The great state of Florida has gained the nickname “The Sunshine State,” and it is undoubtedly deserving of such a title. Indeed, Florida’s topography and climate were seemingly designed and perfected for outdoor fun and adventure. With thousands of hiking trails on offer, you will be spoiled for a choice of options for adventure in Florida.
Florida is considered one of the top-rated hiking destinations in The United States. There are over 80 different types of habitats boasting thousands of hiking trails that cater to hikers of all fitness and experience levels. Hiking in Florida includes unmatched scenery and wildlife sightings.
Everybody knows that a great way to enjoy doing some exercise is to make an adventure out of it, and hiking in Florida is undoubtedly the best way to go about that. With a seemingly endless list of potential hiking trails boasting some of the country’s most exquisite scenery, discover why Florida should be your next hiking destination.
Table of Contents
Hiking In Florida
Florida is well known for being an epic destination for hiking, and it is easy to understand why. With all of the stunning trails on offer, you could undoubtedly try out a new one every time you go for a hike and never run out of options for the rest of your life. Not many places have earned bragging rights, quite like the state of Florida.
The Sunshine State offers an incredible variety of hiking possibilities. Many seasoned hikers from Florida – or those who have hiked there on multiple occasions – say that no two hiking trails are alike. This means that every time you try out a new route, you are guaranteed to have a unique experience.
One of the best parts about the hiking experience in Florida is that the various hiking trails cater to hikers of all fitness and experience levels. If you are not the most physically active person out there, you will still be able to enjoy short easy hikes – as short as roughly one mile. And if you are looking for a wild outdoor adventure, you can enjoy multi-day hiking adventures.
Florida has everything from forests to beaches, swamps, and river rapids just waiting to be explored and enjoyed. Not to mention the chance of seeing some jaw-dropping wildlife like alligators, bison, and wild horses. Indeed, hiking in Florida promises to be an unforgettable adventure and is undoubtedly worth multiple visits.
The Best Hiking Trails In Florida
With all of the necessary preparations in order, it is time to dive into the fun part – where you will actually be hiking! As previously mentioned, Florida has thousands of hiking trails, so listing them all will not be possible. However, there are a few special gems that we will cover that you do not want to miss out on.
T help you plan for your next hiking adventure, here are some of the best hiking trails in Florida:
Florida Trail – Ocala
First on our list is the Florida Trail, specifically the Ocala section. The Florida Trail spans more than 1,300 miles along the entire Florida peninsula. This is undoubtedly among the most challenging hikes in Florida and the whole country, for that matter. However, unless you have a whole lot of time, you can hike the Florida Trail in sections.
That is what this hiking trail is. However, it is still on the advanced side. The Florida Trail Ocala is a multi-day hike spanning roughly 72 miles of immaculate scenery. Wildlife along the trail is abundant, so you can expect to see anything from tortoises to black bears. The best part is that no permits or fees are required to enjoy this fantastic hike, and camping is allowed anywhere you can find a spot – except during hunting season.
Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park
Another must-visit spot is Florida’s largest state park. Fakahatchee State Park boasts several miles of hiking through breathtaking cypress tree forests. For the most part, the hike itself is relatively easy, so this is also an excellent option for first-time hikers.
The nearby lake can be a great spot to pause and have a rest to soak in the beautiful scenery, and if you are lucky, you will be able to see a few alligators in the water for somewhat of a thrilling sightseeing adventure.
Blackwater River State Forest
Blackwater River State Forest is another hiking trail that forms part of the Florida Trail, on the northernmost part of the trail in Milton. This is yet another incredible hike where you will be surrounded by breathtaking scenery. The river gets its name from the way the white sand contrasts with the very dark water – a truly stunning sight to behold.
As with most of the hiking trails in Florida, Blackwater River State Forest abounds with wildlife. You can expect to see beautiful creatures like the great blue heron and white-tailed deer. Overall, this is a hiking trail not to be missed.
Little Manatee River State Park
Located near Tampa, Little Manatee River State Park is the last – but by no means the least – addition to our list. A true gem for the nature lovers out there, this roughly six-mile hike will take you on a journey through varying ecosystems and breathtaking scenery.
Enjoy the views walking through scenic pine forests and tranquil waters, along with the opportunity to see some exciting wildlife like red shoulder hawks and white-tailed deer. The Little Manatee River State Park is also an excellent place for fishing, going on picnics, and if you are looking for an extended adventure, camping is available too.
Preparing For A Hike In Florida
One of the most wonderful parts about hiking, in general, is that it is unquestionably one of the most cost-effective outdoor activities that anyone can do. Many other activities like diving or kayaking, as an example, can have high costs involved for the equipment and possibly tours.
