The 1,400-mile Florida Trail, our National Scenic Trail in Florida, is Florida’s best destination for backpacking, be it for a weekend getaway or several weeks on the trail. A handful of hearty hikers take on the entire trail as an 1,110-mile thru-hike each year, with some completing the Florida Trail as a portion of the greater Eastern Continental Trail, starting at Key West and ending at Cape Gaspe, Quebec.
Whether you’re planning a section hike, a thru-hike, or even a backpacking trip, this guide to the Florida Trail will assist you with working out the logistics. The Florida National Scenic Trail is unique in quite a few ways:
- It is one of only a few National Scenic Trails that is entirely within one state
- It crosses two time zones (Eastern and Central, boundary is the Apalachicola River)
- It includes both tropical habitats (Big Cypress) and beach walking (Seashore)
- It circles the second largest lake entirely within the United States (Okeechobee)
- It is best hiked in winter, when weather is optimal and insects are less annoying
For hiking the Florida Trail, we certainly suggest you grab a copy of our guidebook, The Florida Trail Guide for planning your hike. For on-the-ground navigation, The Florida Trail Data Book and the most current Florida Trail thru-trail maps are a must. Some sections of the trail you can navigate using only data, but in many others, understanding how the trail follows the landscape (by using a good detailed map) is crucial.
Both the Data Book and maps can be obtained through the Florida Trail Association. You must be a member of the Florida Trail Association to hike on certain private lands which the trail crosses. The Florida Trail Association is the volunteer organization that builds and maintains the Florida Trail throughout the state.
The following books will help with trip planning for certain segments of the Florida Trail.
Florida Trail sections
These sections of the Florida Trail are listed south to north, in the direction that most long distance hikers travel.
- Eastern Continental Trail - 176.3 or 188.2 miles. Not technically part of the Florida Trail but a connector to it, the Florida portion of the Eastern Continental Trail begins at Key West and is primary a roadwalk to the southern terminus of the Florida Trail in Big Cypress. At the Alabama border, hikers following the ECT connect with a larger system of trails terminating in Cape Gaspe, Quebec.
- Florida Trail, Big Cypress - 37.6 or 45.4 miles. Winding deep into the wilds of the Big Cypress Swamp, this is the most remote section of trail in the state of Florida. The landscape is likened to the savannas of Africa, but also has pockets of rainforest-like botanical beauty enveloped in thick humidity. Hiking here means ankle-to-knee deep wading for several days.
- Florida Trail, Seminole - 49.8 miles. Stretching from the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation to Lake Okeechobee, this is a vast agricultural region. These are the drained lands, the former Everglades, with a lonely feel and no shade. Hiking is on roads and levees.
- Florida Trail, Okeechobee West - 56.5 miles. The preferred route for long distance hikers due to its solitude and wild spaces, the trail – entirely atop a 35-foot levee – offers expansive views of Lake Okeechobee, its western marshes, and vast open prairies turned to cattle ranches. Much of the trail, but not all, is paved and multi-use.
- Florida Trail, Okeechobee East - 57.4 miles. The eastern side of Lake Okeechobee has more communities close to the Herbert Hoover Dike, and more open water to see from the trail. All of the trail here is paved and multi-use. Closures due to rehabilitation work on the dike affect many segments on this side of the lake.
- Florida Trail, Ocean-to-Lake - 61.5 miles. A spur trail that leads from Port Mayaca on the east side of Lake Okeechobee to Hobe Sound Beach on the Atlantic Ocean. En route it passes through popular Jonathan Dickinson State Park and Riverbend Park as well as rugged and wild DuPuis Reserve and Corbett WMA, where there are vast wet prairies and cypress strands with wades similar to Big Cypress.
- Florida Trail, Kissimmee - 104.7 miles. Following the Kissimmee River floodplain – which is undergoing restoration to its former glory, and flooding the landscape in the process – this is a section of trail with a mix of levee walks, road walks, marshy wades, and spectacular oak hammocks, as well as many open prairies shared with cattle. Scenic hikes here include Chandler Slough West, Starvation Slough, Kissimmee Prairie, Kicco, and Prairie Lakes.
