Encompassing a sliver of the vast Partin Ranch along the eastern shore of Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee-St. Cloud, Twin Oaks Conservation Area gets its name from its most obvious landmark from the water.
If you think those two ancient oaks are the only sizable specimens on this former cattle ranch, you’d be wrong. One of several routes possible, this two mile loop threads together hammocks with even larger oaks.
Acquired in 2010, this preserve shows off the glory of habitat restoration. Most invasive species have been removed, so views are expansive across both savannas and the lakeshore.
What was pasture when we first visited in 2014 is now an expanse of pine savanna, young longleaf reaching for the sky.
With two primitive campsites along the loop, the preserve makes for a compelling getaway for youth groups.
The only downside? Airboats. Love them or hate them, you’ll hear them, as access to a launch site at Partin Triangle Park is via a canal running along the southeast side of the preserve.
Resources for exploring the area
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Location: St. Cloud
Length: 2 mile loop
Trailhead: 28.240303, -81.351161
Address: 2001 Macy Island Rd, Kissimmee
Restroom: Composting toilets at trailhead and near campsites
Land manager: Osceola County
Leashed dogs permitted. Equestrians share the trails. No bicycle restrictions are noted, but the trails are largely grassy.
A canoe launch and fishing pier are provided, along with picnic pavilions near the trailhead. Non-potable water is available there from a pitcher pump.
Campsites must be reserved in advance. Call Osceola County Parks weekdays or reserve online.
Following the eastern shore southward, paddlers can connect this preserve with Cherokee Point Conservation Area, where there is a canoe dock in the marshes.
From the intersection of US 441 and US 192 in Kissimmee, drive south on Main Street into downtown. Turn right on Neptune Rd and follow it for 3.3 miles. Turn right on Henry Partin Rd. Make the first left onto Macy Island Rd, which cuts through some huge subdivisions under construction before reaching a gorgeous slice of old Florida, a canopied road. The park entrance is on the left after 1.4 miles. It’s another half mile down the unpaved entrance road to the trailhead loop adjoining the picnic pavilions.
There are numerous ways to tackle the trail system at Twin Oaks Conservation Area, but as we learned, the most scenic loop is closest to the lake.
One trail starts just a little ways down the park road on the left, but it’s there to enable local equestrians to ride on in. Expect to dodge horse poop on this hike.
Follow the concrete walkway from the main parking area in front of the restrooms and pavilion to the graveled path that leads towards the canoe put-in.
Posts in the water block airboats from coming up on shore. Observant hikers will notice other spots along the trail where airboats have come on land, however.
For unencumbered views of Lake Tohopekaliga, it’s worth walking out on both of the boardwalks that branch out from the trail.
It only adds a tenth of a mile to do so, and you’re bound to see wading birds and waterfowl. The first one is a designated fishing pier, with a covered area at the end.
The second boardwalk, an impressive Eagle Scout project, culminates in an open platform with benches that work well for birding.
If you take an 11-o-clock bearing from the platform between the benches across the lake, you can spot the horse stable-sized pavilion and house that mark Cherokee Point Conservation Area.
After leaving the boardwalk, you quickly come to a trail junction. Continue straight ahead, staying near the lake. Following the red route marked on our map below leads you back to this junction.
To the left, the restored savanna is a delight to behold, prairie grasses waving in the persistent breeze. The lake lies to the right.
That first clump of oaks ahead is Twin Oaks. You reach it at 0.6 mile. While it doesn’t look very impressive from a distance, up close, it’s a natural wonder.
Two massive oaks make up the entire canopy of this hammock, heavily laden in Spanish moss. A bench provides a spot in the shade to sit and look out over the lake.
As the trail arcs along the lakefront, it comes up to the next bench at the base of a very large cypress tree.
A line of cypress trees stand behind it, most noticeable as you move on. Expect airboat noise to increase as you draw nearer to the canal that leads to Partin Triangle Park.
The trail seems to end at another massive oak at 0.8 mile, where a bench also sits in the shade, facing the lake.
In fact, the broad grassy path makes a sharp left just before the bench, working its way across open grassland to wind between a gap among a cluster of large oaks.
At 1 mile, reach a junction with a sign that says “Camp Eagle.” Straight ahead is a short dead end to the campsite, which has a picnic table and fire ring and mowed space for tents.
Turning left, you quickly come to an enormous live oak on the right, heavily laden with Spanish moss. Its trunk dips right down to the ground.
Just beyond it is a clearing with a composting privy and a choice of trails. The horse trail to the right avoids the oak hammocks, so we took the left, marked as the hiking trail, to go deeper into them.
The path passes another clearing with a small shelter meant as a kitchen for camp stoves, and comes right up to Camp Osprey, set beneath the live oak canopy.
Passing the picnic table at that camp, the trail breaks through a wall of massive oaks and emerges at the prairie’s edge, making a sharp left.
By 1.4 miles, you’ve left the oak hammocks behind. The horse trail rejoins this trail, only to immediately veer off again to the right to follow a property boundary fence. Stay left.
For the next third of a mile, the trail immerses you in the restored longleaf pine savanna. The pines are young, but we can imagine their future grandeur to mirror what you’d see to the south at Prairie Lakes.
The horse trail merges in again, only to diverge to the right at the next marker at 1.6 miles. Stay left.
One more trail junction comes up a tenth of a mile later, leading through the open prairie towards the trailhead parking circle.
Stay left again, enjoying the prairie immersion with its lake breeze for this final stretch to seal the loop.
At 1.9 miles, the loop ends and you’re facing the boardwalk with the platform and benches. Turn right.
Walk along the gravel path past the fishing pier and canoe launch, passing the open grassy area by the pavilion. Reaching the concrete walk, complete the 2 mile hike.
See our photos of Twin Oaks Conservation Area
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