We can think of few other accessible locations in Florida where you can surprise your visitors with an unexpected “this is Florida” moment.
While older maps include this slope as part of the Lake Wales Ridge, newer ones refer to it as part of the Apopka Hills. In either case, the steep grades are obvious on the roads that lead here.
One of them crosses nearby Sugarloaf Mountain, the high point of the Florida peninsula at 312 feet above sea level. By comparison, Florida’s high point, Britton Hill, is at 345 feet.
At the Green Mountain Scenic Overlook and Trailhead, the high point is at the entrance where you turn off from CR 455. Everything is downhill from that point.
And we do mean downhill. It’s 180 feet above sea level at the park entrance. That drops to 157 feet at the main parking area, 132 feet at the observation deck, and 82 feet at the bottom of the bluff.
While the highlight is the view, Lake County scores bonus points for the amazing series of switchbacks built to make it easier for hikers and cyclists to climb in and out of the Lake Apopka floodplain.
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Length: 3.4 mile round-trip
Trailhead: 28.646797, -81.709972
Address: 20700 CR 455, Minneola FL
Restroom: flush toilets
Land manager: Lake County Office of Parks & Trails
Day use only. Open 7 AM to posted closing time, usually 6 PM or later. Equestrians may not access the Lake Apopka Loop Trail at this location, but cyclists are welcome.
Leashed dogs welcome. This is the best location along the Lake Apopka North Shore to walk your dog, as it is well away from the shoreline of Lake Apopka.
From SR 50 west of Florida’s Turnpike Winter Garden / Clermont exit, turn north on Lake Blvd just after passing the Killarney Station trailhead of the West Orange Trail.
Make a left on Old CR 50 and follow it north under the Turnpike. It joins CR 455. Continue 8 miles along this winding route, which makes a sharp left in Monteverde, through and past Ferndale Preserve. Turn right at the park entrance sign on Wolf’s Head Rd.
From the parking area, everything slopes to the edge of the bluff. Restrooms are off to the left. You’ll find both a water fountain and a water bottle filling station here.
An accessible sidewalk circles past a kiosk for the Green Mountain Scenic Byway to a covered picnic pavilion.
The sidewalk sweeps around a corner, providing peeks to the graveled trail below. You meet the Lake Apopka Loop Trail at a junction just before the walk out onto the observation platform.
The platform and its view are fully accessible. For those of you training for the Appalachian Trail, bring your backpack and your quads here.
A staircase leads down from the tower so you can loop back up the switchbacks and down the tower again. Over and over and over.
If you’re here for the hike, however, backtrack to the beginning of the Lake Apopka Loop Trail and follow its languid switchbacks downhill. It’s easier on the knees.
Once the trail has switchbacked its way to the bottom of the bluff for the first quarter mile, it drops into the floodplain of Lake Apopka. Here, the lake is nowhere to be seen.
Instead, the trail is shaded by red maples and sweetgum trees that change to crimson and gold hues in late fall before dropping their leaves, which return by late February.
The trail follows the former railroad bed of the Tavares & Gulf Railroad towards Lake Apopka. Stay right at the fork to head towards Jimmy’s Crossing.
Where it reaches a kiosk, the trail meets the 5.8-mile white-blazed Clay Island Loop. It’s less than a mile north from this junction to the Clay Island trailhead, which has no facilities except parking.
Return to Green Mountain Scenic Overlook along the same route, this time switchbacking back up the hill. You can climb the steps to the tower on the way back to shorten the walk slightly while burning more calories.
Lake Apopka North Shore
See our video slideshow of the Green Mountain Scenic Overlook and Trailhead
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Protecting more than 128 acres along Lake Apopka, Oakland Nature Preserve offers an accessible boardwalk through marshes to the lake and uplands trails to explore