A crowd was forming around our table after Richard Louv spoke about nature deficit disorder at the “No App for That” event in Orlando. One young lady picked up our list of trails in the Orlando area.
She said, “I can walk down a paved path, or I can follow a boardwalk until the very end. But then there’s dirt. I’m afraid to step into the dirt and keep going. I’m here because I don’t want my children to be afraid of the woods.”
And you shouldn’t be, either. Florida IS different, but just like anywhere else, there are plenty of places to take a hike here and get comfortable with our outdoors.
Both of us were introduced to the outdoors at a young age. Sandra started hiking with her parents as a toddler. John played in the woods and learned to backpack as a Boy Scout.
The skills we learned as kids we still use to this day. Which is an important reason to take your kids with you!
Getting Ready For A Hike
Before you head out on your first hike, you need to know what you’re physically capable of. Can you walk a mile? Two? Ten?
As an adult, Sandra didn’t tackle any trails over four miles until she joined a group of friends on an eight mile hike. After that, it didn’t scare her to try 10, 12, 15, and even 20 miles in a day.
But if you’ve never hiked before, start with short hikes.
Before you go, you should also figure out where you are going and find a map for it. That’s where this website can be very helpful.
We have dozens of different categories under which the trails on this site are filed, and you can dig through them. Are you looking for somewhere scenic, or fabulous wildflowers? Do you want to take your dog along?
Some parks, especially state parks, require an entrance fee. Permits are needed to hike on certain lands, like Eglin Air Force Base.
Permits and Passes
Details on how to obtain passes and permits for Florida’s public lands, including Florida State Parks, State Forests, Wildlife Management Areas, National Federal Lands, and Eglin Air Force Base.
There are safety considerations for hiking, too. You need to be just as aware of your surroundings when you’re on the trail as you would be on a city sidewalk.
It’s also important to know if where you’re planning to go is open to hunting when you intend to be there.
Hike Safe When Hiking Alone
Hiking solo? Here are suggestions how to watch after your own personal safety when you walk in the woods or on urban trails alone
Hiking During Hunting Seasons
Florida’s hiking season is also the prime season for hunting in Florida. Be aware of where you’re hiking – many public lands permit hunting – for your personal safety.
Don’t want to hike alone? Meetup groups around Florida offer group hikes. There are also chapters of the Florida Trail Association that welcome new hikers and offer guided hikes.
Going with a group or with friends is a great way to tackle your first real hike. Make sure it’s a distance that you feel comfortable with.
Find People To Hike With
One of the best digital tools for connecting with fellow hikers, Meetup.com provides a treasure trove of organized groups for you to join and get out on a hike this hiking season.
Take An Easy Hike
The easiest way to get comfortable with Florida’s outdoors is head for a city or county park near you. This is easiest to do in urban areas like Orlando, Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville, Naples, and Pensacola.
Look for parks listed as nature parks or as having nature centers. These types of parks offer paved trails and boardwalks, a good starting point if you’ve never hiked before.
Most Florida State Parks also offer interpretive nature trails which are very short in length.
If you are a slow walker or use an assistive device such as a wheelchair, you’ll be glad to know that Florida offers a bounty of accessible trails with graded surfaces.
Select a trail that’s less than a mile for your first time out, just to get used to walking in the woods.
Remember, Florida IS different! You’ll find out how on our “Florida 101” page, which includes information about plants, wildlife, insects, and more.
Take A Day Hike
Taking a longer hike means you need to prepare more thoroughly before you go, no matter whether you walk 2 miles or 12 miles in one day.
Before you go, you need to prepare a daypack with certain essentials: enough water for the trip, food for the day, a small first-aid kit, and more.
How to Pack for a Florida Hike
The Ten Essentials and More: a checklist for items to bring when day hiking and backpacking in Florida, to plan for the differences you’ll encounter in Florida’s unique conditions
Day Hikes in Florida
Explore Florida on the best loop and linear day hikes of 1 to 15 miles
Take An Adventuresome Hike
Once you’re comfortable with a long day hike, you might be up for a bit of adventure. Florida certainly has it!
Try tackling portions of our National Scenic Trail, the Florida Trail, as day hikes. While the trail stretches 1,400 miles across Florida, there are hundreds of trailheads with opportunities for rugged day hikes.
The Florida Trail
Spanning more than 1,400 miles from Pensacola Beach to the edge of the Everglades, the Florida Trail is our statewide National Scenic Trail. Discover the hundreds of hiking opportunities it offers statewide.
One of the wildest and most wonderful aspects to hiking in Florida is the availability of swamp walks through many habitats in Florida. These are best done with friends or with a guided group.
And don’t forget Florida has hills, too. We may only have a few hundred feet of elevation across the state, but hilly hikes can be a lot of fun.
Get wet in the wilds of Florida with these lengthy wades on trails through swamps
Hilly Trails in Florida
Head for the hills! Get some elevation on your next hike or bike ride with these Florida trails that offer hilly terrain, either on rolling hills topped with forests or along abrupt bluffs and dunes.
Backpacking means heading out to the woods and camping overnight (or longer) with all that you need – a shelter, kitchen, food, bed – carried on your back in a pack.
John learned how to do so in Boy Scouts, and earned his 50 Mile patch on a backpacking trip on the Florida Trail. Sandra’s family didn’t backpack, so she didn’t even try it until her 35th birthday. It was certainly a learning curve!
That’s one reason that you should borrow or rent gear before you buy gear. Good backpacking gear is expensive, so you need to know that you actually enjoy backpacking before you commit to the cost of it.
It helps to have supportive friends and mentors when you first get into backpacking. It will take many years of trial and error to assemble the perfect set of gear for you.
Everyone’s needs and wants are different when they head into the backcountry. Only you can figure out the correct balance of weight (what you can carry) to comfort (what you feel you need to take with you).
Backpacking: The Weight Of Things
Planning a backpacking trip? One thing to consider – very carefully – is what things weight vs. their importance to you, especially on a trip of more than a week.
How To Prepare For A Backpacking Trip
What does a hiker need to spend a week, or a month, or three months on the trail? Here are trail-tested suggestions for backpacking in Florida for trips of a week or more
How To Pack For A Backpacking Trip
How do you pack for a Florida backpacking trip? In this video clip from How to Do Florida on how to prep for a backpacking trip, Sandra shows Chad Crawford what she carries in her backpack and why.
Choosing backpacking gear can be a little overwhelming, especially when it comes to the big, important items such as your tent, your sleeping bag, and your backpack itself.
Keep in mind that your knees will be happier the less weight you carry. But don’t sacrifice comfort for weight until you’ve gotten proficient with living outdoors.
Couples and Backpacking
There are many pluses to backpacking as a couple. Having a compatible partner smooths out a lot of logistical worries and reduces the weight you need to carry.
Backpacking With Your Kids
How to Do Florida TV host Chad Crawford takes his daughter on a backpacking trip on the Florida Trail. Let him inspire you to plan your next family adventure!
We’re Florida authors, so of course we want you to read our hiking guides!