For the hikers heading to Florida to do some exploring, there are hundreds of Florida hiking trails for you to hit and explore some of the incredible ecological diversity you can find in the state. From the shoreline to the Everglades here are some of the best hiking trails you can find in the whole state.
Found in the northern part of the Florida National Scenic near the Alabama border. Hike along Juniper Creek and check out the massive red clay bluffs. The scenery along this trail is probably one of the best in Florida, follow the Blackwater River and the smaller tributaries along the trail.
2. Santa Rosa Island Beach Hike
Sticking in the north, check out Fort Pickens that was built way back in 1834 to protect the Pensacola Bay. This trail will take you along the beach as you go on the Gulf Islands National Seashore, this is the only part of the trail that actually follows the ocean side of the beach. Bring a towel and some sunscreen and stop and have a swim.
3. Torreya State Park
There are two different trails you can try out here, both long enough to take the entire day. First is the Torreya Challenge Loop or the Rock Creek Loop, they are seven and six miles long and both will give you a challenge. Experienced hikers will enjoy these challenging trails and you can see the rare Florida Yeo and the endangered Torreya tree. Don’t forget to see the incredible views of the Apalachicola River. Here is a closer view of some of the trails.
4. Bulow Plantation Loop
With 12 miles of hiking trails all around the ruins of the old Bulow Plantation, check out this piece of history that was destroyed in 1836 during the Second Seminole Indian War. You can stroll shaded among some of the oldest oak trees in Florida. Go see the Fairchild Oak, it is one of the largest live oaks in Florida and it is more than 400 years old!
5. Citrus Hiking Loop
Pack a lunch and get ready for a long hike, there are more than 40 miles of trail here for the experienced hiker to explore. Located in the Withlacoochee State Forest, you can do short hikes going from one of the many access points to another. This is a challenging hike with a lot of hills, you will find different habitats to check out along the route.
When you think of the Everglades in Florida do you think of alligators, giant snakes and pine forests? You aren’t far off, throw in some mangroves and wild birds and you have a pretty accurate picture of the Everglades. The UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve contains more than a million acres of protected wetlands with a diverse ecosystem. Here are some of the things you can see while you are there.
Alligators and Crocodiles
The Everglades contains lots of different birds and animals but let’s face it, people come here for the alligators and crocodiles. This is the only place in the world where you will see these modern day dinosaurs living side by side in the same habitats. Remember this is their home and you can regularly see both alligators and crocodiles sauntering across the road without a care in the world. Keep your distance these animals aren’t’ cute nor are they friendly. You can also check out some of the restaurants around the park and try some alligator.
There are all kinds of organized activities that allow you to explore the park safely, you can do more in Florida than just lay on the beach. There is the Anhingan Trail, this will give you the chance to see and take pictures of the wildlife. There are other hikes you can do too so pick the one that suits your physical ability. Florida is sunny and hot so bring along plenty of water and sunscreen.
You can try biking through the park too but the one activity that you should absolutely try is an airboat ride. These are flat bottom boats with giant propeller engines on the back that skim across the water of the Everglades. You get a great view of the terrain and all the wildlife that lives in the park.
Protecting South Florida
The ecosystem that you find in the Everglades National Park is what you used to find all over South Florida before urbanization and human development. It needs to be protected as it is what purifies and provides the drinking water for the area. It helps preserve the region against the many storm surges that batter South Florida each year. It is integral to the identity of South Florida yet despite that it is still facing pressure from pollution and population growth. The next time you are down here soaking up the sun take a day and explore the park and appreciate the natural beauty of South Florida.
While the Everglades National Park is arguable the most well known National Park in Florida, there are others here that you should take the time to see and one ov those id Osceola State Park. It is the smallest and the oldest of all the Florida parks but it has an incredibly rich history. Osceola State Park is located between Lake City and Jacksonville and not only does it give you a glimpse into the flora and fauna that live here but you can learn a lot about the local history.
The Osceola State Park
The history of Osceola State Park goes back to the Civil War and the largest battle in the state of Florida having been fought near here at Olustee. On February 20, 1864 more than 10,000 Union soldiers attacked the Confederate and they were forced to defend their position, the battle lasted for five long hours. At the time the Union was trying to occupy Jacksonville and disrupt the transportation routes of the Confederates.
The Union soldiers didn’t just want to seize good they were also there to recruit African American soldiers and deprive the Confederates of food. The Union soldiers were unsuccessful that day and the Confederates defended their positions forcing the remaining Union soldiers back to Jacksonville.
Artifacts and Re-enactments
As you go through the park there are plenty of historical artifacts and knowledgeable guides who can educate on the historical significance of the park. There are trails that are named after the battle of Olustee and you can see the actual places where events took place. You can learn about the tactics that were used and the resulting aftermath. The historical information comes from letters written by soldiers who fought here along with other personal accounts. Each year on President’s Day there is a re-enactment that you can watch.
The Naming of the Park
The name Osceola has a tragic history as well, it comes from the Seminole Indians who were relocated and tried to resist. When President Andrew Jackson and Congress approved the Indian Removal Act in 1830 the government chose to ignore the previous treaties they had made with the Seminole. There was widespread abuse as local militias drove the native people across the Mississippi River by force. The Seminole Chief, Osceola refused to sign another treat and Osceola led the resistance…thus the naming of the park to Osceola State Park.