Hikes near Orlando theme parks, by reader request. The area between Sea World and Universal Studios is both heavily populated and heavily commercial, so you have to drive beyond the Orlando International Airport to find the wild places. These suggestions are a mix of places I’ve visited and places I plan to visit.
Even though it’s much closer to Walt Disney World, Tibet-Butler Preserve provides the best day hike in this bustling area.Dr. P. Phillips Community Park has paved dog-friendly paths through the woods; the nature trail at Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake is a natural path through the scrub but catches a lot of Turnpike noise. Head up the Turnpike to the Ocoee exit to track down an easy boardwalk to explore along Lake Moxie at Central Park.
Off the Clermont / Winter Garden exit of Florida’s Turnpike is Oakland Nature Preserve, a delightful park with rambling paths and a long boardwalk to Lake Apopka.
Taking the “Beachline” east past the airport, exit at Narcoosee Rd and head a wee bit south to Clapp-Simms-Duda Rd to find Split Oak Mitigation Park one of my “50 Hikes in Central Florida” with loops up to 7.8 miles long.
A couple more exits east along the Beachline, take Dallas Blvd for Hal Scott Preserve, a vast wild landscape with a 3 mile loop through palmetto prairie. This area, between Bithlo and Christmas along SR 50, has many new public lands including Econlockhatchee Sandhills and Pine Lily Preserve, plus quite a few others listed on the Orange County Green Places Program website (complete with trail maps & directions).
If you’ve not been to Orlando Wetlands Park, it is one of the best places in the region for birding and scenic views along it’s trails. The Florida Trail in Tosohatchee WMA is mostly through palmetto hammock and pine woods, the perfect combination for shade and fall wildflowers.