Here are 10 Orlando-area hikes you should try before it gets too scorching
Florida’s “winter” or cold months can sometimes seem fleeting. Daytime temperatures drop between 60-70% during the day, providing some relief from the oppressive heat.
Orlando’s hot summer of 2021 is right around the corner. However, central Florida still appears to have a few weeks of cool temperatures at most. This is the perfect opportunity to take your dog and your family on the trails.
Although Flat Florida isn’t associated with hiking, there are still plenty of opportunities to see the beautiful city and enjoy the wildlife while it lasts.
Always go hiking with a buddy. A plan, plan and map are essential. The basic principle of Leave No Trace is to only take pictures, only kill time and leave footprints.
1}Wekiwa Springs State Park
This peaceful state park is just half an hour from Orlando. The park’s relaxing spring waters, lush greenery, and soothing sounds will bring you relief after the exhausting journey along I-4. There are several trails to choose from, ranging in length from less than a mile to 13 miles. Wekiwa trails allow you to see white-tailed deer as well as gopher turtles (turkeys) and a wide variety of birds. Sometimes a Florida black bear or bobcat can be seen. The park welcomes pets. It also offers hiking and swimming trails, kayaking. $6 per vehicle for admission On weekends, be sure to arrive on time.
Address: 1800 Wekiwa Circle in Apopka
2}Blue Spring State Park
This winter refuge for manatees is just 45 minutes north of Orlando. The park offers peace of mind and a hike. A cold day is the perfect time to stroll along the park’s boardwalk and see hundreds of manatees congregating in the 72-degree spring waters. It is a vital source of life for animals. For over 70,000,000 gallons a day you can walk to the bubbling spring.
The Pine Island Trail, a 3.5 mile round trip (7 miles total), takes hikers up to the St. Johns River. Some rooms are directly exposed to the sun. Be sure to pack sunscreen, insect repellent, and plenty of fluids. You are welcome to bring your pet. Admission is $6 per vehicle.
Address: 2100 W. French Ave. Orange City
3}Orlando Wetlands Park
This park is located in the city of Orlando and can be used for hiking, biking, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, and photography. Although the land is 1,650 acres in size, it was originally created to improve sewage treatment. It was originally created to test the waters, but has since become a popular birdwatching spot with over 220 species of birds and 63 butterflies.
The park has many trails that can be used to create loops or routes for hikers and cyclists. A loop trail for birding is 2.5 miles and another 3.9. Free parking is available at the park entrance. Orlando Wetlands Park does not allow pets or motor vehicles. Horses and bicycles are accepted.
Address: 25155 Wheeler Road. Christmas
4}Black Bear Wilderness Area
Boardwalks and trails cover 1,600 acres near the St. Johns River. This public land in the Sanford area is a great place to view white-tailed elk, swallow-tailed kite, and Florida black bear. The St. Johns River Loop Trail is a challenging 7.1 mile hike. Hikers may get lost on slippery or rough terrain. Hiking is not recommended when the St. Johns River is flowing. There are no toilets at this primitive site, but dogs must be kept on a leash.
Address: 5301 Michigan Avenue, Sanford
5}Econ River Wilderness Area
Seminole County, Seminole County, manages the land which covers 240 acres. This property also includes three miles of multi-use trails suitable for horseback riding, biking, and hiking. Great horned owls are often spotted with white-tailed deer and great horned owls, bobcats as well as birds, raccoons and golden mice. The area is open to all day use animals, but pets must be kept on a leash.
Address: 3795 Old Lockwood Road Oviedo
6}Mead Botanical Gardens
This Winter Park oasis, covering 48 acres, includes a boardwalk, butterfly garden, and amphitheater. It is a perfect place to enjoy a long and peaceful walk with friends, family or with your dog. It is a great place for bird watching, plant identification and geocaching. Shaded benches, lawns and picnic tables are great places to rest your feet or enjoy a good meal. For an urban getaway, parking is available and admission is free.
Address: 1300 S. Denning Drive Winter Park
seven}Turkey Lake Nature Trail
Bill Frederick Park covers an area of 183 acres on the west side of Turkey Lake. It includes a campground with pavilions, cabins and walking trails, boat rentals, watercraft rentals and a disc golf course. It is centrally located near Universal Orlando Resort and offers a quiet escape. You can see birds and other animals in the park as you walk the two mile loop. In some parts of the park, dogs on a leash may be permitted. Entrance to the park requires a small supplement.
Address: 3401 S. Hiawassee Road Orlando
8}Baldwin Lake Park
The 2.5 mile paved loop around Lake Baldwin gives walkers and cyclists the opportunity to take in the beautiful views of Lake Baldwin and the city of Orlando from a convenient location. While most of the trail is in Orlando, the portion through Baldwin Lake Park provides shade and protection from the sun. This park is also home to a large lakeside dog park, water fountains, and restrooms. The trail continues over sunny, easy terrain with only minor turns and elevation changes. The trail is open to dogs on a leash. There is also a large dog park at Baldwin Lake Park.
Address: 2000 S. Lakemont Ave. Winter Park
9}Little Big Econ State Forest
Seminole County offers more than 10,000 acres for mountain bikers, hikers and paddlers. The name of this area comes from the intersection of the Lesser Econlockhatchee and Greater Econlockhatchee Rivers just to the south. Little Big Econ has 26.3 miles (including 13 miles) of hiking trails. Other activities include paddling the Econlockhatchee River (17 miles) which runs through the forest, hunting, fishing and primitive camping. Only animals on a leash are allowed on the trails.
Trail access: 951 Barr St. Oviedo or 2105 Snow Hill Road in Chuluota
ten}split oak forest
Split Oak Forest covers 2,000 acres, about 40 minutes south of Orlando. The forest is home to a 200-year-old live oak tree that survived by splitting in the middle. There is a 6.4 mile trail that takes hikers around this reserve. But shorter trails are possible and still lead you past the split oak. The trailhead doesn’t have a restroom, but there is one in Moss Park. Pets are not accepted.
Access to the trail: 12125 Clapp Simms Duke Road in Orlando