Managed by Osceola County, Lake Runnymede Conservation Area is only 43 acres, but what a preserve!
It’s sandwiched between the massive East Lake Tohopekaliga — which, despite being on the other side of Rummel Road, can be seen from several vantage points along the hike — and the much smaller Lake Runnymede.
Along its easy trail system, it showcases one of the most spectacular stands of ancient live oaks in Central Florida.
Resources for exploring the area
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Location: St. Cloud
Length: 0.9 mile loop
Trailhead: 28.2651, -81.2591
Address: 4600 Rummel Rd, St. Cloud, FL 34771
Fees: Free. Fee applies for camping
Restroom: At the trailhead
Land manager: Osceola County
Open sunrise to sunset. Leashed pets welcome.
Primitive camping is available for groups of up to 6. Obtain a permit and pay your fee in advance.
From US 192 in downtown St. Cloud, drive east 1 mile to Orange Ave. Turn left. Continue 1.1 miles to Rummell Rd. Turn right. The park entrance will be on the right within a half mile.
Two hiking loops start at the trailhead, the Live Oak Trail and the Lake Trail. Turn right to take a look at the park kiosk and its map, and to start the Lake Trail.
Following this trail, you are beneath a dense canopy of live oaks laden with Spanish moss. Markers guide you along the path. At the first junction, turn right. The trail posts are tipped in red and have hiker symbol medallions on them.
The footpath parallels Rummell Road, and you can see the glimmering waters of East Lake Toho through the residences on the other side of the road.
In the first tenth of a mile there is a bench on the right-hand side within this beautiful oak grove, a park-like setting with an understory that is very open.
On the right, as the footpath curves, you see a cross-shaped impression of an ancient oak that was lopped off at the surface, probably after falling over.
The bases of these live oaks are enormous, the age easily 500 years or more for many of them.
Through the open understory you can see for quite some distance between the arching limbs. White lichen makes blotches on tree trunks.
A historic site on the left speaks to what this land used to be: open range. The cattle pens hearken to a time when St. Cloud was Florida’s ranching capital.
Passing under the arching limb of a live oak, the trail drops down past the pens and hangs a right. Snake beneath more live oaks, and by a quarter-mile the trail emerges out to cross a open stretch of bright white sand.
Tacking to the right, turning left, the trail works its way into another shady stand of oaks near the road. One is massive, with limbs two-thirds the breadth of the trunk itself.
The hike has that Old South feel, with Spanish moss swaying in the breeze in thick draperies from the limbs of these enormous oaks around you.
The trail curves out of this stand of oaks past a partially fallen one, half its trunk settled down into the sand of the scrubby area that the trail now enters.
Past the fallen tree, the trail makes a right curve through this open, scrubby area where prickly pear cactus grows.
Although the footpath follows the shoreline of Lake Runnymede, the water is not visible, as vegetation is in the way.
A giant bromeliad with a top bigger than a pineapple sits in the leaf litter under one oak. The trail turns left and comes up to a picnic bench at a half mile under another oak, with a similar bromeliad up in the branches above.
The trail passes a fire ring, a wood grill, and another picnic bench, all part of the group campsite.
Posts lead through the open area, past a mound of sand. Getting out of the sun quickly, tack right back into a beauty spot under the oaks with more picnic benches and barbecue grills.
Songbirds, including cardinals and titmouse, flutter between the trees as you zigzag back and forth along the footpath under the oaks, passing a thick clump of saw palmetto.
Beyond another patch of blinding white sand, the trail makes a quick left through a patch of shade, and ducks beneath live oaks with limbs so low they tempt tree climbers.
By 0.7 mile, return to the main entrance and the solar powered privy. Walk past it and continue along the green-blazed Live Oak Trail. This heads into another portion of the live oak forest.
The loop begins quickly, an arrow pointing to the left. The oaks are dense enough that you can’t see the nearby road.
These oaks are younger than those on the other loop but still easily more than a century or two old.
An ornamental palm pokes up between the oaks on the left, a notable change in the forest texture as you walk under the bowed branches of the live oaks. A tall slash pine rises to the right.
Hear the creel of a red-shouldered hawk and see its shadow as it glides overhead. Passing a bench on the left, the trail curves to the right and down an alley of elegant live oaks.
Palms poke up between them. As the trail continues, there is a grassy prairie off to the left as it curves to the right to finish this small loop.
Turn left to exit to the parking area, completing this 0.9-mile stroll.
See our photos of Lake Runnymede Conservation Area
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Named for two ancient live oaks that have long guided anglers to their favorite fishing hole, Twin Oaks Conservation Area protects 399 acres along Lake Tohopekaliga
Hugging the eastern shore of Lake Lizzie, Lake Lizzie Conservation Area encompasses more than a thousand acres along several lakes set among a vast mosaic of prairies, pine flatwoods, and scrub forest
With 1.3 miles of meandering trails through pine flatwoods and along the floodplain of Shingle Creek, the Historic Steffee Homestead portion of Shingle Creek Park makes for an easy family ramble.