More than a century ago, the wilderness of South Florida began to be replaced by “progress.”
Ditched and diked and drained, the Everglades that once flanked mighty Lake Okeechobee were dug up and turned into farms, and the “Big Water” itself was ringed with a dike to control its flow.
Starting at Oasis Visitor Center in Big Cypress National Preserve, the Florida Trail heads north for 30 miles through one of the last wild spaces of the region.
The trail connects to Lake Okeechobee along roads and agricultural dikes through the northern part of the preserve into the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation and through vast farmlands south of Clewiston.
Reaching Lake Okeechobee, the Florida Trail circles it. While both sides have their own special charm, backpackers will prefer the more rural western side of the lake.
The Ocean-to-Lake Trail, a spur trail popular for backpacking, presents a microcosm of the overall features of the Florida Trail.
It extends 62 miles from Lake Okeechobee to the Atlantic Ocean through a gradient of South Florida’s wild habitats on a greenway protected along most of its length.
Each of the below sections correspond to a smaller segment of the Florida Trail in this region, from south to north and east (Big Cypress to Okeechobee and Jupiter).
38.3 miles. Featuring the wettest, wildest wilderness traversed by backpackers in Florida, the Florida Trail in Big Cypress National Preserve is both beautiful and extraordinarily challenging.
56.2 miles. Stretching from the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation to Lake Okeechobee, the Florida Trail Seminole section traverses a vast agricultural region, the former Everglades. Hiking is on roads and levees.
112.8 miles. Looping around one of America’s largest lakes, the Okeechobee section of the Florida Trail provides panoramic views from atop the Herbert Hoover Dike.