Most notable as the northernmost waterway feeding the Everglades ecosystem – via the Kissimmee River and Lake Okeechobee – Shingle Creek rises from wetlands in a part of Orlando buried by the bustle of International Drive. In pioneer times, Shingle Creek was an important link for settlers to the civilized world in Kissimmee. At Historic Babb Landing in Shingle Creek Park, you’ll see one of these pioneer homesteads and take a walk down to the cypress-lined waters of Shingle Creek.
Length: 1.8 miles
Lat-Long: 28.318133, -81.457217
Type: out-and-back and loop
Fees / Permits: none
Bug factor: moderate
Restroom: at the trailhead
Open dawn-dusk. Dogs are welcome.
A variety of hike configurations are possible. Trails are paved, ideal for strollers and wheelchairs. A playground adjoins the historic homestead at the trailhead. A launch point is available for canoes and kayaks, but you’ll need a wheeled cart to get there.
From Interstate 4 exit 68 at Downtown Disney, follow SR 535 (Vineland Road) south for 3.6 miles to US 192; turn left. Drive east on US 192 for 2.7 miles to Old Vineland Road; turn left. After a half mile, turn right at the fork onto Babb Road. Follow it for 0.6 mile to where it ends at the parking area.
Leaving the parking area by using the sidewalk, walk up past the homestead and historic village to the trail kiosk. At the trail junction, turn right. You’ll see trail markers with mileage but they don’t correspond to this route. On the right are large live oaks shading a picnic bench. A line of cypresses in the distance straight ahead marks where Shingle Creek flows through the park.
At the next intersection, there is a bench and a tipped-over live oak. Turn right to follow the main trail as it parallels Shingle Creek. You pass a copse of oaks with ornamental palms growing beneath them. To the left is a broad field of dog fennel, the flat ground stretching down to the floodplain of the creek. There is an unusual array of snags rising from the dog fennel, a place for osprey and hawks to perch.
After a half mile, the next trail junction has a bench on the right and a massive live oak on the left, its crown spread stretching to encompass a picnic table and plenty of space to sit down beneath its branches and enjoy the breeze. A broad boardwalk leads down to the banks of Shingle Creek. Slow-moving but clear, it threads its way between cypress-lined banks upstream to flow gently between the cypresses and red maples downstream.
A blue marker here indicates the start of the blue-blazed paddling trail that connects this park and the Historic Steffee Homestead. Although there is a heavy nutrient load to the water – the tell-tale sign being the thick gunk covering vegetation on the bottom – there are still fish darting about, and a small alligator rests in the shallows. You can see the footprints of raccoons in the soft muck of the creek bank. Despite the wilderness feel of the waterway, the closeness of urban life intrudes with sirens, horns, and traffic noises from nearby US 192.
Turn around and head back to the junction at the large oak tree and turn left to continue along the trail. Cross another large, broad boardwalk over an ephemeral stream. Make a left at this next junction. A rusting barbed wire fence marks part of the old homestead between the path and the tributary.
It just takes a few moments to reach Shingle Creek again, here with a different perspective. As has happened to so many Florida waterways, this portion of the creek has been turned into a canal, the sinuous nature of the swamp replaced with straight lines plowing through the landscape. A landing is on the far side of the creek.
Return to the previous trail junction, which is on the edge of a vast field of orange-tinted chalky bluestem grass. The path straight ahead simply winds through this field to another parking area, so make this your turn-around point.
Turn right and continue over the ephemeral stream and back to the junction with the large oak. Bear left to follow the trail back to the junction with the fallen oak. Here, after 1.5 miles, walk straight ahead over the boardwalk. It provides an outflow for the floodplain in times of high water; you won’t see any water here most of the time. Focus your attention on the tall pines to the right as the boardwalk ends. Look several pines over from the left and well up in the crown of the tree to see an eagles’ nest. In winter and spring, both parents are present, participating in the miracle of raising a new generation. You may only see their heads bobbing up above the tall funnel of tree limbs that comprise the nest, or you might catch a glimpse of one perched above, ready for the hunt.
The trail makes a sharp left turn to follow the oak-shaded property line, and left again at a bench. This straightaway leads you right back past the playground and completes the upper loop. Continue past the historic homestead to exit, completing this 1.8 mile hike