Blanketing more than 4,300 acres northwest of Walt Disney World, Lake Louisa State Park offers contrast and respite from the busy theme park areas nearby.
Once a ranch on the Lake Wales Ridge, Lake Louisa State Park is a study in regeneration, much like Aldo Leopold’s farm in Baraboo, Wisconsin so carefully tended back to nature.
While other orange groves around Clermont now sprout dense housing developments and strip malls, this park beckons visitors who need to reconnect with the outdoors.
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Address: 7305 US 27, Clermont FL 34714
Fees: $5 per vehicle
Restroom: at the canoe launch beach
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open daily 8 AM to sunset. Leashed dogs welcome.
From the junction of SR 50 and US 27, drive south on US 27 from Clermont. From the junction of US 192 and US 27, drive north on US 27. The prominent park entrance is on the west side of the highway.
Lake Louisa State Park straddles the Lake Wales Ridge near its northernmost point. This sandy ridge down the spine of Florida stood above the waves of ancient seas when the rest of the peninsula was under water.
As a result, there are unusual plant species in parts of the park and sugar-white soft sands as well. The landscape drops off to the west into another major Florida landform, the Green Swamp.
While there are six lakes inside the park, only three are of significant size. These are Dixie, Hammond, and Louisa.
Lake Louisa is the largest and, as we’ve seen, the most likely place to encounter alligators. In fact, on our last visit, prominent signs warned you against swimming at the beach.
Paddlers can take a canoe or kayak out – bring your own or rent one on the spot – to ply the waters of Lake Louisa. Watch the weather, as it can get choppy on the open water.
Lake Louisa is where the Palatkahaha River drains off towards Clermont, on the far shore from the state park. Protecting the river’s exit is Crooked River Preserve.
Camping at Lake Louisa
Less than a half hour from the theme parks, you can get back to nature by camping at Lake Louisa State Park.
There are 60 campsites in the campground at Lake Louisa State Park, providing spaces for RVs, campers, and tents. Pets are welcome but must be leashed. Rates start at $24.
An affordable option for families, the park offers twenty cabins on a hillside overlooking Dixie Lake. These start at $120, which is a very good deal given their size. Two are wheelchair-friendly.
Having stayed in these cabins, we certainly appreciated the screened porch during the summer! Each has two bedrooms and two baths. Linens and kitchenware are provided. Pets are not permitted.
Equestrians and backpackers have their own options for backcountry camping at two campsites accessed via the park’s trail system. Hammock hangers are permitted.
Glamping is now an option at Lake Louisa, too. With tents provided by CareFree Camping, you can relax in a screened canvas tent with a bed and chairs, or have them provide a traditional tent for you.
The glamping option is especially useful for families flying in and out of Orlando who aren’t carrying camping gear along with them. Rates start at $65 for a normal tent and $120 for an upscale one.
Hiking at Lake Louisa
Many years ago, the Florida Trail Association built a trail that rambles across the hillsides of Lake Louisa State Park on its north side, connecting the front gate with the beach on Lake Louisa.
We scouted a linear route along it that showed off the best scenic views from hillsides that were once barren but now covered in a young longleaf pine forest, and detail it here.
Hikers can inquire about using the Wilderness Point backcounty campsite along this route, which offers an outstanding amount of elevation change.
Biking at Lake Louisa
This is one state park where you’ll run through most of your gears. You bought them, use them! The hills are steep and you can ride nearly seven miles of pavement inside the park gates.
Cyclists are welcome on the extensive multi-use trails, more than 20 miles shared with horses. Since many are along the ridges, fat tires are a must for the soft sand of the scrub.
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
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