If you’re wary of wet feet, this isn’t the hike for you. The cost of entry to this rim of oak hammocks along the Kissimmee River’s original shores is a wet and sometimes mucky wade through Starvation Slough.
Once you’re past it, your feet may not get wet again. But it doesn’t matter. Now they are. You won’t notice, however, when you start gaping in awe at the sheer size of the live oak trees that make up the ancient forests along this part of the Florida Trail.
A linear segment that stretches to the boundary of Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, Starvation Slough has only one trailhead: the one at the start of the hike.
The next vehicle-accessible access point north of the Starvation Slough trailhead is the ranger station at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, 21 miles north along the Florida Trail.
Plan either a round-trip hike from the Starvation Slough trailhead or arrange with a friend to drop a car at Kissimmee Prairie before hiking north. For an overnighter, choose your distance carefully. Random camping is not permitted.
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Length: 7.7 miles linear
Trailhead: 27.466551, -81.153328
Land manager: South Florida Water Management District
Phone: 561-924-5310 ext. 3333, weekdays. Ask for Kim Willis.
A free permit is needed to use either campsite. Obtain online or by calling the number above. The campsites do not have water. Bring it in with you.
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.
Pay attention to river conditions. If the trail is flooded before you get to Starvation Slough, turn back. Do not hike here if water is flowing or knee-deep. The trail gets pressed more tightly against the floodplain the farther north you go. There is no practical alternate route around flooding.
Follow US 98 north from Okeechobee 16 miles, passing through the community of Basinger. Turn right on Micco Landing Rd at the Basinger Community Center. Follow Micco Landing Rd north for 8 miles. Turn left into the entrance for Starvation Slough and follow the dirt road to the trailhead.
From the trailhead pavilion, follow the orange blazes as they lead you through the woods to the old limestone road winding back to the Starvation Slough campsite.
Vehicles with gate codes can access this camping area. It is set in an oak hammock with picnic tables and a pavilion, with multiple sites tucked in the shade.
Turning a corner, the trail follows a mowed clearing through the edge of the prairie along the Kissimmee River floodplain. Marshes sit in low spots, oak hammocks and lone oaks on higher ground.
Crossing a sand road after a mile, the trail reaches the broad floodplain of Starvation Slough. On rare occasion it dries out but is otherwise mucky. The muck leads to a water crossing. Hiking poles are a must to keep your balance in the mud.
Rounding a massive marsh, the trail continues on past a pond that serves as a water source for backpackers. Leaving the prairie clearings for the intimacy of the oak hammocks, the trail becomes a tunnel under the big trees.
After a brief jog down a levee towards the river floodplain, the trail crosses a set of culverts at 2.5 miles and enters another showy stand of oaks and palms, a broad path winding through the dense forest.
When the understory opens up, it is to reveal the floodplain on one side and ranches on the other. The trees close in again around the time the trail skirts a sluggish slough at 3.7 miles.
At 4.3 miles, you reach Cathedral South. That’s the name our friend Lori used to compare the beauty of this ancient palm hammock to the renowned Cathedral of Palms along the trail in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.
While this hammock is not coastal, it is crowded with enormous trees, the canopy lifting high above the forest floor. At the north edge of it is Starvation Slough North, the backpacker’s campsite.
If you only make it this far on a day hike or overnighter, not to worry. You’ve seen the best. Once the trail crosses the S-65B Tieback Levee it continues through showy oak hammocks for a stretch.
When the floodplain becomes visible to the west around 5.8 miles, the width of the dry public land above the river basin narrows, in places, to not much more than the footpath.
Fortunately, in some of the narrower spots, the adjoining rancher was kind enough to allow an easement to ease the trail back from the eroding edge of the bluff.
The remainder of the hike is pressed closely against the ranch fence, much like along the Micco Bluff section. It is a constant companion both in open prairie areas and in the middle of oak hammocks.
Just north of No Name Slough, a broad natural drainage out of the ranch at 7.1 miles, the trail turns west and works its way out through an oak hammock.
North of the oak hammock, it is possible to walk out on a bluff and see the Kissimmee River up close where it makes a sharp bend.
If you are hiking out and back, this is your final turnaround point before the trail continues up to the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park boundary, which is well marked by both signs and a line of posts that extend out into the river floodplain at 7.7 miles.
NORTHBOUND: Kissimmee Prairie South. There is a designated campsite, Cowboy Crossing, 6.5 miles north of the state park boundary. Random camping is not permitted in the state park.
SOUTHBOUND: Micco Bluff. To connect to the Oak Creek trailhead for the Micco Bluff section, long distance and section hikers must roadwalk for 2.4 miles. Leaving the Starvation Slough trailhead, follow the entrance road to Micco Landing Rd. Turn right. It is not a very busy road as it is a dead end. Walk between the ranches to the Oak Creek trailhead.
See our photos from the Florida Trail at Starvation Slough
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Florida Trail, Chandler Slough East
2.7 miles. Burrow deep into the oak hammocks surrounding a beauty spot of the campsite near the Kissimmee River on this short but satisfying hike
Florida Trail, Chandler Slough West
3.7 miles. It looks like a mountain ridge from a distance, but Chandler Slough is a ribbon of cypress strand through the flat Okeechobee prairies. Follow its rim through beautiful oak hammocks and soggy marshes.