Blazed orange as part of a future corridor for the Florida National Scenic Trail, the Swamp Trail at Moss Park exists in the in-between.
It lies in-between Moss Park and Split Oak Forest WEA, a vital connector for visitors at Moss Park, especially campers set up nearby.
It lies in-between on restrictions, in that no dogs or bicycles are permitted on it, even though the first two thirds of it is shown on maps as part of Moss Park.
It also lies in-between Lake Hart and Lake Mary Jane, where waters freely exchange from lake to lake, a natural flow from well before a man-made canal was created for boaters near the Moss Park entrance.
In summer and fall, showy wildflowers make it a compelling walk on its own, although low-lying areas can be muddy or wet.
In all seasons, it helps lead hikers to the best corner of Split Oak Forest, where a cluster of ancient oaks showcase why the forest holds that name.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 1.4 miles round-trip
Trailhead: 28.37073, -81.18856
Address: 12901 Moss Park Rd, Orlando
Fees: $1 per pedestrian/cyclist. $3 for 1-2 passengers, $5 for up to 8 passengers.
Restroom: In the adjoining campground
Land manager: Orange County
Moss Park is open summer 8-8, winter 8-6. No alcohol or pets permitted.
Campers must reserve in advance online. Call directly for pavilion and group camping reservations.
Moss Park is roughly 20 miles east of downtown Orlando. Toll roads provide the easiest access: from Interstate 4 follow SR 528 east past the Orlando International Airport. Take SR 417 south two exits to Moss Park Rd. Follow the road east to its end. Alternatively, for a non-toll route, from Interstate 4 exit 81, follow W Michigan St to SR 15 south. Follow SR 15 through Conway across SR 436 (Semoran Blvd) and SR 551 (Goldenrod Blvd) through Vista East. Pass under SR 528. Turn left on Moss Park Rd and follow it for 4.6 miles. On either route, note that Moss Park Rd makes a 90-degree less than a half mile east of SR 417. Follow the road, which narrows, to its very end, which leads right to the park gate.
Once inside the gates, follow the park road towards the campground. The primary trailhead, with direct access to Split Oak Forest, is on the right just after you start the one-way section of road looping the campground.
Start your hike from the trailhead that lies behind the prominent FNST sign. Orange blazes lead you up a forest road well-shaded by live oaks.
Equestrians may share this road on weekends, when they are allowed to access Split Oak Forest via Moss Park by permit.
An old stone kiosk sits adjacent to the metal gate, which has a pass-through stile on the right. This portal feels a lot like an old entrance to a cattle ranch, and probably is.
The trail itself is like any ranch road: low and high spots, tire tracks from official vehicles, and mud puddles than can get surprisingly deep.
The joy of this hike is not underfoot, but the surroundings. The herbaceous marsh stretches in both directions, sporting seasonal colors.
Red berries come to the dahoon holly in fall and winter, and gentle white fluff blows off the Florida myrtles, a favorite landing place for monarch butterflies.
In late summer and early fall, both swamp sunflowers and coreposis nod along the edge of the marsh.
Pickerelweed is abundant along the edges of open water, with spiky purple blossoms to draw your attention.
The causeway curves within the first quarter mile, providing a different perspective on the marsh. The farther along you walk, the more open water may appear.
It depends on the levels of the two lakes, Moss Park an isthmus between them, this marsh a cradle for bird life. Culverts carry the water beneath the trail.
By 0.4 mile, the trail rises from the marsh to the edge of Split Oak Forest, the line of pines the first clue.
The second clue is the big FWC sign announcing you’ve entered this Wildlife and Environmental Area, where no hunting is permitted.
The trail continues forward, often in deep soft sand, curving towards a junction with the longest loop in the preserve, the Perimeter Trail.
At this junction, the Swamp Trail ends after 0.7 mile at a kiosk with a map. To the right, the orange blazes of the future Florida Trail route lead to the North Loop and the Lake Loop.
To the left, markers lead you on the South Loop of Split Oak Forest WEA and connect to the Cross Trail leading to this preserve’s primary trailhead.
To the right of the kiosk, in the trees, is a live oak of notable size, split in two. While it is not “the” Split Oak that the preserve is named for, it is one of two to the immediate north.
Given its size and unusual nature, it’s well worth taking a peek at even if you hike no farther into Split Oak Forest. Your return trip nets a 1.4 mile round-trip hike.
Learn more about Moss Park and the future Florida Trail Orlando corridor
On a breezy isthmus between Lake Hart and Lake Mary Jane, Moss Park offers superb campsites and picnic pavilions under moss-draped live oaks.
See our photos from the Swamp Trail
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
A live oak tree more than 200 years old is the centerpiece of Split Oak Forest, a 2,000-acre prairie and scrub preserve near Orlando, home to families of sandhill cranes
Overlaid in part on the scenic Bear Island Nature Trail, orange blazes lead across Moss Park to connect hikers with adjoining Split Oak Forest and nearby Crosby Island Marsh.
On an isthmus between floodplain marshes in eastern Orange County, Crosby Island Marsh Preserve provides an easy walk through a ribbon of sandhill habitat.