buildings. It’s a quiet sanctuary for those who want to escape from “the real world”, at least for a couple of hours.

9. Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail

Gainesville, Alachua County

Inside the Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail is a “meandering 16-mile trail for scenic vistas, wildlife sightings, and glimpses of railroad history”, says the Florida State Parks website. 

The surrounding park is one of the only places in Florida where you can spot bison and wild horses roaming and grazing in their natural habitat. Aside from these, hikers might also be able to spot alligators, deer, and several different species of birds. 

Don’t miss the 50-foot observation tower that offers panoramic views of the prairie below, as well as the old railroad towns that dot the rail trail. The trail can be explored on foot, by bike, and on horseback.

10. Little Talbot Island Hiking Trail

Little Talbot Island, Jacksonville, Duval County

Little Talbot Island is one of the last remaining underdeveloped barrier islands in Northeast Florida. The Island Hiking Trail is a 3.5-mile loop that is a little different from most of the trails on this list. Instead of dense rainforest, this island trail takes you to open dunes, pine forests, and a beach, where you might come across gopher tortoises if you’re lucky.

11. Little Manatee River Trail

Wimauma, Hillsborough County

Little Manatee River State Park has a lot to offer nature lovers, from picturesque river bluffs to breezy palm hammocks. It’s a popular spot for kayakers and campers – there are primitive campsites by the river – and an excellent place to go for a short day hike as well. The Little Manatee River Trail offers two loops, a 3-mile loop and a 6-mile loop, which snake through the park’s seven natural habitats.

12. Circle B Bar Reserve

Lakeland, Polk County

Circle B Bar Reserve is a former cattle ranch found between Auburndale and Lakeland. This is another excellent spot for birding, with its extensive web of trails snaking through thriving wetlands. Here, pelicans, spoonbills, sandhill cranes, ospreys, anhinga, and even alligators share a home. 

The outer circuit is about 6 miles long, but you can take shorter routes like Heron Hideout or the Lost Bridge Trail. Bring your camera, binoculars, and birding guide, and prepare to spend the whole day attempting to identify a range of beautiful birds.

13. Cary Nature Trail

Bryceville, Nassau County

This 1.4-mile loop inside Cary State Forest is an easy, accessible trail for the whole family. Kids and adults alike can marvel at the carnivorous pitcher plants growing in marshes or climb the observation tower to get a bird’s eye view of the entire forest. There are campgrounds at the mouth of the trail as well as hiking, biking, and equestrian trails in other parts of the park.

14. Olustee Battlefield to Osceola Forest via the Florida Trail

Sanderson, Baker County

Olustee Battlefield is a historic site where Florida’s largest and bloodiest Civil War battle took place. The battlefront is located within Osceola National Forest, the smallest national forest in Florida. Despite its size, the Osceola Forest houses many endangered and threatened species, including indigo snakes, gopher tortoises, and the Florida black bear.

There are a lot of learning opportunities for little historians or biologists in this area, so consider taking your kids out on the 6.1-km out-and-back trail. It’s a well-maintained, relatively easy, and peaceful trail that can be completed in a little over an hour.

15. Florida National Scenic Trail

Big Cypress National Preserve, Ochopee, Collier County to Gulf Islands National Seashore, Pensacola, Escambia County

For thru-hikers looking for a more challenging hike, consider completing the Florida National Scenic Trail (also known as the Florida Trail or FNST). This 1,500-mile federally designated long-distance hiking trail starts at Big Cypress National Preserve near the Everglades and ends at Gulf Islands National Seashore in Pensacola.

The trail connects to dozens of other trails in the state, including some mentioned on this list, and takes hikers through a variety of habitats, including swamplands, freshwater marshes, beaches, grasslands, and pine forests.

Inexperienced hikers should exercise caution when planning a thru-hike of the Florida Trail. Though it isn’t the most popular thru-hike trail in the US, it is one of the most dangerous. The Florida Trail is prone to flooding, making many parts impassable for days. And because some parts don’t get as much foot traffic as more popular hiking options, the footpaths may be difficult to find. In other words, it’s easy to get lost on the trail.

Still, the Florida Trail is an epic conquest!

Tips For Hiking In Florida

Hiking in Florida can be an incredible experience, but it’s important to keep a few pieces of advice in mind to get the most out of your outing.

Wear Lightweight, Breathable Clothing

They don’t call Florida the Sunshine State for nothing. Many parts of Florida experience sunshine all year round and the climate can be humid and unforgiving. Thus, you have to dress appropriately for your hike.

Choose clothes made of lightweight, breathable fabrics such as polyester or light merino wool. It may seem strange to cover up when hiking in the heat, but wearing long-sleeve shirts and long pants can protect your skin from sunburn and encourage you to sweat, which can, in turn, keep you cool. Pack a breathable, brimmed hat as well to keep the sun out of your face.

Prepare To Get Wet

Nearly a fifth of all wetlands in the US are found in Florida. This includes bogs, swamps, marshes, mangrove swamps, sloughs, and wet prairies. So, before you explore a route, make sure you know what the terrain is like. If it looks like you’re going to be wading in some water, pack a pair of waterproof boots and gaiters to make things easier for you.

Another primary concern for hikers in Florida is thunderstorms and flooding. Florida has the highest incidence of thunderstorms per year than any other state in the US. These storms can lead not only to lightning strikes but also flash flooding.

Thunderstorms are most likely to occur during the summer months. Always check the weather before heading out and have a plan for when the weather suddenly gets bad.

Pack Bug Spray

Florida’s warm and humid climate makes it the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers, and other disease-carrying insects. Protect yourself from illness by packing a good insect repellant and wearing long pants and long-sleeved tops when you’re out on the trail.

Check out the best bug spray for Florida.

Check For Necessary Permits

Some trails, like the FNST, cannot be hiked without a permit or several days’ notice to the organization that looks after the trail. You also need to be a member of the Florida Trail Association to do a thru-hike of the entire FNST.

Leave No Trace

This one is basic hiking 101 for any seasoned hiker, but it bears repeating. Wherever you go to explore and observe wildlife, follow this simple maxim: “Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures, and kill nothing but time.”

In other words, do your best not to disturb the wildlife and their habitats and pick up after yourself and others. Leaving behind trash can potentially harm plants and animals or, worse, lead to something devastating like a forest fire.

The Bottom Line

Sure, it may not have the mountain ranges or desert-scapes of places like Colorado or Arizona, but the Sunshine State still has plenty of unique and exciting hiking trails to offer. The next time you’re planning a hiking trip in Florida, be sure to check out one of these 15 amazing trails. You won’t be disappointed!

**Disclaimer: There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate or sponsor links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (for which we are extremely grateful).

Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida and beyond, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.

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