Located on the northern end of the Lake Wales Ridge, the land now protected as Lake Louisa State Park had a long history of agricultural use.
In the 1970s, the property was purchased by the State of Florida and opened to the public as a state park.
Since, park staff have gone to great lengths to return these rolling hills along Lake Louisa to a more natural state.
This expansive green space is popular for its rolling landscapes, and a multitude of outdoor recreation options, from hiking, biking, paddling, and horseback riding to camping and cabins.
Built on the bones of a trail system first blazed by Florida Trail Association volunteers decades ago, the system of loop trails in the park has expanded dramatically.
With three potential access points to start a hike, this 7.7 mile route showcases the heart of the park and some of its finest scenery. We suggest Dixie Lake as your starting point.
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Length: 7.7 mile loop
Trailhead: 28.450561, -81.728711
Address: 7305 US 27, Clermont FL 34714
Fees: $5 per vehicle
Restrooms: Yes, across the street from the trailhead, and a restroom at Lake Louisa.
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM to sunset. Dogs are allowed on a leash.
Paper trail maps are available at the ranger station. If you plan to camp in a primitive site on this loop, consult the park in advance for availability.
From the junction of US 27 and SR 50 in Clermont, head south on US 27 for 6.5 miles and the park entrance will be on the right side of the road. After passing through the ranger station, continue straight on the main park road for 1.7 miles. The trailhead at Dixie Lake will be on the right.
Starting at the parking area across from Dixie Lake, the trail follows a downhill slope under a thin canopy of sand live oak and slash pines.
Turn right in 0.2 mile at an intersection of trails to begin a counterclockwise loop.
Heading northward, the trail remains shaded as a hydric hammock borders the creek to the left.
On the right, deer may be grazing in large open spaces that were once used for cattle pastures and citrus groves.
The wide pathway crosses a paved park road before meandering eastward around a small pond filled with water lilies.
Gulf fritillary butterflies float alongside the trail, searching for nectar and their host plant, passion vine.
A grassy corridor lined with muscadine grape covered shrubs leads past swampy bayheads and prairie ponds before taking a sharp turn to the west.
In less than a quarter mile, the trail nears Wilderness Point, one of several primitive campsites in the park.
This site is a great spot for folks who are curious about trying out backpacking, as it is less than 0.8 mile from overnight parking.
Emerging from the small oak hammock around the campsite, shade is limited as the trail enters a pine savanna.
Thick clusters of palmettos carpet an open landscape dotted with slash pines.
Following along a raised access road strewn with pine needles, the trail weaves through the trees before crossing Big Creek on a sturdy bridge.
Surrounded by cypress knees, the dark tannic waters of Big Creek filter slowly north towards Lake Louisa.
Dense tree cover transitions to pine flatwoods as the trail heads toward the park’s namesake lake, passing patches of scrub and sandhill restoration projects along the way.
Shortly before the loop reaches the paved park road, a trail to the north leads down an extensive boardwalk to Lake Louisa.
This worthwhile detour adds a 0.8-mile round trip to a trailhead with restrooms and water while offering spectacular views of the cypress-lined lake.
When the trail turns south at the park road, it follows alongside the pavement for a tenth of a mile before making a left.
It traces the edge of an experimental restoration area with native sandhill vegetation.
Having a map on hand is helpful while navigating the trail in this portion, as numbered posts correspond with numbers on the map.
One of the park biologist’s main goals involves the return of native habitats to portions of the property that had been used agriculturally.
The trail winds southward through areas that have undergone controlled burns and wiregrass planting, efforts to restore the ecosystem.
The landscape may look like scorched earth and palmettos immediately after a burn.
However, fire adapted plants grow quickly over a summer, sporting magnificent flowers in the autumn.
As the trail turns eastward, cross Big Creek once again on a bridge leading to a primitive campsite known as Pine Point.
A picnic bench and fire ring invite campers to spend a quiet night alongside the creek.
This hike-in site is also a great destination for new backpackers and young families, as your 7.7 mile loop ends only 0.4 mile past the campsite, back at Dixie Lake.
Learn more about Lake Louisa State Park
A virtual walk in the woods at Lake Louisa State Park
See our photos of Lake Louisa State Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
On a 1.7-mile loop, Crooked River Preserve showcases a wide variety of habitats in a short hike on the northernmost extent of the Lake Wales Ridge in Clermont
Picturesque waters flow between two lakes on a narrow river, immersing visitors who paddle within a corridor of cypress swamp abounding with wildlife.
At PEAR Park south of Leesburg, enjoy a deeply shaded walk on a nature trail that follows the trickle that is now the Palatlakaha River flowing towards Lake Harris.