Florida is well known throughout the world as an area offering a huge
array of attractions, entertainment and scenery that will captivate all
who visit this sunny state. An activity perhaps less associated with Florida
is hiking. While the state may not be host to mountainous trails winding
through snow covered peaks, Florida offers a surprisingly vast choice
of trail types and lengths. A hike along these trails offers one a chance
to see magnificent scenery and wander through many different types of
ecosystems - coastal praries, hardwood hammocks, pine forests, beaches,
cypress and mangrove swamps, rivers, lakes, and crystal clear springs
Everyone from the casual walker wishing to
take a 5 minute boardwalk through hardwood hammocks or mangrove systems
to the long distance backpacker wishing to take several months on a statewide
excursion will find an abundance of trails to suit their needs. Shorter
walks can be found just about anywhere in the state, from Everglades National
Park to bird sanctuaries and parks found throughout the state. These can
often be interesting for the person only desiring a short, comfortable
look at many of the natural beauties of Florida. Many such walks will
feature other points of interest nearby such as gift stores and information
centers. Many provide handicapped access.
a few safeguards offered by the US Forest Service:
the conditions. Its flat, but there is varied and sometimes
rugged terrain. Heat and humidity can rapidly cause dehydration.
All of the areas in this guide are within the Lightning Capital
of the United States.
Start early, particularly in summer. Mornings are cooler and afternoons
are not only hotter but prone to storms. If camping, the early birds
have a camp set before weather becomes a factor.
While many of the trails are clearly marked, several are
located in vast forests where its very easy to get lost.
Dont exceed your physical limits.
Pack fresh water. Florida has an abundance of springs and clear
rivers but many of the trails dont pass near them. Even when
they do, the water usually isnt safe to drink. A good rule
of thumb: Bring one gallon per person, per day.
Pack food, such as granola bars, trail mix and jerky, in case something
goes wrong and youre stuck out there for a while.
Talk to the folks in
charge of the site.. Phone numbers are provided so you can call
ahead for detailed, current maps and exact directions top the trails.
Find out beforehand what special permits or gear you might need.
Take note of wildlife warnings.
Don't hike alone and never separate from your partner or group.
come in several forms:
are paved or packed hard.
Wilderness routes are similar to those hiked by American
Indians and early explorers.
Sandy beaches (Florida has more coastline than any state
except Alaska) for the improvisational walks.
Florida Trail Association
800-343-1882 (in Florida) or 352-378-8823
P.O. Box 13708, Gainesville, FL 32604.
Office of Greenways & Trails
850-487-4784, Mail Station 795,
3900 Commonwealth Boulevard, Tallahassee, FL 32399-3000.
For longer hikes, from an hour or two or even a day, the choices are
virtually endless. Depending upon which part of Florida you are visiting,
it is possible to enjoy many of the hikes through preserves, parks, water
management districts, ranger-led slogs (hiking through wetter areas) and
sections or loop trails of the Florida Trail (FT).
Overnight and weekend options tend to limit one to larger tracts of landsuch
as the Big Cypress Preserve in the southern end of the state, or along
the Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST). Permits may be required, so
check with officials before overnighting regarding any applicable rules
Longer trips are limited to the FNST, a long distance trail currently
in development stretching from Big Cypress Preserve (near Everglades National
Park in the southern tip of the state) to the northwest end of the Panhandle.
When completed, this will be a 1300-mile trail. Though a few sections
are currently bridged with roadwalks there are over 1000 miles of trail
as of this writing. Several people have already thru-hiked the entire
length of this trail. For such a trip, contact the Florida
Trail Association Florida Trail Association (800-343-1662 or www.florida-trail.org).
When considering hiking in Florida, prepare for it using simple common
sense: sunblock, insect protection (particularly in the wet summer months),
drinking water, proper gear, and information on the trail and conditions
are important. Some parts of trails on lower land become flooded during
the summer months, and though still used, are not for those unwilling
to get their feet (and often more) wet. It's always a good idea to check
on conditions first.