10 Best Hiking Trails in Florida
While Florida might be known for its beaches, that doesn’t mean you can’t find some spectacular hiking trails in the state. In fact, when you head out on some of these best hiking trails in Florida, you never know what you might discover.
No, you won’t be scaling any mountains. But that doesn’t mean you won’t find some unique challenges on these trails. Of course, if you’re used to hiking in cooler weather, don’t forget to prepare for the special demands of hiking in the heat!
Then the next time you’re planning a trip to Florida, throw those hiking boots in with your flip-flops and make plans to check out a few of these top trails.
1. Florida Trail
The Florida Trail is a National Scenic Trail that runs almost the entire length of the state. The trail spans 1,000 miles from Big Cypress National Preserve in the southern part of Florida to Fort Pickens at Pensacola Beach in the panhandle.
The great part about hiking parts of the Florida Trail is that you’ll pass through an incredible variety of ecosystems and discover just how diverse Florida’s environments can be. You’ll also be able to experience everything from swamps to pine forests.
While chances are good you won’t be able to tackle the entire trail, you can certainly pick and choose sections to explore. In fact, many of the smaller hikes listed below are actually part of the Florida Trail.
2. Little Manatee River State Park
Little Manatee River State Park is a stunning state park situated about 30 miles south of Tampa. The park’s namesake, the Little Manatee River, is considered one of the most pristine rivers in the state. The park also has several hiking trails to explore.
The easiest hike in the park is the 0.8-mile Oxbow Nature Trail, which offers a relaxing stroll through the sand pine scrub. If you happen to be taking this hike in February, you’ll be treated to spectacular display of flowering fringe trees.
For something a little longer, head out on the 6.5-mile North Trail that goes through numerous unique ecosystems, including hammocks, flatwoods, pine forests, and remnant sandhills. This trail also has a primitive campsite if you’re looking to do some backpacking and overnight camping.
Pro Tip: To access the North Trail, you’ll need to leave the park’s main entrance and turn left onto Route 301. Approximately 2 miles down the road, you’ll see a parking lot on the right for the trail head.
3. Withlacoochee State Forest
The World Wildlife Fund named Withlacoochee State Forest one of the “10 Coolest Places You’ve Never Been in North America,” which makes this hidden gem the perfect escape for outdoor enthusiasts.
Located in western Central Florida about an hour north of Tampa, Withlacoochee State Forest is currently the third largest state forest in the Florida.
A portion of the Florida Trail winds through the Withlacoochee State Forest. You’ll also find trails in the numerous distinct tracts of the forest, including the Citrus tract, Annutteliga Hammock Unit, Homosassa tract, Two Mile Prairie tract, and Richloam tract.
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4. Little Talbot Island State Park
Don’t let the name fool you — Little Talbot Island State Park is actually quite large. This 2,500-acre island is located about 30 minutes northeast of Jacksonville. It’s also one of only a handful of undeveloped barrier islands left on the northeast coast of Florida.
A great thing about hiking in Little Talbot Island State Park is that it gives you an opportunity to see numerous ecosystems.
One of the best trails in the park is the 4-mile Dune Ridge Trail loop. While you’re on this trail, you’ll pass through a maritime hammock, a depression marsh, and over beach dunes. For the last 1.5 miles of the trail, you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular stroll on a sandy beach.
5. Big Shoals State Park
Whitewater rapids in Florida? Yes, actually, they do exist. And you can see them when you visit Big Shoals State Park.
Big Shoals State Park is located in the northern part of Florida about an hour west of Jacksonville and an hour north of Gainesville. The park sits on the Suwannee River and features limestone bluffs that tower 80 feet above the water.
You’ll also find 33 miles of hiking trails in the park, including a section of the Florida Trail.
If you want to see the Big Shoals rapids, park at the Big Shoals parking area and take the 1-mile Yellow Blaze trail. The best way to see the Little Shoals rapids is to park at the end of Road 6 and take the 0.5-mile Blue Blaze trail.
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6. Highlands Hammock State Park
I think Highlands Hammock State Park is another hidden gem that offers some of the best hiking trails in Florida.
The 9,000-acre park is situated in Central Florida approximately 15 minutes west of Sebring. It protects a stunning old-growth hammock that gives you a glimpse at the real and natural side of the state.
To help you explore its natural wonders, the park has nine trails that range in distance from 975 feet to over 3,000 feet. My favorite trail by far is the Cypress Swamp trail, which has an elevated boardwalk that takes you through a cypress swamp where you can look for birds, alligators, frogs, turtles, and more.
Another great trail you’ll want to check out is the Alexander Blair Big Oak Trail, which offers a short hike that takes you to one of the 1,000-year-old oak trees in the park.
7. Torreya State Park
If you’re an experienced hiker and you’re looking for some of the best hiking trails in Florida, you’ll want to plan a visit to Torreya State Park. This 13,735-acre park in the northwestern part of Florida is located about an hour west of Tallahassee.
The park’s landscape consists of topography that most people don’t picture when they think about Florida, including steep bluffs, high plateaus, and deep ravines covered in forest.
It’s this unique landscape that provides some of the most challenging hiking trails in Florida. Of the park’s 16 miles of hiking trails, two of your best options include the 6-mile Rock Creek Loop and the 7-mile Torreya Challenge Loop.
The Rock Creek Loop is one of my favorites since it offers incredible views of the Apalachicola River. If you want to take your time to enjoy the scenery, you’ll be pleased to know that both trails also offer primitive campsites.
8. Big Cypress National Preserve
Located about 45 miles west of Miami and directly above Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve is one of the most unique destinations in the state.
Hiking here can range from treks on designated trails to excursions through unmarked territory. The preserve also has the southern terminus of the Florida Trail.
If you’re planning on doing some hiking in Big Cypress, keep in mind that much of the park is underwater. However, water levels can vary significantly depending on whether it’s the wet season or dry season.
For a more comfortable hike, I recommend you try to come during the dry season, which typically runs from October to May.
9. Bulow Creek State Park
Bulow Creek State Park is located on Florida’s eastern coast approximately 30 minutes north of Daytona Beach. The park covers almost 5,600 acres and protects one of the largest remaining stands of southern live oak forests in the region.
You’ll find several hiking trails in the park. One of the best is the 6.8-mile Bulow Woods Trail. This trail starts at the Fairchild Oak, which is over 400 years old and one of the largest live oak trees in the South. The trail then winds all the way to the Bulow Plantation Ruins State Historic Site.
Along the way, you’ll walk underneath a cathedral-like canopy of some of the oldest and largest live oaks you’ve ever seen.
10. Falling Waters State Park
Falling Waters State Park is a mystical place filled with fern-covered sinkholes, massive trees, and a gently sloping landscape. It’s also home to Falling Waters Falls, which is a 73-foot waterfall that’s the highest in the state.
The park is located in Florida’s panhandle about an hour north of Panama City Beach.
Although the park has three short nature trails that total only about one mile of hiking, the experience of seeing the waterfall plunge into the 100-foot-deep sinkhole is truly memorable. Plus, since the park’s landscape consists of rolling hills that you typically don’t find in Florida, these trails still offer a challenging hike.
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The Best Hiking Trails in Florida
Don’t make the mistake of thinking Florida doesn’t have any good hiking because it doesn’t have any mountains. Instead, make plans to check out these best hiking trails in Florida and discover the one-of-a-kind beauty and unique challenges this state has to offer.
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Now that you know more about the best hiking trails in Florida, are you ready to plan even more exciting hiking trips? Then be sure to check out some of these other popular posts: