In the most improbable of places, surrounded by highways, apartments, and shopping centers where Altamonte Springs and Maitland meet, Lake Lotus Park was my secret getaway when I lived far too close to I-4 and discovered this woodland retreat within a couple of miles of home.
The 1.7-mile trail system provides a great respite from surrounding suburbia, immersing you in the sights and sounds of Lake Lotus and its surrounding marshes and cypress swamps. Walk on the boardwalks amid the massive cypresses, or follow the footpaths between the ferns.
Location: Altamonte Springs
Length: 1.7 miles
Type: Network of loops
Fees / Permits: none
Bug factor: low to moderate
Access to the park has been sharply limited. Days/hours are now Thursday – Sunday 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Thanks to Jessica for that update.
The park has a playground and a picnic area, perfect for an outing with the family. Bring your fishing pole, too … you can fish from designated spots along the boardwalk.
From Interstate 4, follow SR 414 (Maitland Blvd) west past Maitland Center and the SR 434 interchange. The very next traffic light leads you into Lake Lotus Park (on the right) or to access via Magnolia Homes Rd the overflow parking area for Lake Lotus Park (on the left) – you must park here on weekends and walk over or take the tram.
Follow the park entrance road back to the playground / picnic pavilion / restrooms area at the end of the loop. Start your hike at the boardwalk leading directly out of that small parking lot towards the lake. You’re soon paralleling the clear waters of the Little Wekiva River, which forms Lake Lotus on its way to meet the Wekiva River. The boardwalk extends out over the lake, which indeed has its namesakes floating on the surface. Look for alligators, too, and osprey nests in the trees. At the first intersection, turn right. Stop at the “Window on the Lake,” an octagonal structure with picture windows for birdwatching.
At 0.5 mile, the trail takes a jog to the left to follow the edge of a lotus-choked channel connecting two segments of the lake. Meandering away from the lake, it enters a tangled jumble of vines and young trees. A grove of bald cypresses sway around you, tall and gray-barked. At the next trail junction, turn right. Notice the laurel oak on the left with deep cypress-like folds in the base of its trunk.
When the boardwalk ends, the trail becomes a bark-chip path under a tall canopy of laurel oak and water oak. Sword ferns crowd together under the saw palmetto on the right. On the left, there are netted chain ferns; on the right, cinnamon ferns. Turn right and cross the bridge. The forest crowds close and dark. Cypress knees poke out of the rolling terrain that the trail now follows. The rich black soil is lush with ferns and strewn with tangled knots of roots snaking away from magnolia trees. Rays of sunlight filter through the dense canopy.
When the trail turns to gravel, you’ve walked a mile. Turn left at a sharp intersection, almost doubling back on your route, to cross a small bridge. An education center will be built near this site. More trails lead further into the fern-dense forest, including a newer boardwalk that traverses the floodplain forest to hook into the main maze of boardwalks along Lake Lotus. Explore and enjoy – there are many possible routes to take, many ferns and flowers and birds to enjoy.