Orlando

Home of Walt Disney World, Sea World, Universal Studios, and other theme parks that attract many, many millions of visitors each year, Orlando is also one of Florida’s best places to get outdoors and play.

With riverside strolls, dense forests, open prairies, and wetlands, it’s a diverse region to explore. The following hikes are within an easy drive of Orlando. Some can be reached via public transportation.

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  • Econ river flowing over the trail Hiking Hal Scott Preserve White Trail (9/19/2014) - After seeing pictures of the area and descriptions of seepage bogs, how could I not look forward to hiking through this area? Hal Scott Preserve even has a bit of history to it that goes back to the Timucua Indians and has campsites that are several thousand years old. To be hones, I didn’t see […]
  • Paddling Shingle Creek Canoeing Shingle Creek (9/15/2014) - Paddle down Shingle Creek from Shingle Creek Regional Park at Steffee Landing in Kissimmee, where canoe and kayak rentals are now available for visitors.
  • Putting some miles on in Volusia County Cyclists take on first Florida Rail to Trail Tour (8/3/2014) - One week, 260 miles, human (and train) powered. That's the goal of the four riders touring the East Coast Greenway and St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop on a ride that started with a trip from downtown Orlando to DeBary via SunRail on August 1.
  • Twin Oaks Conservation Area Twin Oaks Conservation Area (8/3/2014) - Named for two ancient live oaks that have long guided anglers to their favorite fishing hole, Twin Oaks Conservation Area protects 399 acres along Lake Tohopekaliga
  • At the annual British Car Show in Mead Garden Cars in the Garden (6/14/2014) - A few weeks before our trip to Great Britain, we visited the 31st Annual Central Florida British Car Club show held at Mead Gardens in Winter Park, enjoying the array of classic cars beneath the live oak canopy.
  • Sunflowers at Lake Jesup Wilderness Sunflower Season on the St. Johns River near Orlando (10/1/2013) - One of the great joys of fall in Central Florida is the explosion of swamp sunflowers – primarily Helianthus angustifolius – that appear along the edges of Lake Jesup, Puzzle Lake, Lake Harney and certain other slow-moving segments of the St. Johns River to the northeast of Orlando. Motorists notice them in abundance as they […]
  • SemWek-11 Riding Spring-to-Spring and the Seminole-Wekiva Trail (9/25/2013) - A few weeks ago I met with my young friend Josh to wish him luck on his AT adventure. He was off the next day for his first time working on an ATC trail crew. As I headed to my car, I noticed a fellow about to ride off on an unusual-looking Cannondale bicycle. With […]
  • IMG_3007 Recumbent on the Cross Seminole Trail (5/8/2013) - To see the Florida Trail from a different perspective, our friend Richard drove over from the coast to join Sandy and I for a ride on the Cross Seminole Trail. It marked my third week of returning to trike riding. I’ve only going once a week, and the miles are still less than twenty. But […]
  • The Senator, charred Return to Big Tree Park (3/25/2013) - While The Senator is a charred stump, thanks to an arsonist, the grandeur of its surroundings at Big Tree Park - including a 2,000-year-old cypress - has reopened to the public.
  • A surprise for the hikers! The beauty of Seminole State Forest (3/19/2013) - A visual journey along the Florida Trail through Seminole State Forest is the focus of this guest post by Florida Trail Association activity leader Rachael Augspurg.
  • Three bears at Black Bear Wilderness Bear encounter at Black Bear Wilderness (10/20/2012) - Visiting this Seminole County preserve for the first time, a string of excellent wildlife sightings culminates in seeing three bears at the trailhead.
  • Florida Trail in Bronson State Forest Hiking Bronson State Forest (3/9/2012) - One of the most beautiful new sections of the Florida Trail is scarcely a year old.  At Bronson State Forest, a 13+ mile linear hike – starting at either Seminole Ranch CA or Chuluota Wilderness Area – showcases a surprising array of habitats in the St. Johns River basin, from extensive palm hammocks to rosemary […]
  • 6520563541_3f322704f5 Trekking through Tosohatchee (3/2/2012) - One of the wilder places within the Orlando metro area to enjoy a long walk in the woods is Tosohatchee WMA. Formerly a Florida State Park until a land swap with Florida Fish & Wildlife less than a decade ago, Tosohatchee is a botanical wonderland in the bottomlands along the St. Johns River. Ancient trees […]
