Following the Kissimmee River north, the Florida Trail heads into the heart of Florida’s cattle country. Okeechobee is well known for its ranches, which the trail crosses and skirts along public lands in the river floodplain.
From its once sinuous path, the Kissimmee River was straightened into a ditch more than a half-century ago by the Army Corps of Engineers, causing much harm to Lake Okeechobee. It’s been more than a decade since river restoration work started, breaking down dikes and dams to restore portions of the old floodplain channel, and it is slow work. It’s been a lot of work for trail maintainers, too. As the waters rise, the trail gets rerouted. It’s important to keep alert to blazes and signs through this section.
As of December 27, 2013, the route of the Florida Trail has officially shifted to the EAST side of the Kissimmee River between Micco Landing and the S-65A lock near Tick Island Slough. Please see the map below AND this RELOCATION INFORMATION.
14.7 miles. Atop a levee adjoining the channelized river for more than half of the journey, the trail provides sweeping views of ranchland to the east and across the river to the west. Nearly six miles of this segment is a roadwalk through a rural community.
4.4 miles. The Florida Trail through Yates Marsh traverses pine flatwoods, open prairie, and palm hammocks – all of which are home to free-roaming cattle – with a side trail leading to a pretty primitive campsite. A short roadwalk connects Yates Marsh to the next segment.
Florida Trail, Chandler Slough East
2.2 miles. Through thickets of palm hammock and open cattle ranches, the Florida Trail in this segment draws close enough to the Kissimmee River for placement of another nice primitive campsite under a canopy of live oaks. A connecting roadwalk of 3.3 miles leads to the next segment.
3.6 miles. Entering the rim of a lengthy cypress strand, the Florida Trail weaves in and out of wetlands and some of the most beautiful old-growth live oak hammocks you’ll see along the trail.
Florida Trail, Micco Landing to Starvation Slough
10.7 miles. Following a roadwalk through vast ranchlands and dairy farms, the Florida Trail parallels the route of the Kissimmee River north between Basinger and Starvation Slough, an access point for airboaters to the river marshes.
Florida Trail, Starvation Slough to Kissimmee Prairie
20.2 miles. Starting out at Starvation Slough, where there is a campsite, this segment of trail stays close to the Kissimmee River floodplain, weaving in and out of grasslands, marshes, and hammocks, some with old-growth trees. Inside Kissimmee Prairie Preserve, it continues for 16 miles through open prairies dotted with hammocks and sloughs before reaching the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park office and campground.
Florida Trail, Kissimmee Prairie to KICCO
14.2 miles. Heading north from Kissimmee Prairie Preserve’s campground, walk amid Florida’s own “Big Sky” in the dramatic prairie landscapes of the Kissimmee Prairie, a bird-rich sanctuary protected by one of Florida’s largest state preserves. Crossing the S-65A lock, the trail continues along the west side of the Kissimmee River to the ghost town of KICCO.
Florida Trail, KICCO to River Ranch
9.8 miles. From the ghost town of KICCO, the Florida Trail follows an old cattle drover’s path along the river through the remains of frontier homesteads. Active cattle ranching continues in this area, which is a mix of levee fill and oak hammocks edged with marshes and wet prairies.
Florida Trail, River Ranch to Three Lakes
10.7 miles. Mostly a roadwalk – and a dangerous one at that where it follows busy SR 60 – this is a connector segment between public lands. It includes River Ranch, a popular stop for long distance hikers to resupply and rest.
9.4 miles. Amid this 64,000-acre wildlife management area north of SR 60, you feel a real sense of the Florida frontier landscape, with open pine savanna and prairie dominating the horizon and the occasional oak hammock for shade and camping.
Florida Trail, Prairie Lakes
7.2 miles. The Prairie Lakes Unit of Three Lakes WMA has a distinctly different feel, with a broad array of habitats along this stretch making this a good day hike. The trail meanders through old-growth oak and palm hammocks, younger oak hammocks along the rim of vast prairies, amid longleaf pine and wiregrass, and through a cypress dome on a boardwalk.
OKEE-TANTIE RECREATION AREA [27.150115,-80.868025]: Campground, marina, and restrooms are closed. Restrooms, parking, and potable water are available at the Scott Driver Recreation Area on the north side of SR 78.
PLATTS BLUFF COUNTY PARK [27.297382,-80.994014]: At the end of a dead-end road and roadwalk, this is a park with no facilities except space to park, the shade of live oaks, and a tire swing tempting you to drop into the cool water of the Kissimmee River.
YATES MARSH TRAILHEAD [27.316511,-81.021699]: Small parking area with no facilities. Be alert for hunting season use.
CHANDLER SLOUGH EAST TRAILHEAD [27.355671,-81.013244]: Grassy parking area with no facilities.
MICCO LANDING TRAILHEAD [27.383017,-81.041720]: Grassy parking area on north side of US 98, with blue-blazed trail leading 1/4 mile to primitive camping; a free permit is required to camp.
OAK CREEK TRAILHEAD [ ]: Along Micco Landing Road adjacent to Oak Creek. Access via 1-mile blue blaze to campsite and water.
STARVATION SLOUGH TRAILHEAD [27.500373,-81.179515]: At the end of Micco Landing Road. Adjacent primitive campground. Free permit required for camping.
KISSIMMEE PRAIRIE PRESERVE STATE PARK [27.584619,-81.045223]: Inquire about overnight parking. Adjacent park office, restrooms, campground, and day use area.
KICCO TRAILHEAD [27.760615,-81.191869]: Parking and kiosk, no facilities.
RIVER RANCH [27.769732,-81.197915]: Parking on site with permission, usually in the lot near the airfield / golf course.
OSCEOLA FISH MANAGEMENT AREA [27.804853,-81.201354]: Parking area by Kissimmee River bridge along SR 60. No facilities.
THREE LAKES WMA CHECK STATION [27.805296,-81.127420]: Access point for hunters off SR 60. Limited parking.
ROAD 16 [27.890175,-81.152297]: Access point inside Three Lakes WMA.
LAKE JACKSON CAMPGROUND [27.910198,-81.149685]: Primarily for hunters and anglers, permit required for camping, parking for campground.
PARKER HAMMOCK [27.906912,-81.133413]: Hunters’ parking area inside WMA. Near primitive campsite.
THREE LAKES TRAILHEAD [27.927687,-81.124887]: Main parking area for hiking access, at north end of loops and exit to Canoe Creek Road.
Located at the southern end of the section, OKEECHOBEE is a full service city and the only one of any significance along this section of the Florida Trail. Resupply is possible at a small camp store 1.8 miles east of the trail on SR 70 and in BASINGER, east of Micco Landing along US 98. By RIVER RANCH, a commercial dude ranch a short walk off the trail north of KICCO Trailhead, you’ll want to resupply. KENANSVILLE is 10 miles south of the northern end of this section.