In the southerly reaches of Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, vast prairies yield to extensive marshes draining into the Kissimmee River.
Following the river north, the Florida Trail diverges from its floodplain as the marshes persist, heading into immense expanses of saw palmetto prairie stretching to the horizon.
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Trailhead: 27.584209, -81.045357
Address: 33104 NW 192nd Ave, Okeechobee
Fees: $4 per vehicle, $2 pedestrian
Restrooms: at the park office
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Hikers coming into the park along the Florida Trail need to stop at the park office to pay your entrance fee and camping fee for use of the designated campsites along the trail. Camping costs $5 per adult, $1 per child. Random camping is not permitted.
There is only one trailhead for this section, located at its north end. You must plan to backpack in from Starvation Slough in order to reach the park’s south boundary. It is 21 miles between trailheads.
While leashed dogs are welcome on this trail, this is not a good habitat for them due to the large alligator population in the marshes immediately adjoining the trail along portions of the trail, including the northernmost five miles of this hike.
Hunting is not allowed within the boundaries of this state park, but occurs along adjacent lands such as No Name Slough to the south. If you see either hunters or non-park vehicles such as unmarked ATVs roaming the trails, please alert the ranger station.
At the junction of SR 60 and US 441 just west of Florida’s Turnpike at Yeehaw Junction, head south on US 441 for 18 miles to NW 240th St (CR 724). A brown sign points the way to the state park.
Meet NW 176th Ave (CR 700A) after 12 miles. It connects to US 98 at Basinger. Continue another mile straight ahead. The road makes a 90-degree turn north onto NW 197 Ave. Continue straight ahead for another 7.9 miles, passing through the park gate and two trailheads. The road makes a 90-degree turn west. In 1.4 miles, it reaches the parking area at the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park ranger station.
From the marked boundary between No Name Slough and Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, hikers continue north from the Starvation Slough section into the park and are greeted by park signage.
The trail follows the park boundary fence east for a quarter mile before turning north along an old road. Watch for blazing.
Nearly all of the Florida Trail inside the park follows existing roads from the ranching days. Each is now a named trail within the park. Virtually none offer any shade.
Joining Long Hammock Trail, the Florida Trail draws close to the Kissimmee River again as it follows the beaten track for more than 3 miles between floodplain marshes and oak hammocks. Expect some wading through sloughs.
The trail bears right at a fork, rising up onto higher ground into the saw palmetto prairie. After rejoining the main trail again, it curves right, reaching Duck Slough, a potential water source where large alligators lurk.
Watch for the blazes leading into the adjacent oak hammock to circle this deep wetland. They lead into a cypress strand at 5.6 miles, where you cross a boardwalk over sometimes-flowing water.
Leaving the shade, the trail climbs into the dry, scrubby palmetto prairie and stays there. Be very alert at intersections with other trails as it is easy to get lost in this vast open prairie.
Turning northwest at a T junction, the trail follows a broad road, passing two more junctions before reaching a line of trees that marks a slough.
It is also the location of the southernmost designated campsite in the park, Cowboy Crossing, at 6.5 miles. Look for the side trail to the right leading back into the hammock to the campsite.
Stay right at the fork after the slough. North along Cow Camp Trail, the prairie goes on to the horizon to the northeast.
At 8.2 miles, the T intersection is with Military Trail. Turn right and start walking east. Don’t get to close to the marshy edges. Rangers have warned us that it’s very unsafe to try and filter water along this trail due to the alligators.
After another 3 miles of walking in a straight line down Military Trail, you reach a junction with the blue blazes of the Prairie Loop Trail off to the right. They lead to a primitive campground, where sites must be reserved in advance.
By 13 miles, the trail reaches a gate and passes the Equestrian Campground. There is also a traditional campground with bathhouse (hot showers, laundry facility) on the other side of the park office.
The park office, where rocking chairs on the porch, cold potable water, and flush toilets await, marks the end of this segment at 13.3 miles. Stop in and pay your fees.
NORTHBOUND: Kissimmee Prairie North. There is a designated campsite, Pine Island Slough, 5.7 miles north of the state park office. Random camping is not permitted in the state park.
SOUTHBOUND: Starvation Slough. Since the trailhead for Starvation Slough is 21 miles south of the northern terminus of this hike, plan an overnighter.
See our photos of Kissimmee Prairie South
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
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