In the Packingham Unit of KICCO WMA, the Florida Trail skirts the edge of the Kissimmee River floodplain atop levees that protect the pastures surrounding River Ranch.
Packingham has its own trailhead and campsite, established for hog hunters. Neither adjoin the Florida Trail route, which enters the WMA over a stile from River Ranch Blvd 0.6 mile south of the trailhead.
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Location: River Ranch
Length: 3.4 miles linear
Address: 1 Dude Ranch Rd
Restrooms: portalets might be in place at Osceola FMA
Land manager: South Florida Water Management District
To camp at Packingham, apply online for a free permit or call 1-866-433-6312 weekdays 9-4.
Cattle roam this section of trail, including bulls. Use caution around them and pay attention to your water sources before filtering.
Hunting is allowed in KICCO WMA. Check hunt dates in advance and wear orange during hunts.
From the junction of SR 60 and US 441 just west of Florida’s Turnpike at Yeehaw Junction, drive east on SR 60 for 20 miles. Cross the Kissimmee River and turn left immediately after it to drive down the ramp to Osceola FMA. Park away from the boat ramp area.
To continue to the Packingham trailhead, drive west along SR 60 to the turn lane for River Ranch, the next feature on the left. Drive down River Ranch Blvd until you see the large Florida Trail symbol and trailhead sign on the left.
If you are doing a round-trip hike it is best to hike out and back from the Packingham trailhead so as to avoid walking along SR 60.
Starting your hike at the Packingham trailhead, you’ll have to walk along the road shoulder of River Ranch Blvd for the first 0.6 mile. The shoulder is broad, so you can walk well away from the road. Traffic is light.
If you are section hiking or thru-hiking, you’ll come in from the opposite direction, on a 2.3-mile roadwalk through River Ranch itself. Either way, you must cross the blazed stile over the fence to enter public land.
The trail stays close to the fence line in these pine flatwoods, largely because the landscape gets soggy. Pass a very large and graceful live oak tree.
A well-beaten path is obvious, probably because cattle use it too. When it vanishes in a large pasture, keep heading straight ahead. A blaze is painted next where a gate once separated pastures.
After crossing a long, open pasture, the trail makes a 90-degree turn at 1.1 miles, and for good reason. There is a canal directly ahead.
Turning due east, it climbs up atop a levee and enters a tunnel of shade cast by live oaks. While blazes are painted on larger oaks, the route is obvious.
From this higher vantage point, you can look down and across the prairies and wetlands. A barbed wire fence adjoins the levee.
Popping out from the shade of the oaks, the trail makes a 90-degree turn north. There is no cover along this next stretch, but the views across the Kissimmee River floodplain are expansive.
Continuing a half mile up this open stretch, reach a gate with an improvised stile adjoining it at 2.2 miles. Leave it as you found it to keep the cattle in.
The levee crosses a series of weirs. These are in place to enable the river to overflow into the marshes on the west side of the levee in case of extreme floods.
The trail remains on the levee for the rest of the hike. Reaching a treeline again, it crosses culverts over a broad waterway where alligators cruise.
Trees edge both sides of the levee. Below the levee, mounds of grapevines drape over oaks and willows. Wading birds often roost in this area.
Exiting at Packingham Gate can be tricky. If you’re doing a round-trip hike, turn around here for a 3.5-mile walk. The gate has multiple locks on it. If it is not open, you’ll have to climb over it.
Be very cautious of high-speed traffic along SR 60 while walking the shoulder between the Packingham Gate and the parking area at Osceola FMA, adjoining the Kissimmee River.
Reach Osceola FMA after 3.4 miles, or 2.8 miles if starting from the stile rather than Packingham trailhead. This is just a simple dirt lot that provides boater access to the Kissimmee River and Lake Kissimmee.
If you’d like an outstanding view of Lake Kissimmee, there is a protected walkway for the Florida Trail at this FMA that offers a fine view.
Walk towards towards the highway bridge but stay down at river level. The trail drops down onto a walkway where you’ll often encounter folks fishing.
Follow the sidewalk under the highway bridge and climb up the stairs on the opposite side. This provides access to the pedestrian walkway on the highway bridge, which is where you can take in the view.
You’re looking at the bottom of Lake Kissimmee. The town of Kissimmee is at its north end. Below you, the Kissimmee River flows south towards Lake Okeechobee.
Adding this exploration to the Lake Kissimmee view adds an extra half mile to your hike.
NORTHBOUND: SR 60 roadwalk / Three Lakes entrance road (7.2 miles) to Three Lakes South
SOUTHBOUND: River Ranch roadwalk (2.3 miles) to KICCO South
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.