By Alli Hill
Florida’s mild winters make it one of the best hiking destinations in the country. You can enjoy the great outdoors without the shivers—and without the sweltering heat of a Florida summer. Some may argue there’s no better time for a hike in Florida than the winter. You be judge—step outside to these 10 best winter hikes in Florida.
There’s no better place to start the winter hiking season than Seminole Ranch. The Seminole Ranch trail is a smaller segment of the sprawling Florida Trail, spanning just over four miles, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. This trail gives you a high chance of spotting area wildlife due to its proximity to the wildlife preserve, including white tail deer, wild turkey, and a variety of birds.
Located in Myakka State Park, winter is prime hiking season for the Myakka River Hiking Trail. Clocking in at almost 39 miles, you’ll need to plan for backcountry camping or end your trip early via the many crisscrossing roads. The trail offers a diverse ecosystem of marshes, pine flatwoods, and prairies, all of which are teeming with wildlife and picture-perfect backdrops.
Acting as the gateway to the Florida Birding Trail in the panhandle region, this national wildlife refuge spans over 70,000 acres with more than 43 miles of wild shoreline. The area features several hiking trails, including a long portion of the famed Florida Trail, where hikers can get clear views of birds, alligators, and other wildlife. If you aren’t looking for a backpack camping hike, stick to one of the shorter trails, like the Levee or Tower Pond trails, each of which is a mile or less.
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Only one of two nature trails in the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, the Panther Trail spans 1.3 miles (a whole mile longer than the other trail in the preserve). While most of the refuge is closed to the public, these trails offer your only inside look into the area, with the exception of potential guided tours in the winter. If you want your best chance of seeing panther tracks, deer, or bear, plan your visit for early morning or late afternoon.
The grasslands of the Kissimmee Prairie offer a unique combination of flora and fauna you won’t find anywhere else in Florida. Deer, snakes, and bald eagles are all known to make appearances here. The park offers over 100 miles of dirt roads for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. If you visit in the winter, you can also take advantage of a ranger-led buggy tour that takes you to lesser-seen areas of the preserve.
Florida Trail: Day 13 /Mile 172 of 1100 Am currently working my way North along the Kissimmee River. This was my view all morning, lots of Live Oaks (Quercus virginiana) intermingled with Cabbage Palms (Sabal palmetto). Love the festoon of Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides) which isn't a moss at all, is actually an epiphytic bromeliad (pineapple family). Notice as well the Resurrection Ferns (Pleopeltis polypodioides) on the oak limbs, lots of amazing stuff to see. #bpmag #longdistancehiking #hiking #hikingadventures#hiking #thruhike #camping #backpacking #thruhiking #trail #traillife #wilderness #getoutside #earthpix #earthofficial #nakedplanet #wildernessculture #aroundtheworldpix #optoutside #beautiful #travelawesome #theglobewander #roamtheplanet #bestvacations #wildme #lonelyplanet #AOV #visualscollective #floridatrail #flordia
A good hike doesn’t have to consume your whole day, and the casual 2.5-mile nature hike at Lower Wekiva River proves it. Just 50 minutes of walking will lead you to wildlife hot spots along the wetlands and blackwater streams. Bears, otters, and alligators call this park home, so you’ll have plenty of company along your hike—even if you don’t realize it!
As the state’s largest backpacking loop, this trail will keep you traveling for over 43 miles if you like. It’s not without its challenges, either: sinkholes, rolling sandhills, and rocky paths make your walk in the woods anything but simple. If you do plan on backpack camping, you’ll need to plan for four days’ worth of supplies, including water since this is considered a “dry” trail. If you’re not up to the four-day challenge, this trail is easily broken up into several enjoyable day hikes.
Located in the Osceola National Forest, this short-and-sweet 1.6-mile trail is one of the best spots for viewing red-cockaded woodpeckers. This section loops with the Florida Trail, giving you a chance to extend your hike as long as you wish.
Starting at Hobe Sound Beach, this 63-mile trail is unique in every way. Each mile offers a new ecosystem of flora and fauna, giving you one of the most diverse hiking experiences in the state. The trail terminates at Lake Okeechobee, with prairies, swamplands, flatwoods, and other scenery making up the middle.
Nestled in the Apalachee Wildlife Management Area, the mild temperatures in the winter make it an ideal time to traverse the nearly-four-mile Garden of Eden Trail. The WMA plays home to whitetail deer, fox squirrels, and gopher tortoises, along with a heaping helping of bird species. The trail itself isn’t for the faint of heart. At some points, you’ll swear you were in the Georgia mountains, so plan accordingly.