- Florida Trail, Western Corridor - 231.1 miles. An alternate route for thru-hikers to the Orlando and most of the Ocala sections, the Western Corridor provides excellent hiking opportunities within easy reach of residents of the Tampa Bay area, offering numerous backpacking loops. It traverses the Green Swamp in addition to vast sections of Withlacoochee State Forest and the entire Cross Florida Greenway.
- Florida Trail, Orlando - 146.9 miles. The traditional route for long distance hikers takes you through a slim ribbon of wilderness in Orlando’s eastern suburbs, following a paved rail-trail for one portion of the hike. In places like Bull Creek WMA, Tosohatchee, Seminole State Forest, and Bronson State Forest, you’ll be surprised at how wild this section is so close to a major city.
- Florida Trail, Ocala - 73.4 miles. The birthplace of the Florida Trail, the Ocala section is Florida’s top backpacking destination, showcasing the world’s largest sand pine scrub forest and some of Florida’s largest springs in the Ocala National Forest. Despite its scorched earth, the Juniper Prairie Wilderness remains a popular destination for hikers. Beauty spots like Hopkins Prairie and Riverside Island above Lake Delancy should not be missed.
- Florida Trail, Northeast Florida - 114.7 miles. The sweep of trail past Palatka towards Lake Butler involves some private timberlands and a string of public lands connected by short roadwalks, including Rice Creek Conservation Area, Etoniah State Forest, Gold Head Branch State Park, and Camp Blanding. The Palatka-Lake Butler Trail provides a connector, and the Osceola National Forest is at the northern end of this section.
- Florida Trail, Suwannee - 82.2 miles. For more than sixty miles, the Florida Trail follows the floodplain of the fabled Suwannee River, clinging to its bluffs and terraces, dropping down to sandy beaches, and scrambling past waterfalls and ravines. It’s a physical challenge and one of the most scenic sections of trail, with both Big Shoals - Florida’s fastest whitewater – and the Big Oak Trail at the confluence with the Withlacoochee River a delight.
- Florida Trail, Big Bend - 120 miles. From the Suwannee River, the trail continues west through San Pedro Bay through private timberlands to rejoin public lands along the mysterious Aucilla River. In St. Marks NWR, there is a river crossing where you must hail a boat.
- Florida Trail, Apalachicola - 78.6 miles. Florida’s largest national forest, the Apalachicola National Forest is a very wet, very lush environment, and the trail here goes through one of the wildest virgin forests in Florida in Bradwell Bay. Pitcher plant prairies and vast titi bogs also mean soggy feet.
- Florida Trail, Central Panhandle - 100.6 miles. Crossing the Apalachicola River, the Florida Trail enters the Central Time Zone. Public lands are scarce through this section so there is a lot of connecting roadwalk and some multi-use trails like the Blountstown Greenway, but the trail does show off the beauty of places like Econfina Creek Water Management Area, Pine Log State Forest, and Nokuse Plantation.
- Florida Trail, Eglin - 100.5 miles. Florida’s largest military reservation was once the Choctawhatchee National Forest, and thanks to more than a century of conservation, the Eglin section includes vast stands of old-growth forests and steephead ravines. Eglin East has a continuous long east-west segment of trail, while Eglin West offers a shorter segment through the sandhills near East Bay.
- Florida Trail, Seashore - 33.2 miles. The Florida Trail’s northern terminus is at Fort Pickens on Pensacola Bay, a fitting place to complete a grand adventure. The Seashore section, which also includes the Pensacola Bike Path, the Navarre Bike Path, and the wild and scenic UWF Dunes Preserve, is the only National Scenic Trail section with walks along a beach.
- Florida Trail, Blackwater - 43.1 miles. Branching off the Eglin section east of Milton, the Blackwater section provides an alternate for hikers to immerse in the beauty of Blackwater River State Forest. Portions of three trails – Juniper Creek Trail, Jackson Red Ground Trail, and Wiregrass Trail – make up the Florida Trail, which at this terminus reaches the Alabama border to connect with the larger Eastern Continental Trail.