Notable for its namesake, a live oak tree more than two centuries old that split down the middle and still lives, Split Oak Forest Wildlife and Environmental Area encompasses more than 2,000 acres set aside as a mitigation bank for the sea of development that now creeps up to its western border. It is an open prairie landscape, dotted with lakes and ponds and oak hammocks, a habitat mix perfect for the sandhill cranes that reside here. The loop trail system provides several different ways to see the park, including a full circuit of 7.8 miles on the perimeter trail.
Length: Up to 7.8 miles
Lat-Long: 28.353333, -81.210917
Fees / Permits: free
Bug factor: moderate
Restroom: at Moss Park
The preserve is open sunrise to sunset. Camping is available at adjacent Moss Park. Dogs are no longer permitted.
To get to the main trailhead from the Orlando International Airport, go east on SR 528 (The Beeline) for 2.5 miles to CR 15 (Narcoossee Rd) and turn south. Follow CR 15 south for 7 miles. Turn east onto Clapp-Simms-Duda Rd. Go east 1.5 miles to the trailhead parking lot on the right.
To drive to Moss Park, which provides an alternate entrance to this preserve, take exit 13 on SR 528 (Beeline Expressway), just east of the Orlando International Airport. Turn south on CR 15 (Narcoossee Road). Drive 2.8 miles to Moss Park Road. Turn left, and follow Moss Park Road 4.5 miles until it ends at the park entrance.
From the parking area, hike east to the trail junction, where you can choose to hike the North Loop or South Loop. The North Loop winds its way through scrubby flatwoods, scrub, and pine flatwoods and out along Lake Hart and Bonnet Pond, circling the oak hammock in which you’ll find the Split Oak. You can use the Cross Trail back to the parking area to complete a 4.2-mile circuit along this loop.
The South Loop, which is 4 miles long (including the Cross Trail) spans open prairies, oak hammocks, and scrub, rounding a large flatwoods pond with an observation deck. At several centuries old, the namesake oak was split down the middle by lightning and still survives. This is a great park for discovering wildlife along the prairies, especially the sandhill cranes for which this land was set aside.
Split Oak Forest can also be accessed from popular Moss Park via the 1.4-mile long Swamp Trail, which connects to the outer loop on the far side of the trail system from the main trailhead. Hiking from Moss Park and completing the full loop, or hiking out to Moss Park and back, you’ll do 7.8 miles within this preserve.