At the end of a 71-acre peninsula – once an isthmus – between Lake Beauclair and Lake Carlton in the Harris chain of lakes, Trimble Park is an under-the-radar beauty spot of which Orange County should be quite proud.
Ancient oaks line both shorelines and are the main feature in the primary part of the park, the picnic grove and playground at the end of the road where most visitors gravitate. A campground that accommodates both group tent camping and trailers or tents is set around a small cove along the lake. The 1.3-mile loop trail has many shorter options and is easy for all ages.
Length: 1.2 miles
Lat-Lon: 28.765659, -81.652135
Type: Loop with options
Bug Factor: Moderate
Restroom: Yes, at trailhead
While the park is located in Tangerine at the north border of Orange County, it’s address is 5802 Trimble Park Rd, Mt. Dora 32757, and it is much closer to Mount Dora than any other large community. Open 8 AM – 8 PM summer, until 6 PM winter. To reserve a spot in the campground or to reserve one of the group campsites, call 352-383-1993
Directions & Map
Signs lead you from US 441 at Tangerine to the park. The easiest route to follow from the Orlando area is from the intersection of Lake Ola Drive and US 441. Turn left on Lake Ola Drive and continue not quite a mile to Earlwood Ave. Turn left onto Earlwood Ave, which leads into the rural residential area of Tangerine. After 0.7 mile, make a right onto Trimble Park Rd. Entering the park, immediately make a right at the park office into the first parking area, which has a boat ramp and restrooms; park near the playground. Most folks use the parking lot at the end of the road deep inside the park, which is an alternative, but parking here gives you an excuse to walk the entire loop trail system from the entrance.
From the boat ramp parking area near Pavilions 2 and 3, walk up to the playground and keep left to head down the trail, a shaded gravel path. Above you are mature wild citrus trees, dripping with fruit or fragrant blooms at different times of year. Except for the air traffic well overhead, it’s a relatively quiet and peaceful place for a weekday walk. Paralleling the park road, the trail comes to an intersection. Keep right at the fork in the trail. Coots squawk as they dart in and out of stands of pickerelweed in Lake Beauclair. You reach a bench overlooking the water just after you pass another side trail to the left. Walking a short distance, you encounter two benches waiting for you to sit and watch the birds. There are many. Red-winged blackbirds fuss, white ibis pick their way up the little beach and down the trail, and a great blue heron stands in deeper water, intent on fishing. Signage pointing towards the campground indicates you’ve reached the bottom of the loop around the park, and are about to start around its perimeter. Continue straight ahead, passing a picnic table.
Notice how immense the cypresses are along the shoreline of Lake Beauclair. Their limbs attract more birds – don’t be surprised to see ibis, little blue herons, or even an osprey perched overhead. An unsullied view of an undeveloped shore continues as you follow the path. This side of the park seems most abundant in bird life in the morning hours. You hear songbirds in the trees and the chirps and fusses of wading birds in the shallows. Slipping past an abundance of benches, picnic tables, and even a barbecue grill, don’t forget to be alert for alligators. The shoreline is such a gentle slope that an alligator could easily be sunning in the footpath, which stays close to the water. Look for turtles on the logs near shore.
Exotic philodendrons with massive leaves swarm up the ancient oaks as if planted to create a tropical garden across the canopy to the lake’s edge, creating a jungle-like feel. The trail ascends a berm up above the lake. Cabbage palms tower overhead, and moss-draped oaks arc out over the water. The air hums with cicadas, and golden orb spiders have securely anchored their glistening webs across the trees. Headed downslope through a patch of sword fern, you can see the park road off to your left. Keep to the right near the treeline to follow the trail, continuing in the shde of oaks and cabbage palms. You come to a boat ramp with a little observation deck on it. If you’re as fortunate as I was, you might slip right up to a cormorant drying its wings in the sun. The observation point provides a sweeping view down the coast of the peninsula, its cypresses thickly laden in Spanish moss.
The path isn’t as obvious beyond this point, so the smart choice is to follow the shoreline. A fishing pier protrudes into the lake, providing perches for great blue herons and more cormorants. Beneath the wooden pier, a limpkin is picking through the shallows for apple snails. Beyond the pier, another limpkin is busy eating an apple snail out of its shell. Follow the sweep of the lakeshore to a peninsula of the peninsula, a pretty point with benches and swings for contemplating the scenery and a marshy area with many wading birds. It’s this end of the park where the live oaks are particularly regal, and there are numerous picnic benches and pavilions. A great egret stands in a cove. A red-shouldered hawk dives through a curtain of Spanish moss to chase a lizard. Squirrels scamper out of its way.
