On its southward flow towards Lake Tohopekaliga, Shingle Creek – the northernmost tributary feeding Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades – winds through what is now some of the densest urban mass in Central Florida. Shingle Creek Regional Park preserves more than 450 acres along its banks, including the Historic Steffee Homestead, a lushly forested park along US 192. With extensive boardwalks amid a cypress floodplain, it’s an oasis of beauty in a busy urban corridor.
Length: 1.3 miles
Type: linear with short loop
Fees / Permits: none
Bug factor: moderate to high
Restroom: at the trailhead
Open dawn to dusk. The trail combines paved surfaces and boardwalks. Pets are welcome. As this is an urban park, you’ll encounter with people walking dogs, pushing strollers, and jogging.
From Thu-Sun, the back gate is open and enables connection to a living history homestead maintained by the Osceola County Historical Society: the Pioneer Village & Museum. Parking is available near the back entrance on those days.
From I-4 exit 68, follow SR 535 (Vineland Road) south for 3.6 miles to US 192; turn left. Drive east on US 192 for 3 miles to the entrance on the right, just past Old Vineland Road.
The parking area adjoins a beautiful farmhouse circa 1911, tucked in under the canopy of old live oak trees. Trails radiate in several directions from the turnaround loop for the parking area. Head towards the picnic pavilion, where there is a restroom and a kiosk with map.
From the kiosk, go straight ahead past historic farm implements and a small sawmill. A concrete trail, uneven underfoot, winds through the forest of slash pine, oaks, and saw palmetto in the understory. On the left, just past the junction with an incoming trail from the right, is the caretaker’s house, circa 1920. Made of cypress, it’s a gorgeous piece of vernacular Florida architecture, with an open-air porch overlooking a waterway and an outdoor kitchen.
The trail continues deeper into the pine woods. Make a left at the next junction, where there is a picnic table off the trail. The concrete path grows broader to lead you through the oak and pine forest, the understory very open. Wild citrus, a legacy left from pioneer days, grows beneath a live oak’s spreading crown. Passing under the large oaks, the trail continues into the floodplain and becomes a broad boardwalk.
At 0.4 mile, there is a junction with a trail to the right. A platform on the left provides a place to watch for birds and look out over a sluggish cypress-lined creek that flows into Shingle Creek. Stand still and you may hear the tap-tap-tap of a downy woodpecker. From the signage, it’s apparent that the boardwalk will eventually be extended farther in this direction. For now, backtrack from this observation platform and turn left to follow the boardwalk towards the Bass Road trailhead, the back gate to this park.
As the boardwalk winds beneath the cypress trees, notice the watermarks on the tree trunks, some as high as three feet. Flooding can occur down Shingle Creek, as it traps an enormous amount of urban drainage. If the boardwalk is underwater, don’t attempt to walk on it. Cypresses surround and shade this walk, with vast masses of marsh fern swarming around their bases. Loblolly bay, red maple, and dahoon holly lend their colorful trunks and leaves to the floodplain forest mix. Slash pines stand in tall columns against the blue sky.
After half a mile, you reach a T intersection with a boardwalk that was once part of an old nature trail. Turn right and take a peek at the detailed interpretive information down this dead-end spur before heading in the opposite direction. Passing a rain shelter, the boardwalk soon ends and becomes a concrete path through the woods again, slipping between the tall pines and clumps of saw palmetto. The Bass Road trailhead is at 0.7 mile.
It is only open Thursday-Sunday, the same days that the adjacent Osceola County Historical Society Pioneer Village & Museum is open and provides a place to park. Before Shingle Creek Regional Park existed, this was the entrance to Steffee Preserve; you can see faint traces of the old nature trail through the woods. If the gate is open, consider wandering across the street to enjoy living history at the Pioneer Village. This is your turn-around point.
Follow the boardwalk back through the cypress floodplain. At the intersection with the observation platform boardwalk, turn left to meander along the broad boardwalk under the pines. After the boardwalk ends, you return to the spot with the creekside picnic table and caretaker’s home. Turn left on this trail to walk among the saw palmetto and slash pines; a smattering of wiregrass grows beneath them. Passing a bench, you can see the park boundary fence on the left, and tall saw palmetto on the right. The trail emerges at the turnaround for the parking area within sight of the Steffee Homestead farmhouse, returning you to your car at 1.3 miles.