Lady Liberty towers above Big Tree Park, a forest of ancient trees in this corner of Spring Hammock Preserve. A short interpretive boardwalk will wow you with the wonders of numerous trees, including one more than a thousand years old.
Length: 0.3 mile
Lat-Long: 28.720417, -81.331533
Fees / Permits: none
Bug factor: low
This small park has restrooms, picnic tables, and a boardwalk through the floodplain forest to showcase the spectacular trees. The park is open 8 AM to sunset daily, and yes, they do lock the gates, so don’t stick around too late.
From US 17-92 in Winter Springs, take General Hutchinson Parkway west for 1 mile to the park entrance on the left. The park is between US 17-92 and SR 427 in Longwood. [MAP THIS]
0.0 > Leaving the parking area, you pass a clone of The Senator, “the” Big Tree and the reason Big Tree Park exists in the first place. As old Florida postcards can attest, Big Tree Park has been a major tourist attraction for decades.
Named for Senator M.O. Overstreet, who donated this massive cypress and the land around it to the people of Seminole County, the tree towered more than 129 feet tall, and that’s only 2/3 of the height it stood when it was a regional landmark for Indians and settlers passing through the region. Like most big trees, its top came off during a hurricane — the 1925 hurricane that spilled Lake Okeechobee into the towns that surrounded it.
0.1 > Along the entrance boardwalk, notice the boards beneath your feet showing just how tall The Senator once was. Interpretive signs help explain the age of that grand cypress and the other massive trees in this corner of Spring Hammock. An observation deck adjoins the historic marker and charred remains of The Senator. Unfortunately, on January 16, 2012, this living icon was destroyed forever by an arsonist.
0.2 > Continue around the corner to Lady Liberty, a massive cypress in its own right. Now the queen of the forest, Lady Liberty is tall enough that only a panoramic view (see the map below) can capture its stature—and you’ll be craning your neck to see the tops of the trees.
0.3 > Passing by the remains of The Senator again, continue back along the boardwalk to the parking area. Notice the ingenuous playground in the center island of the park, which lets kids play inside a faux cypress trunk.
The park is a part of the larger Spring Hammock Preserve, where there are more ancient cypress hidden in the woods along their trail system. Along the Cross Seminole Trail, The Florida Trail passes by the entrance to Big Tree Park, making this a good place to leave a car while day hiking this segment (park gates close at dusk) or a nice stop for long distance hikers for a break.