From a distance, Chandler Slough does look like a ridge. The illusion of elevation comes from the majestic cypresses that rise from the slough.
A low gash in a flat landscape where water pools and flows towards the Kissimmee River, Chandler Slough breaks up an otherwise expansive horizon.
A haven for birds, it is an important natural area surrounded by cattle ranches north of Okeechobee. It is protected as part of the larger Kissimmee Public Use Area.
In Chandler Slough West, hikers first cross a corner of the slough on foot, and then tack between lowlying islands topped with ancient oaks amid its marshes.
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Length: 3.7 miles linear
Address: 20684 US 98, Okeechobee
Land manager:South Florida Water Management District
Phone: 561-924-5310 ext. 3333, weekdays. Ask for Kim Willis.
Parking is only possible at the north end of this section at the Micco Landing trailhead. However, the Chandler Slough West section starts at a stile along US 98 [27.383295,-81.041467] just west of the highway bridge over the slough.
For a linear day hike south to north, you’ll need to be dropped off at the stile, with two cars, inquire at the church at CR 68 and US 98 if you can leave a car there. If you do, it’s a 0.7 mile roadwalk along US 98 west to get to the stile.
While there is no designated campsite along this section, there is one just north of Micco Landing trailhead. A free permit is required for use. Book online or call the land manager in advance.
Be aware of hunting seasons and wear bright orange clothing if hiking during hunts. Links for permits and hunt dates provided at the bottom of this page.
Be aware of river conditions. If the trail is at all flooded once you cross the stile to enter Chandler Slough West, particularly once you reach the slough itself, this won’t be an easy or pleasant hike. Avoid it entirely if water is flowing or knee-deep. White blazes mark the alternate roadwalk along US 98.
Follow US 98 north from Okeechobee 12 miles to Lofton Rd, which is also the intersection with CR 68 and the church. Continue straight ahead, crossing the bridge over Chandler Slough, and you’ll pass the entry stile on the left. Drive another 4 miles through the community of Basinger. Passing the community center at Micco Landing Rd, watch for the trailhead entrance on the right soon after.
Enter Chandler Slough West over a broad, ladder-like stile just west of the bridge over the slough along US 98 in the village of Basinger.
The footpath leads across an open area towards the cypress strand. If the water is high, expect to slog across muddy open ground and through the wall of cypresses ahead.
The trail narrows to pass through the cypress on a slender track where cypress knees rise from the footpath. Beyond the cypress, it opens into a meadow once used as a pasture. In the distance, slightly higher ground covered in forest.
This island in the wetland is the first of the lush oak hammocks that are the draw for hiking Chandler Slough West. Stepping into the shade, look up. The trees form living sculptures, interwoven branches hosting bromeliads and orchids.
After the first mile, the trail heads towards a fenceline and follows it, staying above the flood line. You can see Chandler Slough across the pastures, and buildings along US 98 to the north.
Where a cell tower sits straight ahead, the trail takes a sharp left. At 1.4 miles, it enters the next oak hammock, another beauty spot. Gnarled live oak branches dip low, their limbs furry in resurrection fern.
The footpath zigzags between oaks until the landscape opens up into a cordgrass prairie, a place that can flood easily, especially where it is fed by the outflow of a floodplain forest.
When the trail rejoins the fence, look to the right for an eagle’s nest high up in a large old slash pine.
Leaving the fence, the trail zigzags across an open area to the next oak hammock at 2.1 miles, where with careful searching you can find the “Heart of the Forest,” a natural feature in the middle of the trunk of one of the older oaks.
Following a streambed, the footpath leads deeper into the lush oak hammocks. At a fence under the trees, a wire-hook gate separates cattle pastures. Leave it as you found it.
Turning left, the trail circles a cordgrass marsh with a pond in the middle before crossing a broad open wetland around 3.2 miles. It’s mucky unless dry, so it feels like a cypress slough minus the cypress. Pick your way across, jumping between the hummocks.
Making a sharp left after the crossing, the trail passes behind a residence and a shed before entering another piece of pasture. The blazes lead up the fence line.
By 3.5 miles, US 98 is visible ahead. Cross the highway – where motorists don’t expect hikers crossing – and follow the road into the Micco Landing trailhead up to the parking area to complete this 3.7 mile hike.
NORTHBOUND: Micco Bluff
SOUTHBOUND: Chandler Slough East. To connect the Chandler Slough East trailhead with the Chandler Slough West stile, long distance and section hikers must roadwalk 3.2 miles up Loftin Rd and along US 98 west.
See our photos of Chandler Slough West
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