The easiest and most accessible of the extensive trail system through the vast prairie ecosystems of Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, the Kilpatrick Hammock Trail centers on an oak hammock that is also home to the park’s campgrounds and office.
An island of oaks amid a sea of grasslands, Kilpatrick Hammock was home to an early pioneer homestead between 1919 and 1927 and is named for Drayton Kilpatrick, who came to the region as a land surveyor.
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Length: 1 mile loop
Trailhead: 27.584143, -81.045166
Address: 33104 NW 192nd Ave, Okeechobee
Fees: $4 per vehicle, $2 pedestrian
Restrooms: at the visitor center
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 to sunset daily. Leashed dogs welcome but not recommended due to the alligator population along along Military Trail. You will walk past several warning signs before the sloughs where the alligators congregate.
At the junction of SR 60 and US 441 just west of Florida’s Turnpike at Yeehaw Junction, head south on US 441 for 18 miles to NW 240th St (CR 724). A brown sign points the way to the state park.
Meet NW 176th Ave (CR 700A) after 12 miles. It connects to US 98 at Basinger. Continue another mile straight ahead. The road makes a 90-degree turn north onto NW 197 Ave. Continue straight ahead for another 7.9 miles, passing through the park gate and two trailheads. The road makes a 90-degree turn west. In 1.4 miles, it reaches the parking area at the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park ranger station.
Starting from the park office, walk the road towards the campground, where you’ll find the trailhead on the right at a kiosk. The path is easy to follow. Orange-tipped markers lead you down a broad, mowed path in dense prairie grasses, between clumps of oaks and cabbage palms.
Within the first 0.2 mile, the loop begins. Follow the arrow and keep left to walk along the edge of Kilpatrick Hammock, where live oaks thickly draped in Spanish moss evoke memories of old Florida.
Indeed, this was a frontier homestead, the sort of place you’d visit in Patrick Smith’s classic novel, A Land Remembered. Squirrels dart between cabbage palms and orange trees left behind from the homesteading days, each tree thickly laden in fruit in the winter.
Crossing what appears to have been a waterway – perhaps a canal dug to afford the Kilpatrick’s with a water supply – the Kilpatrick Prairie Trail goes left, and the Hammock Trail follows a double-blaze right into the lush hammock.
Tall cabbage palms and thick oaks crowd close. There is a bright light up ahead between them, and you discover it’s the vast open prairie as the trail emerges onto its rim.
The prairie rim affords an excellent spot for birding, since you’re well shaded by the trees, looking out over the “Big Sky” landscape. Listen carefully, and you’re sure to hear sandhill cranes in the distance.
Darting back into the forest after the expansive prairie view, the trail rounds a flag pond, where crickets are sharing a deafening chorus. Alligator flag rises tall from the water’s edge, and the trail is rimmed with wax myrtle. Cross the outflow of the pond.
The trail turns right, headed into the heart of the hammock. Beyond an enormous split oak furry with resurrection fern, there are more large oaks and a fenced area that may have served as cattle pens when this was still a ranch.
Slender cabbage palms rest in the crooks of ancient oaks. The loop jogs through a stand of prairie grasses before it returns to the shade of live oaks laden in Spanish moss
The trail junction is up ahead at an orange marker. Continue straight. Emerge at the trailhead, with the campground to the right. Turn left to return to the visitor center and day use parking area.
See our photos from the Kilpatrick Hammock Trail
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
On a day hike into one of our state’s largest prairies, sample Florida’s own big sky at the state’s first International Dark Sky Park