Encompassing a portion of one of the biggest areas of dry prairie in the East, the lands now managed as Three Lakes WMA were historically used as a large ranch for cattle grazing.
Owing to its large size and open-range style of ranching, much of the landscape has retained its natural qualities.
Crossing the south end of Three Lakes WMA, this section of the Florida Trail traverses prairie, slough, and oak hammock.
In the middle of it all is a gorgeous official campsite nestled between two highly distinct environments.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 8.5 mile linear
Trailhead: 27.807153, -81.129093
Fees: $3 per person
Restrooms: Vault toilet at south trailhead
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 south trailhead is at a hunt check station. From the intersection of US 441 and SR 60 in Yeehaw Junction, head west on SR 60 for 14.7 miles. Turn right onto an unmarked dirt road. At the entrance, a Florida Trail sign stands next to a sign that indicates the road does not go through to Canoe Creek Road. Continue north on the unpaved road for 2 miles, and the parking area will be on the right immediately after passing the campground.
The north access point is within the Prairie Lakes Unit of Three Lakes WMA. From US 441 and SR 60 in Yeehaw Junction, follow US 441 north 14.1 miles to Kenansville. Turn left on Canoe Creek Rd at the Kenansville Country Store. Continue 9.5 miles north, passing Lake Marian Paradise and Sunset Ranch, to reach the main entrance to the Prairie Lakes Unit. Follow the entrance road past the main Florida Trail trailhead for 4.7 miles, passing several turnoffs, including one to Lake Jackson. The Road 16 crossing at the end of this hike is at a stile. Drive another half mile to reach the Lake Jackson Tower trailhead, which sits along a levee.
Starting at a small parking area adjacent to the check station and hunt camp, head east down a mowed pathway before reaching the Florida Trail in a tenth of a mile.
Turn left, following orange-blazed posts of a fence line northward into a vast open landscape.
Paralleling a fence at the edge of the property, the path travels along a rugged fire break for one mile before turning towards a panoramic sea of palmettos.
The terrain is generally flat while the trail follows tall orange-blazed posts across an unshaded mosaic of dry and wet prairie for the next two miles.
Vegetation becomes taller and more diverse as the trail approaches a stand of oaks in the distance.
As the trail enters Godwin Hammock, the habitat changes dramatically under a shaded canopy of live oaks and cabbage palms.
Countless epiphytes cling to heavy oak branches in this dense, sub-tropical jungle, including butterfly orchids, resurrection ferns and ball moss.
The trail continues to the north, staying within a sliver of oak hammock with prairie views slightly visible through the thick undergrowth on both sides.
Reaching an end of the oak stand in 1.3 miles, an inviting trailside site known as Godwin Hammock Camp sits at the edge of a beautiful dry prairie.
An excellent spot to view spectacular sunsets over the prairie, this primitive campsite offers a picnic table, campfire ring with benches, a raised tent platform, and a well pump.
Leaving Godwin Hammock, the trail slices through a wide expanse of golden grasses dotted with sporadic oaks and cabbage palms.
The habitat changes slightly while approaching Fodderstack Slough, a large marsh connecting Lake Marian to Lake Kissimmee, two of the namesake “Three Lakes.”
Elements of pine flatwoods slowly transition to mesic hammock as paw paws, blueberries, and fetterbush lyonia give way to large oaks draped with Spanish moss.
To cross Fodderstack Slough, the trail joins a dirt road and its causeway across the marsh for almost a half mile before returning to the woods.
Following a well-defined path through a spotty canopy, the trail winds past clusters of ancient saw palmettos, charred cabbage palms, and bone-white remnants of oak trees.
The overstory gradually increases, providing more shade as the trail approaches the end of this segment at Road 16.
Finish your hike with a climb up a stile over the fence between Three Lakes South and the Prairie Lakes Unit, formerly a Florida State Park.
A minimal amount of roadside day use parking is possible. If you leave a car at the Lake Jackson Tower parking area, turn left and walk the road a half mile to the parking area.
The 7.2 mile SR 60 roadwalk between KICCO North and Three Lakes South is by far the most dangerous piece of the Florida Trail. Non-thru-hikers are advised to skip it.
If you tackle it, you need to be north of the highway when you reach the Kissimmee River Bridge. The lanes are narrow, the traffic high-speed, distracted, and heavy on semis.
This video gives a rapid walk-through of the roadwalk hiked west to east.
Learn more about the full route of the Florida Trail through Three Lakes
A virtual hike through Three Lakes South
See our photos of the Florida Trail, Three Lakes South
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Enjoy the counterpoint of moss-draped oak hammocks and expansive prairies at Prairie Lakes along one of the older and more beloved pieces of the Florida Trail.
The 2.2-mile Sunset Ranch Trail at the Prairie Lakes Unit of Three Lakes WMA provides an easy day hike for birding near Lake Marian.
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