By Alli Hill
While Florida may be better known for its beautiful beaches and ocean views, the state also offers an incredible hiking scene that shouldn’t be ignored. There’s nothing quite like the therapy of a walk in the woods to clear your mind and help you escape the sights and sounds of everyday life. Even better, a good hike is just as healthy for the body as it is for the mind. If you’re looking for a challenging yet enjoyable hike, these five energizing hiking trails in Florida are just what Mother Nature ordered.
Myakka River State Park features over 38 miles of looped trails with plenty of crossovers that help you make your hike as long or short as you like. The trail system offers a variety of terrain, everything from dry prairie to marshes to heavily-wooded areas. Late fall is the perfect opportunity to traverse the area as summer heat here can be extremely hot, especially in the prairie lands. For an invigorating hike, start at the trailhead just off North Road (on the left if you’re coming from the North Gate). Here you can embark on a hikers-only trail that can take you deep into the park. Beware the alligators!
Located in Lake Kissimmee State Park, this seven-mile trail takes you deep through some of Florida’s most beautiful wonders. Full of wet prairies, oak hammocks, and pine flatwoods, hikers will marvel at the variety of habitats and terrain along the way, including the abundance of deer in the area. The trail itself isn’t especially difficult, but its length signals you should be in decent shape if you want to make it from start to finish.
Just east of Tampa lies one of Florida’s most surprising, best kept secrets: whitewater. Take the Alderman’s Ford Nature Preserve Trail to see it for yourself. This trail winds over three miles through the 10,000-acre preserve, showing you glimpses of the Alafia River as it crashes over limestone boulders and shows you a side of the Sunshine State you may have thought you’d only find in the mountains.
Take your pick between the four-mile loop or its shorter 2.2-mile counterpart here—they’re both equally scenic and enjoyable. The trailhead begins in the midst of Babcock Ranch, so you’re likely to see cattle roaming free. In fact, these free-range cattle are what make this trail so interesting (in addition to other wildlife, such as deer and raccoon). You may even see real cowboys wrangling them as you traverse the area, giving you entertainment as you enjoy your fairly moderate hike.
This hike could go on for over eight miles if you wanted it to, but it’s been divided into two separate trails because of a land dispute. If you prefer a shorter hike, the down-and-back trail provides a total of nearly six miles of Florida beauty. As one of the most scenic hikes in the northern part of the state, this trail parallels the glistening Withlacoochee River at certain points and takes you through the ghost town of Ellaville. If you’re looking for them, you’ll also see remnants of other historic structures along the way, including the Drew Mansion Ruins.