If you’re a parent, have you taken your kids backpacking? There’s no better way to let them fall in love with the outdoors than to walk out into the woods and spend the night there.
On an episode of How to Do Florida, TV host and outdoor adventurer Chad Crawford takes his daughter Kasey on an overnighter from Clearwater Lake to Alexander Springs on the Florida Trail. Here’s a peek.
The Florida Trail through the Ocala National Forest makes for an excellent first-time backpacking trip for families.
Since random camping is permitted – except during general gun hunting season, when hikers must use established campgrounds and sites – you can let the kids pick out a high, dry spot under the pines wherever they like. Just make sure you haul enough water in for everyone!
Places To Go Backpacking
Families may want to try short loop backpacking trails with their kids before taking them on longer hikes. Here are a few suggested destinations with low mileage.
The 6.9-mile Buster Island Loop at Lake Kissimmee State Park is a favorite for both day hikers and backpackers, as it shows off a variety of habitats along the open prairies
Established as a botanical preserve for native plants, Flat Island Preserve protects islands in the Okahumpa Marsh, offering hikers and paddlers immersion in a lush wilderness
Following the high ground above Devil’s Washbasin and Gold Head Ravine, the Florida Trail works its way across Gold Head Branch State Park on a scenic 3.5 mile route
7.3 miles. Also known as the Juniper Creek Trail, the Florida Trail at Juniper Creek is a gorgeous place to explore, with its panorama at Red Rocks and botanical delights along and above the creek basin.
As the Florida Trail follows the curve of the basin in which Mills Creek into a bowl of marshlands, enjoy old-growth trees and long boardwalks along this 2 mile hike
11.4 miles. Enjoy the counterpoint of moss-draped oak hammocks and expansive prairies at Prairie Lakes, one of the older and more beloved pieces of the Florida Trail
Home of ancient cypress trees and the remains of a 1700s rice plantation, Rice Creek Conservation Area has a fascinating loop trail along the statewide Florida Trail
On a day hike into one of our state’s largest prairies, sample Florida’s own big sky at the state’s first International Dark Sky Park
While some Florida State Parks offer backpacking loops, the linear Florida National Scenic Trail is our premiere destination for backpacking in Florida.
If a little bit of comfort makes a difference, certain portions of the Florida Trail have an abundance of designated primitive campsites that provide very basic amenities like benches or a picnic table and a fire ring.
Along the Suwannee River and most of the Orlando section, you can hike in and claim a site for your own. Permits and payment are required in state parks and for primitive campsites in state forests in the Orlando area.
Along the Kissimmee River, Green Swamp, and Eglin sections of the Florida Trail, permits are required in advance for these campsites.
Don’t forget trail shelters, too. These are like little cabins in the woods that the family can sleep in. The best ones, of course, are screened.
Two pretty little shelters near Palatka attract a lot of weekend campers: the “Rice Creek Hilton” at Rice Creek Conservation Area, and Iron Bridge Shelter at Etoniah Creek State Forest.
Prepare For Your Hike
Before you head into the great outdoors, make sure you know how to prepare for a backpacking trip in Florida. Here’s a checklist of the basics you should take with you.
Involve the entire family in gear selection and food preparation before you leave. Planning is part of the fun of backpacking!
How to Do Florida features outdoor adventures for the entire family. Learn more on their website.