105.7 miles. Fort Pierce, Kenansville, Lake Wales, Okeechobee, Port St. Lucie, & Sebring
Following the Kissimmee River north, the Florida Trail heads into the heart of Florida’s cattle country. Okeechobee is well known for its ranches, which the trail crosses and skirts along public lands in the river floodplain.
From its once sinuous path, the Kissimmee River was straightened into a ditch more than a half-century ago by the Army Corps of Engineers, causing much harm to Lake Okeechobee. It’s been more than a decade since river restoration work started, breaking down dikes and dams to restore portions of the old floodplain channel, and it is slow work. It’s been a lot of work for trail maintainers, too. As the waters rise, the trail gets rerouted. The most significant reroute in recent years was the switch from the west side of the Kissimmee River north of Basinger to the east side.
FLOODING is a serious concern along this section of the river, since the Florida Trail sticks to the low-lying areas along its floodplain. Always check flood gauges in advance of your hike, and keep alert to changing weather conditions. Because of its proximity to deep sloughs and steep drop-offs, the trail can be dangerous when flooded. Do not enter flowing water. South Florida Water Management District oversees the Kissimmee River and can provide information on river levels and flooding along this section of the trail: 1-866-433-6312
Wear a bright orange shirt or vest during hunting seasons. This region is very popular with deer hunters. Check the FWC website for hunting season dates: Yates Marsh / Chandler Slough / Micco / Starvation Slough, KICCO, Three Lakes WMA, and Prairie Lakes.
Free permits are required for all Southwest Florida Water Management campsites between Yates Marsh and Three Lakes WMA. You can obtain online as needed or call 561-924-5310 x3333 on weekdays 9-4.
There is a small fee for using the designated primitive campsites inside Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. Pay when you reach the ranger station. A free permit is required for use of primitive campsites in Prairie Lakes, including Dry Pond Camp, Lake Jackson Campground, and Parker Hammock Camp. Thru hikers only need a Lake Jackson permit. Call 352-732-1225. Cell coverage is poor within this portion of Three Lakes WMA so do so in advance if possible.
To cross the S-65A lock (mile 221.9): there are now pedestrian gates on both sides of the lock and you may use them on your own (provided the lock isn’t in operation) during the following hours: Mon-Fri 7 AM-6 PM, Sat-Sun 5:30 AM-7:30 PM (Mar-Oct), 5:30 AM-6:30 PM (Nov-Feb)
Water in all canals and the Kissimmee River itself along this route has agricultural runoff in it from cattle ranches. Potable water sources are important but rare. Where available, filter from flowing water rather than standing water. Pitcher pumps are at many of the campsites along the route but only work if primed. Leave water for the next hiker to prime the pump.
Alligators are common in the canals, ditches, and along the river. In Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, it is not safe to filter water along Military Trail because of the very large alligators that live there. When you filter water, don’t do so at dawn or dusk, when you might be mistaken for a deer. Avoid filtering water near culverts as well, since alligators often den inside them.
Airboats can surprise you at any time along the dikes and marshes adjoining the Kissimmee River. They are boats run by a large high-powered fan, so they can also run across shallow marshes and land.
Be sure to go into Okeechobee for resupply before starting this section. There is a small store in Basinger. Once you’re north of US 98, resupply at River Ranch. It’s expensive, but it’s your only near-the-trail option until you reach Christmas or St. Cloud. At the north end, Kenansville has decent basic resupply and hot food if you can catch a ride there.
- Florida Trail, Chandler Slough West- It looks like a mountain ridge from a distance, but Chandler Slough is a ribbon of cypress strand through the flat Okeechobee prairies. This 4.3 mile Florida Trail section follows its rim, through beautiful oak hammocks and soggy marshes
- Florida Trail, Okee-tantie to Platts Bluff- Following the Kissimmee River north from where it empties into Lake Okeechobee, the Florida Trail is atop a dike above a vast expanse of open prairie in ranchland.
- Florida Trail, Prairie Lakes Loop- Alternating between moss-draped oak hammocks and the wide open prairies that characterize this part of Florida, the Florida Trail loop at Prairie Lakes provides one of Central Florida's oldest and most scenic hiking destinations.
- Florida Trail, Three Lakes WMA- At Three Lakes WMA / Prairie Lakes Unit, the Florida Trail traverses one of the largest expanses of open prairie in the Southeast, the Kissimmee Prairie.
- Florida Trail, Yates Marsh- Along this 3.3-mile section of the Florida Trail in the heart of the Kissimmee prairies, Yates Marsh is not marshy, but a hike in natural habitats and pasture along the river.
SOUTHBOUND << Okeechobee NORTHEAST >> OrlandoNORTHWEST >> Western Corridor
Florida Trail Videos (Kissimmee)
- Caracara at Bluff Hammock- This is one of those right place, right time stories. As usual, I was lagging at the tail end of our group of backpackers, taking photos and shooting video between Hickory Hammock and Bluff Hammock. Lori Burris, who led our group, stayed with me. After we descended the high bridge, most of the folks with […]
- Discovering Starvation Slough- Immersing in Starvation Slough might mean wet feet at first, but the beauty you find the deeper in you hike is well worth getting across that first stream!
- Florida Trail along the Kissimmee River- The move of the Florida Trail to the east side of the Kissimmee River is the longest and most significant trail relocation seen in many years. As it changed in December 2013, the new route is not included in The Florida Trail Guide, so please print these details to replace what is in your book […]
- Head out on a Florida Trail adventure- Take an armchair journey up the Florida Trail by reading my feature article starting on page 17 of the Winter / Spring 2011 issue of the official magazine of the National Forest Foundation.
- Hiking through Basinger- The heart of Okeechobee cattle country, Basinger is a historic town just east of the Kissimmee River. Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of exploring a new section of the Florida Trail which passes through Basinger, skirting the village itself to provide hikers with breathtakingly beautiful scenery along Chandler Slough, a cypress-lined tributary of […]
- Kissimmee River Adventure- Backpacking the Florida Trail from Okee-tanie to Bluff Hammock along the Kissimmee River section for the first time.
- Major Florida Trail Relocation along the Kissimmee River- After meetings with land managers during Thanksgiving week, the USDA Forest Service has approved a 43.9 mile route that relocates the Florida Trail along the Kissimmee River, shifting the trail from the oft-flooded western shore to the eastern side between Micco Landing off US 98 and the S-65A lock just north of Tick Island Slough. […]
- Prairie Reflections- Walking the wilds of Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park means hours spent in blazing sun and a landscape that makes you feel inconsequential on this earth.
- Still Life, with Cows- Walking the whole Florida Trail means miles on pavement where the trail follows roads. On this lonely dead-end road in Basinger, your companions are cows.
- The Florida Trail: A History- How to order a copy of The Florida Trail: Florida's National Scenic Trail, our limited edition full-color coffee table book that tells the comprehensive story of the first 50 years of routing, building, maintaining, and enjoying our statewide National Scenic Trail.
- Up the Kissimmee- JK starts solo backpacking up the Kissimmee River, encountering cows, sandhill cranes, and an over-medicated driver who runs him off a roadwalk.
- When the levee breaks…- ...Mama, you got to move. And so it goes for the Florida Trail, as the flood-induced breach in a levee along the Kissimmee River south of KICCO means the trail must move in order for clear passage north from Kissimmee Prairie Preserve.