More than any other section of the Florida Trail, the Okeechobee East and Okeechobee West sections that circle Lake Okeechobee have been in perpetual flux since 2005, when the Army Corps of Engineers started looking at how to repair the dike after the 2004 hurricanes.
At first it was a segment here or a segment there. But in 2014, there are SEVEN distinct closures of the Florida Trail by the Army Corps of Engineers, effectively making it impossible to hike around the lake.
These closures make it tough on section hikers and thru hikers, too, meaning lengthy roadwalks without easy access to water or campsites. As we’ve stated for several years, OKEECHOBEE WEST is the preferred route around the lake, especially in light of current closures and their roadwalk alternatives.
We’ve scouted the following roadwalks around Lake Okeechobee. You’ll have to adjust your overall mileage for the hike by calculating the difference between the normal FT route and each roadwalk route. At the end of this page, you can download a GPX file containing all of the following roadwalks.
Lake Harbor to Clewiston
This walk is mostly through agricultural lands. Corkscrew Rd has little traffic.
|0.0||Lake Harbor / Corkscrew Rd (Old US 27) west|
|3.8||Corkscrew Rd turns north to emerge at US 27. Follow US 27 for 0.3N|
|4.1||Paved road to W leads back to Corkscrew Rd|
|6.0||Back entrance to Crooked Hook RV Park (camping)|
|7.5||Cross CR 835 (Evercane Rd)|
|8.2||Marathon store (water restrooms resupply ice cream)|
|8.6||Cross US 27 to rejoin FT route at San Diego St (Army Corps of Engineers complex exit)|
Uncle Joes to Moore Haven Bridge
CR 720 is very narrow with no shoulder. It drops off into deep ditches on both sides. Sporadic bursts of high-speed traffic, mainly sugar cane trucks, zip down it. Keep alert on this roadwalk. Once you reach US 27 there is a broad grassy berm allowing you to stay away from traffic.
|0.0||Uncle Joe's Fish Camp. Walk south via Griffin Rd|
|0.7||CR 720. Turn east (compass W)|
|6.0||Pass water tower|
|6.5||Pass farm worker village|
|7.3||US 27. Follow US 27 north|
|8.4||Rejoin FT route at Daniels Rd to cross Caloosahatchee River Bridge|
Moore Haven to Lakeport
We’re a little perplexed about this closure, since as posted by the Army Corps of Engineers, it encompasses the bike path paralleling SR 78, which doesn’t make sense when construction work is focused on the Herbert Hoover Dike. In fact, when we visited in January 2015, the bike path was fully open and accessible. Expect high-speed traffic along CR 78. Please note that the tent sites shown on the map are not official – they are pragmatic, if construction doesn’t block you from them. There are no lodgings in Moore Haven, so by the time you leave Uncle Joe’s and walk through Moore Haven to these points, you’ve put in 15.9 miles, and that’s a heck of a haul. The full walk between Uncle Joe’s and the Lakeport campsite is 21.9 miles.
|0.0||Turn west on Canal Rd to start roadwalk (FT goes east to dike)|
|1.9||CR 78. Turn east (compass N)|
|5.3||Pass EMS station to west (ask about potable water and restrooms)|
|7.3||C-5 water structure at Nicodemus Slough|
|7.7||Reach FT leaving dike to join bike path. If open side trail leads to Fisheating Creek|
|8.0||Fisheating Creek boat ramp|
|8.6||Banana Grove Rd. Fort Center 1.0W (privy and parking) and Vance Whidden Park 1.2E (tenting)|
|10.9||Rejoin FT at dike at Aruba/Lakeport. Aruba Motel just north along SR 78.|
The closure between Aruba and Lakeport has been lifted, and this entire segment of trail has now been paved.
We don’t recommend you try to thru-hike Okeechobee East, but there are still some nice day hikes open along it, particularly north of Port Mayaca.
Lake Harbor to South Bay
Expect high speed traffic along US 27. You must cross busy US 27 (four lanes with median) at some point in order to get to Levee Rd.
|0.0||Lake Harbor / Corkscrew Rd east|
|3.8||Corkscrew Rd ends at US 27. Follow US 27 south.|
|1.1||Join Levee Rd|
|1.2||Entrance to South Bay RV Park (camping restrooms water)|
|1.3||Rejoin FT at South Bay Recreation Area atop dike|
Chosen to Pahokee
This is the main reason you shouldn’t take the Okeechobee East route for a thru-hike: there is no efficient or safe way to get between Chosen and Pahokee on foot. Walking around this closure means many miles of following roads out of the way through areas where we wouldn’t feel comfortable carrying a backpack. So we don’t have a recommended route.
Canal Point to Port Mayaca
Expect high-speed traffic along US 441
|0.0||Leave dike at Canal Point Recreation Area. Follow US 441 north.|
|0.2||Pass Canal Point Community Center (restrooms water)|
|6.2||Pass NENA trailhead (parking – no other facilities)|
|8.2||Rejoin FT at start of roadwalk over Port Mayaca Bridge|
Nubbin Slough to Taylor Creek
Sadly, the agencies responsible for letting a crucial connector to Taylor Creek fall into private hands aren’t moving very quickly to fix this problem. The landowner has erected a large fence over the gate so it is no longer possible to step over the gate. As you follow this roadwalk, expect high-speed traffic along US 441.
|0.0||Leave dike at Nubbin Slough Recreation Area. Follow US 441 north.|
|2.2||Pass conv store (resupply)|
|2.4||Pass conv store (resupply)|
|2.4||Pass strip mall with Gizmo's Pizza and motel (lodging)|
|2.6||Rejoin FT at roadwalk over Taylor Creek Bridge|