First hiked in the 1960s and developed as a loop in the Florida National Scenic Trail in the 1980s, the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail offers spectacular views.
Mainly atop the 35-foot-tall Herbert Hoover Dike built for flood control between the 1930s and 1960s, it offers unmatched perspectives on the lake for photographers and birders.
Resources for exploring the area
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Location: South Florida
Length: 109 miles
Fees: Free, with established campsites along the route
Restrooms: at community parks along the route
Bicycles and leashed pets welcome. Equestrians allowed between Port Mayaca and Nubbin Slough. Overnight camping permitted.
No hunting is permitted on the levee, but you will hear gunshots and see duck hunters in their boats in the near marshes during the fall waterfowl season.
Because of severe water quality issues in the Okeechobee basin, we strongly suggest avoiding all surface water sources. Use potable water sources only.
In addition, algal blooms can now cause respiratory issues in susceptible individuals. Before your visit, check the Army Corps of Engineers website regards posted warnings.
Please click on specific destinations above for directions to trailheads along this lengthy loop.
About the Trail
On the east side of the lake, views are primarily of islands and vast open waters. The west side of the lake is shallow and marshy.
Sunrises (best viewed from the western shore) and sunsets (from the northeastern shore) are especially gorgeous across the marshes and open waters.
The route was popularized for nearly 30 years by the Loxahatchee Chapter of the Florida Trail Association and their annual Big O Hike, which has been suspended until construction around the dike is complete.
With most of the route atop the dike paved, the 109-mile loop is a destination for century riders.
Specific segments we suggest for hiking and biking. All segments are covered in our Florida Trail app (FarOut Guides) as well as The Florida Trail Guide.
Florida Trail, Port Mayaca to Henry Creek
14 miles. In an arc between ancient natural shoreline and expansive waters, this hike along Lake Okeechobee’s eastern shore offers unparalleled vistas
Florida Trail, Henry Creek to Okeechobee
8.6 miles. Along the north shoreline of Lake Okeechobee, this paved segment of the Florida Trail is one of its prettiest, offering sweeping views of the lake.
Florida Trail, Lakeport to Indian Prairie
11.9 miles. In the sweep of the Herbert Hoover Dike past Lakeport, the Florida Trail overlooks the vast western marshes of Lake Okeechobee
Florida Trail, Okeechobee to Okee-Tantie
3.8 miles. On the sweep of Lake Okeechobee shoreline between Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River, expect some of the best birding along the lake as you walk along the dike
Parks along Lake Okeechobee
While there are many trailheads and recreation areas along the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail, these parks provide some of the best access points and views along the lake.
Harney Pond Canal Recreation Area
Discover uniquely wild panoramas along Lake Okeechobee with a walk on this paved trail in Lakeport
Cliff J. Betts Recreation Area
Also known as Lake Okeechobee Recreation Area, this waterfront park in Okeechobee offers expansive views of Lake Okeechobee from its shoreline and pier
Okee-Tantie Recreation Area
Where the Kissimmee River pours its waters into Lake Okeechobee, Okee-Tantie Recreation Area offers access to the river and a wild marshy stretch of lakeshore
Watching the evolution of this trail for more than two decades, we are aware of specific gaps that do not appear to be a priority for land managers to address, despite plans in place to do so.
We figure this is due to dike reconstruction, a necessary evil for flood control. The earthen dike started leaking soon after the ravaging hurricanes of the late 2000s.
Specific gaps that were planned to be bridged but have not happened yet include Taylor Creek and Harney Pond Canal.
More serious gaps are at important navigational points, the locks at Port Mayaca, Moore Haven, and the open water of the Kissimmee River.
In all three of these locations, hikers and cyclists must leave the dike and utilize highway bridges to cross the waterways. Only the Caloosahatchee River bridge offers a pedestrian walkway separate from traffic.
Finally, a fumble at Taylor Creek over land use documents resulted in a private landowner blocking public access to the public right-of-way.
This forces all recreational users out to busy US 441 between Nubbin Slough and Taylor Creek for a distance of more than two miles.
See our photos from the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail
More worth exploring close to Lake Okeechobee
Explore Fort Center, a pre-Colombian village lost in Florida’s past – and uncovered again by archaeologists – by following this trail in Fisheating Creek WMA.
For an immersion into the soul of ancient Florida, plan a paddle down Fisheating Creek.
Ocean to Lake Hiking Trail
61 miles. A spur of the Florida Trail that leads from Port Mayaca on the east side of Lake Okeechobee to Hobe Sound Beach on the Atlantic Ocean, treating hikers to unexpected wild landscapes north of West Palm Beach.
Explore nearly 22,000 acres of public land near Lake Okeechobee on extensive networks of trails for hikers, cyclists, and equestrians.
Rafael Sanchez Trail
Snaking through an oh-so-slender slice of the rocky Okeechobee Ridge, the relict shoreline of Lake Okeechobee, the Rafael Sanchez Trail stays in deep shade for its 5.7 mile traverse of this skinny stretch of forest.
Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park
Enjoy Florida’s own big sky at the only state park in Florida where starry skies fill the horizon and an extensive network of trails – including the Florida Trail – provides access for exploration