Sitting atop the ancient dunes of the Lake Wales Ridge, the Lake Wales area in Polk County is rich with outdoor recreation opportunities. Given the mix of state parks, county natural lands, wildlife management areas and state forests, it’s no wonder that protection of this biologically fragile region means plenty of places to explore.
Trails and Parks near Lake Wales
- Bok Tower Gardens - Atop one of the highest hills in the Florida Peninsula, Bok Tower Gardens is one of Florida's most spectacular landscaped gardens, “something to appeal to both man and animal, a meditative place,” as envisioned by Edward William Bok in the 1920s.
- Buster Island Loop - The 6.9-mile Buster Island Loop at Lake Kissimmee State Park is a favorite for both day hikers and backpackers, as it shows off a variety of habitats along the open prairies
- Catfish Creek Preserve State Park - On the ridges at Catfish Creek Preserve State Park, some steep as a ski slope, these elevated slivers of blinding white sand are some of Florida's most ancient hills.
- Catfish Creek Preserve Trails - Allan David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park isn’t just “a perfect example of Lake Wales Ridge Scrub,” it’s a landscape unlike any other you’ll find in Florida.
- Crooked Lake Prairie - With an interlinking network of loop trails, Crooked Lake Prairie is a refreshing excursion into habitats found on the high hills of the Lake Wales Ridge
- Florida Trail, Kissimmee - 105.7 miles. Following the Kissimmee River floodplain, this is a scenic section of the Florida Trail with a mix of levees, shady woods, river views, open prairies, and cattle ranches.
- Lake Kissimmee State Park - Deep in the heart of Florida's heartland, ranching heritage lives on at Lake Kissimmee State Park, home of the 1876 Florida Cow Hunters Camp.
- North Loop and Gobbler Ridge Trails - The lesser used of the two long loops at Lake Kissimmee State Park, the North Loop leads you through shady oak hammocks to pine flatwoods above the scrub-lined shore of Lake Kissimmee
- SUMICA - With up to 6.2 miles of trails - many of them a bit wet - SUMICA is one of the natural lands in Polk County where birding is especially superb.
- Tiger Creek Preserve - Edward Bok called it "The Jungle," this deeply folded landscape between Tiger Creek and Patrick Creek south of Lake Wales now protected as Tiger Creek Preserve. Explore its fascinating ridges and valleys along this 6.3-mile linear hike between its trailheads, one of many hiking options possible.