If you have been searching for a life-changing experience, hiking through diverse and beautiful landscapes while challenging yourself to complete more than 1 000 miles of walking in a single go, then look no further than the Florida Trail. The Florida Trail is one of eleven scenic trails in America and one of only three scenic trails covered in a single state. So, how long does it take to complete the Florida Trail?
The Florida Trail is currently about 1 500 miles long and it takes roughly two or three months to complete the thru-hike. The hiking season is between October and April, but most people hike in January, February, and March. Most people have a South to North approach when hiking the Florida Trail.
As can be imagined, a lot of preparation goes into planning the Florida Trail hike. You must have permits to hike this trail, and you must also join the Florida Trail Association. Furthermore, there are several challenges hikers are faced with when hiking the Florida Trail. This article will discuss these topics in more detail.
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How Long Does A Thru-Hike Of The Florida Trail Take?
Doing a thru-hike of the Florida Trail promises to be a rewarding experience. You will get to see the variety of plants and animals in Florida. In addition, you will experience many different landscapes, such as the ocean, swamps, sandy stretches, and many wet areas.
The Florida Trail is 1 500 miles long and takes the average hiker between sixty and ninety days to complete. Traveling from the south of Florida to the north is the most popular direction to hike the Florida Trail. In this case, you will start your hike at the Oasis Visitor Center in the Big Cypress National Preserve and end at Fort Pickens, at the Gulf Islands National Seashore.
The south to north route is the most popular for several reasons:
- First, you will be starting with the most challenging part of the hike, which is the Big Cypress Swamp. You will thus be completing the most difficult part first and then move on to the less demanding parts of the hike.
- Secondly, you will be moving in line with the weather changes. Starting in the swamp when the weather is cooler will make the trip more bearable. Then, as you move inland, the temperature will slowly heat up as you move into spring.
This is also why January to March is the best time to hike the Florida Trail. It is cold enough to deter bugs from pestering you and cool enough to make the hiking more bearable. In addition, this period falls outside of gun season. Therefore, you will be safer while traveling through the swamps and marshlands.
You can take various routes to complete a thru-hike of the Florida Trail. While all the routes begin and end at the same points, you can decide which directions you would like to hike in. For example, you can go east or west around Lake Okeechobee. You can also choose between going east or west around central Florida.
Some hikers make the Florida Trail part of the larger Eastern Continental Trail. They then head north to connect to this trail rather than going west to finish the Florida Trail at Fort Pickens. You can also complete a section of the Florida Trail if you don’t want to complete the entire trail. There are certain parts of the Florida Trail where camping, horseback riding, paddling, and leashed dogs are allowed.
However, you cannot take a dog when doing a thru-hike of the Florida Trail. In addition, many endangered and rare species of animals and plants can be found along the trail and must be protected. Therefore, you must be careful when hiking not to destroy the environment.
How To Prepare For The Florida Trail
As can be imagined, there is a lot of preparation involved with hiking the Florida Trail. We have mentioned having the correct permits in order and being a member of the Florida Trail Association. However, you must prepare many other things before you start this hike.
You must train to be fit enough to hike for three months. Hiking the Florida Trail is not equivalent to walking around the neighborhood or office all day. You will carry a heavily loaded backpack and hike through vastly different terrains. Be sure to train ahead of time.
You must be aware of what you are getting into. While the Florida Trail doesn’t have as many mountain climbing and summits as other thru-hikes, it is still not an easy hike, and there will be times when you might consider quitting. You should know that this hike is vastly different from other hikes, such as the PCT. You will not be climbing mountains, and there may not be as many other hikers.
Prepare all your equipment before starting the hike. While other trails have supply shops along the route, the Florida Trail does not. Therefore, you must prepare all your gear before the start of the hike. Whatever you don’t have initially, you are unlikely to find along the way.
Ensure you have maps of the trail and research the best routes to take. The Florida Trail Association has excellent resources and maps to help you plan your route. Also, consider the camping spots you will stay at and book your sites ahead of time when necessary.
You must also ensure sufficient funds for the Florida Trail thru-hike. The budget you need will depend mainly on your lifestyle. However, most sources recommend having at least $2000 – $3000 prepared for the trail. If you get injured or need to stay in one location for a longer time, you must have funds ready for this as well.
Is The Florida Trail Dangerous To Hike?
This is a valid question, as you will be exposed for three months. The Florida Trail is dangerous to hike, not because the trail itself is so grueling, but because the environment you are hiking in is not timid.
- The weather is unpredictable. During winter, the temperatures in Florida change drastically from one day to the next. If you don’t pack the proper clothes and gear, you can have big problems if the weather suddenly changes.
- The Florida Trail is wet and sandy. Since your thru-hike of the Florida Trail starts in the swamp, you can imagine that there will be a lot of wet parts on this hike. Florida is also known for its high humidity. In addition, there are many sandy parts along the Florida Trail. Both these elements can be grueling on your feet, and keeping them dry and free from blisters will be a challenge.
- You are exposed for much of the hike. Only a few sections along the Florida Trail provide cover from the sun. Mostly, you will be walking directly in the sun, and sunstroke can be a concern.
- There are many bugs and animals in Florida. Mosquitos, ticks, and other insects are commonly found in Florida and carry nasty diseases around. Hopefully, the cold winter temperatures will keep them at bay. You might also come across snakes and alligators while on the Florida Trail.
- Access to water might be a problem. Florida has experienced some droughts in the past, and getting clean, drinkable water in some parts might be a challenge. Be sure to pack plenty of water purification tablets and fill up your water bottles whenever you have access to it.
Despite the many dangers of the Florida Trail, most people make the thru-hike safely. You shouldn’t have any significant problems while hiking the Florida Trail with the proper preparation and equipment.
The Florida Trail is a 1 500 mile thru-hike of Florida, starting in the Big Cypress Swamp and ending at Fort Pickens in the Gulf Islands National Seashore. This thru-hike takes two to three months to complete, and the best time to hike it is between January and March. You must have the correct permits and be a member of the Florida Trail Association to hike the Florida Trail.