While for the most part a forest road rather than a narrow footpath, the Gobbler Ridge Trail is the one must-hike destination at Lake Kissimmee State Park.
First, for the scenery. While the treadway is nothing special, the sweep of prairie to the east and the oak hammocks that it weaves in and out of are places of special beauty.
Next, for the lake. It’s the only hike at Lake Kissimmee State Park that actually touches the shoreline of any of the three lakes that surround the park.
While the walk along the lakeshore isn’t long compared to the hike to get there, it’s worth it for the views, the breeze, and the birds overhead.
Our resources for exploring the area. A full writeup of this hike and others in this park can be found in 50 Hikes in Central Florida
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Location: Lake Wales
Length: 2.8 mile round-trip
Trailhead: 27.9444, -81.3520
Address: 14248 Camp Mack Rd, Lake Wales
Fees: $4-5 per vehicle
Restroom: At the marina trailhead
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM to sunset. Hours may change due to current events, check ahead. Leashed pets welcome. However, alligators are often present at Lake Kissimmee. Be cautious.
From the junction of US 27 and SR 60 in Lake Wales, head east on SR 60 for 9.7 miles to Boy Scout Camp Road. Turn left and drive 3.5 miles to Camp Mack Road. Turn right, following this road 5.4 miles to the park entrance on the right. After you enter through the ranger station, the park road twists and winds through the oak hammocks along the North Loop. Pass Cow Camp Rd after 3.5 miles and the marina on the right. Look for the parking area on the left under the oaks, near the restrooms.
The kiosk for the Gobbler Ridge Trail is near the restrooms at the main picnic area within the oak hammock just north of the marina.
Follow the accessible path towards the picnic pavilion before cutting across the hammock to the prominent tower at the edge of the oaks.
It’s a bit of a climb to the top, but well worth it for the panorama. The sweep of open prairie to the east meets the horizon at Lake Kissimmee.
The lake stretches from one end of your view to the other. It is 54 square miles of water, one of Florida’s largest lakes, and the birthplace of the Kissimmee River.
The Gobbler Ridge Trail will take you to its shoreline. Descend the stairs and you’ll face both the trail and the first lime green tipped post.
The route is easy. It’s a broad road along the edge of the prairie, just off the edge of the oak hammocks that form the prairie rim.
Winding into the oak hammock, the trail is surrounded by large live oaks heavily draped in Spanish moss.
Pass a side path to the group campsite,where there are picnic tables within view. Leading out through the oaks, the trail pops out along the marshy edge of a wet prairie.
It rounds the prairie and passes through another piece of oak hammock before coming to the trail junction with the incoming 0.8 mile connector from the North Loop.
This trail junction in front of Marker 81 has a bench. Turn right at this T intersection to head out to Lake Kissimmee.
As this is part of the floodplain of the lake, your surroundings are more prairie than oaks, with clusters of oaks forming small islands in the expanse.
Coming to another junction – this one with an alligator warning – continue straight ahead. The path dips into a low marshy area and may require wading.
The trail rises up towards an illuminated gap in a line of forest. The forest is atop Gobbler Ridge.
A bench is on the other side of the gap, where the expanse of Lake Kissimmee opens up in front of you.
Water levels and recent mowing determine how close you can get to the lake itself. Avoid drawing too close due to tall grasses, deep mud, and alligators hidden by vegetation.
We walked the mowed path close to the forest along the ridge, with views of the lake all along it. As it swung around, two eagles fussed overhead.
Where the path pops out by some palm trees along the lakeshore, the lake is narrowing and traffic heading to the fish camp tends to buzz past. A bench sits under a palm.
The trail turns soon after the bench and crosses another marshy area where there may be water or mud. It soon seals the loop as it reaches the alligator sign.
Returning to the trail you came in on, follow it back along the prairie rim. You pass marker 81 at the trail junction for the North Loop.
Hiking that loop after doing this hike thus far will net an 8.7-mile hike if you follow the outer perimeter counterclockwise. Carry plenty of water if you do.
Otherwise bear left and follow the lime green blazes back along the road along the prairie rim, passing by the group campsite again.
The blazes lead up to the observation tower once more, and then into the hammock. The full round-trip is 2.8 miles.
Learn more about Lake Kissimmee State Park and its trails
Discover the beauty of the land between the lakes east of Lake Wales while exploring the vast prairies and fern-laden hammocks of Lake Kissimmee State Park
The 6.9-mile Buster Island Loop at Lake Kissimmee State Park is a favorite for both day hikers and backpackers, as it shows off a variety of habitats along the open prairies
Crossing the Lake Kissimmee State Park park drive multiple times, the 6.8-mile North Loop is the easiest trail to access within the park, offering excellent birding
See our photos from the Gobbler Ridge Trail
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
With an interlinking network of loop trails, Crooked Lake Prairie is a refreshing excursion into habitats found on the high hills of the Lake Wales Ridge
With up to 6.2 miles of trails – many of them a bit wet – SUMICA is one of the natural lands in Polk County where birding is especially superb.
10.1 miles. Ancient live oaks break up the expanse of cattle pastures and prairies along the Florida Trail adjoining the Kissimmee River in KICCO