At the crack of dawn this morning, two groups of backpackers left two significant bodies of water (the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Okeechobee) and headed towards each other on what’s become an annual Florida Trail Association tradition, the Ocean to Lake Hike. I had the privilege to be part of the very first journey several years ago, when we tested out the 72-mile route for its suitability. For more than a decade, volunteers from the Loxahatchee Chapter of the Florida Trail Association have worked with a variety of land managers to make the dream of a broad greenway corridor between the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Okeechobee a reality.
The Ocean to Lake Trail links together a number of shorter trails that have been existence for years through Palm Beach and Martin Counties at Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Corbett Wildlife Management Area, and DuPuis Reserve. You can enjoy any of these trails as a backpacking trip or series of day hikes. After ten years of work, the Ocean to Lake Trail is finally open to the public in its entirety; here are the details.
As a veteran of the hike (who wishes she were out there right now on this beautiful day!) I can vouch for the beauty of the trail, where rare and colorful Everglades wildflowers emerge from the prairie grasses in Jonathan Dickinson State Park and Corbett WMA, where hanging gardens of bromeliads await in the Hole in the Wall, and where you experience the unique by walking between sugar cane fields and stands of banana trees in the agricultural lands near Lake Okeechobee.
It’s an experience worthy of any backpacker interested in the habitats of South Florida. The annual hike underscores the importance of this trail to the local communities, and is your most enjoyable way to take the trek with a group. One of our group called ahead and arranged for a pot of chili to be bubbling at the campsite on the last day out! It was a nice wrapup to two cold days of hiking … you can see me warming my wet socks over the campfire in the photo below.
Take a Hike! Announcements and signups for the annual Ocean to Lake Hike go out each January in the Florida Trail Footprint, or you can check the Loxahatchee Chapter Meetup for details. Space is limited, and you must be a Florida Trail member and an experienced backpacker to attend. Meanwhile, if you want to enjoy a little bit of the trail for yourself, head on over to Jonathan Dickinson State Park and take a walk on the East Loop ! The park is located along US 1 between Tequesta and Hobe Sound.