Deep in the heart of Florida’s heartland, ranching heritage lives on at Lake Kissimmee State Park, home of the 1876 Florida Cow Hunters Camp. These frontier cowmen – never cowboys, m’am – stir up some storytelling completely in character on weekends. Herds of Florida scrub cattle, hearty stock dating back to Hernando de Soto’s march across Florida in 1539, roam this former ranch.
Location: Lake Wales
Fees: $4-5 per vehicle
Open: 8 AM until sunset daily
Leashed pets welcome
From the junction of US 27 and SR 60 in Lake Wales, head east on FL 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 that dominate the North Loop. Continue along the park road past the campground and the turnoff to the Cow Camp, reaching the parking area next to the marina. All trails can be accessed here.
Ancient live oak hammocks cradle colorful orchids, and sandhill cranes offer haunting cries as they glide the open prairies. Slip a boat into the canal to navigate the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes for some fine fishing, or camp out and explore the extensive trail system, where wildlife sightings – especially herds of deer – are guaranteed.
The park contains two of Florida’s most scenic backpacking loops. We recommend the Buster Island Loop highly for families getting their children out on a primitive camping experience for the first time. There is a popular campground and picnic area, as well as a short nature trail. The three major trails – Buster Island, North Loop, and Gobbler Ridge – can all be tackled as day hikes.
Explore the park
- Buster Island Loop - 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
- North Loop and Gobbler Ridge Trails - The lesser used of the two long loops at Lake Kissimmee State Park, the North Loop leads you through shady oak hammocks to pine flatwoods above the scrub-lined shore of Lake Kissimmee