Nine days, 109 miles: that’s the circuit around Lake Okeechobee to complete a walk around the second largest lake inside American borders along the Florida Trail. Established in 1992 by the Loxahatchee Chapter of the Florida Trail Association, the Big O Hike has drawn more than a thousand participants to the shores of Lake Okeechobee to experience a walk with expansive views across the lake and its marshes.
Held annually during Thanksgiving Week, the Big O Hike lets you experience this portion of the Florida Trail on a group hike with newfound friends. It is a series of nine day hikes, no backpacking required: either camp with the group at designated campgrounds (with hiker-friendly rates) or grab a motel room along the way. Cooperative shuttling among participants ensures that everyone gets to the hike by the crack of dawn and finishes up each 9 to 14 mile segment by lunchtime, leaving time to relax in camp and explore the offerings of the small towns along the lake.
2014 Big O Hike
Special notice: after 22 consecutive years, there will be no Big O Hike this year. More than 50% of the Florida Trail is closed around Lake Okeechobee due to ongoing projects by the Army Corps of Engineers.
The Loxahatchee Chapter of the Florida Trail Association hopes to resume the hike in 2015. Please check their website for future details and to sign up for their Meetup group.
2013 Big O Hike journal
- Hiking the Big O: Fellowship of the Key Rings - This guest post is courtesy of Cathy Coale, who hiked the Big O Hike in 2012. Here’s hoping you can join us in 2013 … see the details! “You are gonna get blisters,” a veteran hiker told us, “Everyone does.” I remember hearing his words standing in the small town of Pahokee, Florida, my heart […]
- The Big O, Differently - After a dozen years of attending bits and pieces and often the whole thing, the Big O Hike had become a welcome routine, a time to gather with friends. This year was very different. Being in charge meant having to worry about both the big picture and the details. And worry was the operative word. […]
2012 Big O Hike journal
- Notes from a small space - We’ve spent the past half hour arranging the insides of our tiny TravLite camper, an early 80s vintage popup that’s a step up from a tent on wheels – with headroom. The floor is perhaps 4×6′ but we can stand up in it and enjoy cushioned seats, a table, and a bed. The entire interior […]
- Aloft - It isn’t rare for winds to streak across the surface of Lake Okeechobee, picking up speed as they travel, flowing across the dikes like waves. But some mornings are windier than others, and this was one of them. Clouds blanketed our views of the starry night as dawn grew close, bringing a sunrise with no […]
- Florida Trail at Fort Basinger - While our explorations this week focus on the Big O Hike around Lake Okeechobee, side trips to review changes in the Florida Trail are a part of the journey. A wander to the 4Es Trailhead in Fort Basinger surprised us with a new routing of the trail along the rim of the vast Kissimmee Prairie […]
- Redirection - Our Big O Hike came to a grinding halt early, and not for want of walking. With clear skies above and one of John’s old friends joining us, I was looking forward to a stroll through Indian Prairie. Life intervened. I’d had some mild tooth pains before I’d seen the dentist two weeks ago but […]
- Coping with Lake Okeechobee Florida Trail closures - For thru-hikers in 2012-2013, closures around Lake Okeechobee along the Florida Trail have made logistics quite a challenge. The Army Corps of Engineers has contractors working along several large segments of the dike, continuing to make it impossible to “do the loop” of 110 miles around Lake Okeechobee without a dangerous amount of roadwalks. More […]
- Seminole Reflections - “There, in the bushes. Over there!” John pointed off to the left. We were slowly – as one does, to avoid speeding tickets – making our way up the road through Big Cypress Seminole Reservation, having left Billie Swamp Safari about ten minutes before. On a mission to update services information for the new Florida […]
2011 Big O Hike journal
- Big O: Pounding Pavement in Pahokee - Last night at our well-attended prep meeting for today’s hike, I finally got the answer I’d been waiting for: where the heck are we hiking? Not the dike, after all. In 2004, we saw the horrific effects of that summer’s foursome of hurricanes on this tiny western outpost of Palm Beach County. In 2006, the […]
- Big O: Sweep of Blue - A roar like a jet engine split the quiet of the campground at 4:30 am – seems someone’s air mattress deflated in the night. Two hours later, a carload of hikers are tumbling out of my vehicle atop the dike at Port Mayaca to greet the dawn. For many, it was their first real glimpse […]
- Big O: 3x3x3 - Day 3 of the Big O Hike has been 3-squared for the past nine years. Three 3 mile segments (roughly) broken up by access points to the dike. Pulling towards Taylor Creek – location of the Battle of Okeechobee, the creek named for Zachary Taylor, hunter of Seminoles and later President of the United States, […]
- Big O: Braising Cane - A rhythm seeps into my stride atop the dike between Nicodemus Slough and Moore Haven. It’s Day 6 of the Big O Hike, and no longer sidetracked by work, I’m walking alone in the spaces between hikers slower and faster than me. But I’m not entirely alone. I’m chatting with Steve, who ran the hike […]
- Big O: Okeechobee - It’s a tradition at our annual Thanksgiving Day dinner to share a little talent with our fellow hikers. I hereby bring you a poem I wrote – and I don’t write them often – commemorating the hike and our friends who’ve gone before us. Okeechobee Mi-yam-i of the Calusa Pay-hay-okee of the Seminole Big Water […]
- Big O: Turtle Time - In the parlance of the Big O Hike, now in its 20th year, we have a name for those who walk in the opposite direction from the rest of us – rabbits. These folks are our speedy guys and the key to our shuttle success, as they walk contrary – and faster – than the […]
- Big O: Everglades, Interrupted - Where the sunrise is best on Lake Okeechobee, the sun”s rays are directly in our faces. Southbound from Clewiston we stride on paved surface, rhythmic footfalls in tandem with hiking partners. It’s a windy, cloudy morning as the curtain rises over vast marshes with a ribbon of blue beyond, the sweep of open water defining […]
- Big O: Out of Time - I was sitting at lunch the other day with Wagonmaster Mike Nomad, discussing a theory I’ve had for years: the timelessness of our annual event. Over the past 9 years, I’ve only been able to be there for the whole event 4 times. Each time, it’s been an immersion into a different world. “Time dilation,” […]
- Big O: Friends Along the Way - It’s hard to believe that the 20th Annual Big O Hike is over, that just 48 hours ago friends dispersed from the campground back to their everyday lives. I’m finding it a little hard to make the adjustment. One aspect of this hike that makes it stand out from all other hiking events is the […]
2007 Big O Hike journal
- Saga of the Big O Hike - Nine days of walking around Lake Okeechobee is a unique experience that can change your life. Learn what it feels like to join the Big O Hike in this day-by-day journey.