A possible downside to the ease (from a cost perspective) of hiking is that it is not uncommon for inexperienced people to bite off more than they can chew. Many people embark on hikes that they are nowhere near physically ready for, which can often end up being a dangerous situation.
You need to be aware of your own physical ability and overall fitness level before going on any hike based on the beautiful pictures you have seen – because, wow, Florida’s hiking trails are stunning. A repeated theme that we will continue to unpack is that preparation is key when it comes to hiking.
If you have limited or no amount of experience in the world of hiking, then consider starting off with regular walks or even easy beginner-friendly hikes to get your body used to what it needs to be able to do. As you get more comfortable and confident, gradually increase the difficulty and intensity of your hikes to enjoy some of the best trails that Florida has on offer.
What To Wear When Hiking In Florida
The next part of preparing for a hike in Florida has to do with the kind of clothing you should have – and wear – while on your hike. Wearing the appropriate clothing and shoes will significantly impact your overall hiking experience.
Florida is known as one of the warmest states on average throughout the year. On top of that, it is also one of the most humid states in the country. This makes dressing appropriately an essential aspect of hiking in the Sunshine State. Let’s unpack what you should wear when hiking in Florida.
Shoes To Wear When Hiking In Florida
Because of the wide range of hiking trails, offering varying difficulties in both distance and terrain, there is not really one type of shoe that you need to have. For example, if you are going on a short hike with easy terrain, a good pair of walking or jogging shoes with adequate support will more than suffice.
However, if the hike you are going on is a little more strenuous and involves trekking through mud and water, then a good pair of hiking boots are highly recommended. The strength, stability, and ankle support offered by hiking boots are second to none. Having a waterproof pair would also be highly beneficial.
Clothing To Wear When Hiking In Florida
Now that we have your shoes covered, the next step is your clothing. For the average day hike in Florida, a pair of shorts and a T-shirt will more than suffice. However, you might want to consider long pants and long-sleeved shirts for added protection from various insects and walking through a lot of brush.
You do not need to worry about purchasing specialized hiking clothing in most cases. However, something to note is that you want to ensure that your clothing is made of a breathable material – particularly if you are wearing long sleeves and long pants. The heat and humidity in Florida can be unforgiving, so lightweight and breathable clothing is essential.
What To Bring With You On A Hike In Florida
Now that you are covered in terms of what to wear for your Sunshine State hike, there are a few more things that you will need to bring along with you for your adventure. Most of the essentials listed will be for day-hikers and multi-day hikers. Before diving in, be aware that having a backpack is essential to transport everything you need for your hike.
Water And Food
Starting with the most essential and obvious component of any hiking trip is ensuring that you pack as much water as possible. Especially in the heat and humidity that you will be exposed to in Florida, staying hydrated needs to be your number one priority.
For multi-day hikers, you will need to bring along a water filtration or water treatment solution in order to ensure an adequate amount of water for the entire duration of your hike.
From a food perspective, bring along some snacks to keep your energy levels up. Anything high in carbohydrates like energy bars is a great option, and keeping several in your bag will be a breeze.
It is a well-known joke that Florida’s state bird is the mosquito, and you can be sure to encounter a lot of them while on your hiking trail. Aside from mosquitoes, ticks could also be a prevalent issue, so bringing along some insect repellant will ensure that you stay bite-free while enjoying Florida’s outdoors.
This may seem like another obvious essential; however, it is one that too many people often forget. Many of the hiking trails in Florida have sections with little to no shade. So, without sunscreen, you are guaranteed to get some severe sunburn.
First Aid Kit
Bringing a first aid kit for a hike might seem a little over the top for some die-hard hikers out there. However, part of almost any hiking experience is the likelihood of getting a few scratches or cuts. And as mild as some of them may be, it’s not going to hurt to bring along some bandages, band-aids, and antibiotic cream.
As previously mentioned, being prepared – or even overprepared – when it comes to hiking is vital, and safety should undoubtedly be a core aspect of your preparation.
As a final addition to our “what to bring” list, a camera (even the one on your phone) is a necessity. Florida’s hiking trails boast some exquisite scenery, and while your adventure is sure to be a memorable one, taking a few photos is a great way to look back at the trails you have explored.
A few extra items to consider bringing along include:
- A Raincoat – in case the weather makes a sudden turn.
- Flashlight – especially for multi-day hikers, will also come in handy for those long day-hikes that might run into the evening.
With all of that covered, you are ready for your first hike in the Sunshine State!
Florida is unquestionably one of the most incredible places in all of America to enjoy a hiking adventure. Whether you are completely foreign to the world of hiking trails or if you have had your fair share of experience, do not miss the opportunity to explore the wonders of the Sunshine State. Lace-up your boots and get ready for a hiking adventure in Florida!