Protecting one of the largest expanses of open prairie remaining in the Southeast, Three Lakes WMA offers immersion in the grandeur of a vast prairie ecosystem.
The wet prairies around the trio of lakes–Kissimmee, Jackson, and Marian–provide crucial wintering grounds for sandhills crane and whooping cranes, as well as wading birds.
Cutting across this landscape at a diagonal, the Florida Trail provides backpackers a lengthy linear stretch and the opportunity for a variety of loop hikes.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 26.6 mile linear
Trailhead: 27.807153, -81.129093
Address: 1702 Prairie Lakes Rd, Kenansville
Fees: $3 per person
Restrooms: Vault toilet at hunt camps and Lake Jackson
Land manager: Florida Fish & Wildlife
Open sunrise to sunset unless camping. Leashed dogs permitted.
This is a popular destination for deer and turkey hunters with many deer stands visible along the trail. Check on hunt dates before planning your hike and wear bright orange during hunts.
The southern access to this section is 14.7 miles west along SR 60 from US 441 / Florida’s Turnpike at Yeehaw Junction. Follow unpaved Road 10 for 2.1 miles north to the trailhead across from the hunt camp.
The northern access to this section is over a stile along US 441 at the northeast corner of the WMA, with the nearest parking at a roadside pulloff with picnic table 10.4 miles north of Kenansville along US 441. We do not recommend parking there overnight.
Overnight and day use parking is best at the large FNST trailhead just inside the main entrance for Prairie Lakes Unit, 9.5 miles northwest of US 441 in Kenansville along Canoe Creek Rd.
While northbound thru-hikers will tackle the three segments of the Florida Trail in Three Lakes WMA in one go, section hikers will find logistics trickier now that the Forever Florida trailhead has permanently closed.
Without it, it’s possible to break the hike into two segments, with the southernmost portion covering both Three Lakes South and the Prairie Lakes unit up to the Prairie Lakes trailhead.
This is a 15.6 mile linear hike. However, backpackers who aren’t actively trying to knock off Florida Trail miles will find the 11.4 mile Prairie Lakes Loop a more interesting overnighter.
Section hikers may prefer to tackle the Three Lakes North segment, 11 miles plus a 1.8 mile roadwalk along US 441 to a wayside parking area as a car-to-car day hike.
Cars should not be left overnight at the Nittaw Station wayside park. The next trailhead north is at the Bull Creek WMA hunt camp.
Mileage from Prairie Lakes trailhead to the Bull Creek trailhead via the orange blazes and the side trail to camp is 33.2 miles, with three designated campsites along the route.
Day hikers have the delightful loops within the Prairie Lakes Unit, two of the oldest segments of the Florida Trail in Central Florida.
They were built as a backpacking destination in the 1970s, when Prairie Lakes State Park still existed, later absorbed into this WMA.
Each of the two loops is a little more than five miles long and extremely scenic, winding in and out of oak hammocks among the prairies.
A 1.4-mile round-trip via the orange blazes to Pole Cypress Ponds from the Prairie Lakes trailhead shows off prairie wildflowers and the boardwalk over the cypress swamp.
Parking at a pulloff at Parker Hammock, where a bridge crosses the canal that divides the North and South Loops, you can explore lush oak hammocks on both sides of the canal.
A 1.3-mile round trip leads to an observation deck at the end of a spur levee off the white-blazed east side of the South Loop, with a panorama of Lake Marian.
From the parking area at Lake Jackson, it’s a 7 mile round-trip via the orange blazes and a side trail to visit the Lake Jackson Tower.
Or, drive to the Lake Jackson Tower trailhead at the very end of Prairie Lakes Rd for an easy 0.8 mile round-trip to the tower.
Details on specific hikes mentioned above
8.5 miles. Winding through picturesque prairies and primordial oak hammocks, the Florida Trail showcases the best of Three Lakes WMA south of the Prairie Lakes Unit.
8.1 miles. Traversing the heart of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, the Florida Trail at Prairie Lakes is one of Central Florida’s oldest and most scenic hiking destinations.
Learn more about Three Lakes WMA
Sections of the Florida Trail that converge in Three Lakes WMA
148.0 miles. Spanning from the Ocala National Forest south through the prairies of Osceola County, the Orlando section of the Florida Trail encompasses the eastern suburbs of the Orlando metro
See our photos of the Florida Trail at Three Lakes WMA
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Following a significant tributary to the St. Johns River, the Florida Trail through Bull Creek WMA showcases history and botanical beauty.
Vast pine savannas and pitcher plant bogs await at one of the toughest loop trails in the Orlando area a 7.5-mile challenge at Triple N Ranch WMA.
3.4 miles. Take in a panorama of marshes busy with birds in the Kissimmee River floodplain at River Ranch along the northernmost reaches of the Kissimmee River