  • Florida loses a trail icon: Wiley Dykes, Sr. (2/7/2012) - One person CAN make an enormous difference. Wiley Dykes, Sr., one of the strongest and most persistent trail builders of the past 40 years in the Orlando area, has died at the age of 81. Working tirelessly to find a route for the Florida Trail through the suburbs and wild lands of Orlando, he devoted […]
  • FT Seminole Ranch Florida Trail relocation in Seminole Ranch (1/30/2012) - A recent relocation of the Florida Trail in Seminole Ranch Conservation Area has opened up another beautiful stretch of hiking along the floodplain of the St. Johns River north of Christmas. Removing the long-standing roadwalk along Wheeler Road from the equation means a well-shaded and most interesting walk in the woods as you head north […]
  • Seminole, for bear (1/2/2012) - One of my most recent delights, a walk in the woods, was the surprise provided by Seminole State Forest on a revisit after a decade. Walking the Florida Trail south from Cassia to the Bear Pond Trailhead, the perfect weather made for an easy pace and plenty of photographic opportunities. The moment I froze with […]
  • Pine lily Explore Pine Lily Preserve (12/28/2011) - While it’s not the right time of year for pine lilies to bloom, Orange County’s Pine Lily Preserve in Bithlo is a great wildflower walk in any season. Right now, you’ll catch carnivorous sundews and bladderworts, as well as lobelia, in the damp spaces south along the Red Trail from the parking area.  A pretty […]
  • JK at Christmas Creek Hiking into Christmas (12/25/2011) - One of the delights of the Florida Trail is that it passes through Christmas, Florida, a beloved stop for postmarks during this holiday season and cheery all year round, with pine trees decorated in Christmas cheer and chainsaw carvings of old St. Nick. It’s been more than a decade since I hiked the FT through […]
  • Taylor Creek Loop Among the Palms (12/18/2011) - Of all of Florida’s habitats, the one that truly sings “Florida” is the palm hammock, a richly textured riot of green and fronds, of mosses and lichens, of light and shadow perfectly balanced. While hiking this past week on the Taylor Creek Loop – built long ago by the Florida Trail Association in the south […]
  • Pine Lily Preserve Spiderwebs and fog (12/15/2011) - On a cool, crisp morning in Central Florida, fog billows in long streamers across rural landscapes, rising from tiny streams, cypress swamps, and broad canals. It's time to visit Pine Lily Preserve in the mist.
  • Hiking in Moonshadows (12/12/2011) - In early December, the moon draws its closest to Earth during the perigee of its erratic orbit. Here in the communities between Orlando and Cocoa Beach, we know what the moon means to dreamers and doers, to putting men and women in orbit and reaching for the stars. So it’s no surprise to find a […]
  • lake-lotus-sunflowers Swamp sunflowers at Lake Lotus Park (12/8/2011) - Swamp sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius) are one of the delights of fall in Florida when they bloom en masse.
  • Kelly Park Loop Hiking at Kelly Park (10/6/2011) - Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to revisit Kelly Park and explore its little-known hiking trails. For families in the know, Kelly Park is a favorite destination for tubing, the southernmost tubing run in Florida. I’ve always thought of it as a natural water park, since you can splash and play in the chilly waters of […]
  • Marshes at Oakland Nature Preserve Day hikes near Sea World and Universal Studios (8/25/2011) - 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 […]
  • Inside Bambi's Butterfly House Butterfly Magic at EPCOT (5/2/2011) - The magic is floral at EPCOT each spring when Walt Disney World trots out the International Flower & Garden Show with its thousands of blooms.
  • Black Hammock Fish Camp Black Hammock (1/20/2011) - Taste a bit of Old Florida at the crazy quilt of outdoors and dining that is Black Hammock Fish Camp along Lake Jesup.
  • At the Maitland Art Center: an optical illusion The Spaces Between (2/22/2010) - Conceived in the art deco era and shaded by a canopy of ancient oaks, the Maitland Art Center is, in part, a fantasy of a Mayan temple.
  • Lake Mills Park Lake Mills Park a quiet retreat (7/31/2009) - Lake Mills Park in Chuluota has a little bit of everything outdoorsy, from ancient trees to picnic tables by the lake to a nice campground in a scrub forest.
  • Hiking the Florida Trail in the Ocala National Forest Where to base camp for day hikes in Central Florida (1/25/2009) - I received an email from David Birkner this past week with the following question: I live in Seattle and want to fly to Orlando sometime in the winter, base myself in some pretty town–I heard Mount Dora is very nice– and go out each day on hikes in the area; then perhaps move to another […]