Continue to follow the shoreline along the marsh with its purple pickerelweed. You can see from the tracks in the mud that alligators frequent this area. As you walk along this shoreline at the half-mile point, you’re circling around the primary focal point of Trimble Park – the picnic area with its shelters and scattered picnic benches with grills, playground, and restrooms amid ancient live oaks with limbs that beg you to climb up into these grand trees. It’s a very peaceful place.
As the shoreline recedes behind a wall of cabbage palm hammock, with American beautyberry sparkling in the understory, you come to a junction with a boardwalk coming over from a nearby picnic shelter and a sign, “Nature Trail.” Continue straight ahead. You’re walking in a corridor framed by cabbage palms and wild citrus trees, with birdsong all around; the breeze off the lakes makes this a cool walk, despite the thickness of the understory. There are many roots underfoot, so be cautious of your footing. Two cardinals flit off the footpath as you come up two slash pines – one living, one dead – the girth of their bases quite massive. As you continue on, notice on the left there’s a tangle of floodplain forest, a swamp with sweetgum and red maple trees. To your right, Lake Beauclair continues. At the next trail junction, continue straight ahead. Overhead, the Spanish moss, oaks, and palm fronds provide plenty of shade; sunlight dapples through the palm fronds across a bench. There are places you can peek beneath the palms and through the understory for glimpses of the cattail marsh along the lake.
At the next junction, signs say “The Point” to the right and “Boardwalk” to the left. Turn right. Wild coffee grows thickly in the understory, a northwesterly point in its range. Oaks reach out over the lake-edge marsh. At the next T intersection, turn right again to continue to The Point. Here, moss-draped oaks shade the footpath as you come up to The Point, which is just that – the end of the peninsula, the meeting place of Lake Beauclair and Lake Carlton through a narrow canal that was dug through this isthmus a long time ago. It’s not narrow enough to cross, but it’s another fine spot for birding, a bench enticing you to sit and enjoy the breeze. Returning down this side trail, continue past the trail you came in on. You might notice some fungi that looks like bright orange circus peanuts poking out of a rotted log. At the trail junction, keep to the right, following the sign that says “Boardwalk.”
You lose elevation as the trail winds through palm hammock. Fungi sprouts from the forest floor, in its glory during the summer months. Air potato is swarming over greenery on the right. On the left is more wild coffee and American beautyberry. You come up to the next trail junction, where there’s a trash can. At this junction, continue forward to the boardwalk, which starts beneath a huge live oak. At 0.9 mile a glider bench sits in the sun, looking out over a profusion of ferns and reeds along the lakeshore. Mosquitoes are less likely to trouble you here in the sun. Large cypresses, some pond cypress but mostly bald cypress, shade this section of the boardwalk as you walk along it, coming to a beauty spot overlooking Lake Carlton. Benches sit on an open platform above the water. Dragonflies dance through the air above cypress knees where apple snail eggs shine a pearlescent pink.
At a junction on the boardwalk, cattails crowd close to the trail. Continue straight ahead. Sunlight pours into gaps in the canopy, illuminating marsh ferns, Virginia willow and elephant ear. To your right is another observation deck with benches overlooking the lake. Passing another junction in the boardwalk, continue straight ahead. A stand of cypresses shades the end of the boardwalk, which faces a small cove. Turn left to walk along this cove, past the kayak launch and through the group campground. This primitive camping area is deeply shaded by oaks and provides picnic benches and fire rings for campers. Pass through the gap in the fence. Circling around the cove, you encounter some fishing platforms with benches above the pea-green cove. Beyond them is the park’s deeply-shaded campground on the other side of the cove. At the “camper’s only” sign, keep left to pass through the next fence gap into the parking area for the group sites.
Walk straight ahead and cross the park road. Just down the slope, you rejoin the original route you followed along Lake Beauclair at one of the picnic areas. Turn right. Following the berm, you get back to the original loop junction. Step off to the left, by the bench, and you’ll see an alternate trail along the lake. It gives you once last opportunity for birding right on the lakeshore as you walk back to the parking area where you started. You end up behind the playground, and complete your hike after 1.3 miles.