Millions of visitors come to Florida each year to visit Walt Disney World. You’ll walk many miles around each of the theme parks and between the resorts. For those who contact us looking for immersion in Florida’s wild places outside the park gates, here are our picks for the best day hikes within an easy drive of Walt Disney World.
We chose these hikes based on the quality of the hike and ease of access via a major highway. Some are better for families, some better for couples or solo hikers looking for a truly wild experience. Read through the descriptions to choose the best fit for your family!
- Bill Frederick Park- Inside the city of Orlando, the urban Bill Frederick Park has a wild side, too, with more than 2 miles of trails to meander through scrub forest and along Turkey Lake.
- Crooked River Preserve- On a 1.7-mile loop, Crooked River Preserve showcases a wide variety of habitats in a short hike on the northernmost extent of the Lake Wales Ridge in Clermont
- Disney Wilderness Preserve- Managed by The Nature Conservancy, the Disney Wilderness Preserve is a 12,000 acre showcase for habitat conservation amid growing suburban sprawl south of Orlando
- Florida Trail, Bull Creek WMA- Providing a 20.5 mile loop for backpacking amid open pine savannas and prairies, the Florida Trail at Bull Creek WMA is a popular destination.
- Gatorland- Gatorland is not just a historic Florida attraction but an immersion into what this part of Central Florida used to be, a cypress swamp full of critters.
- Hal Scott Preserve- At Hal Scott Preserve, enjoy vast prairies and seepage bogs, the Econ River, and camping under a live oak canopy—within minutes of the Orlando International Airport
- Historic Babb Landing- Take an easy walk to Shingle Creek at Historic Babb Landing along a family-friendly trail with great opportunities for birding and outdoor play.
- Lake Louisa Hiking Trail- Extending between the park entrance and the recreation area along Lake Louisa, the Lake Louisa Hiking Trail showcases the habitats found along and above the lake.
- Lake Louisa State Park- As longleaf pine reaches for the sky, the rolling hills of Lake Louisa State Park near Clermont return to their forested roots. This undulating landscape - part of the Lake Wales Ridge - was once managed as a ranch, with citrus trees and cattle replacing natural habitats.
- Lake Runnymede Conservation Area- Ancient live oaks provide a tightly knit canopy over the 0.9-mile trail system at Lake Runnymede Conservation Area, a 43 acre urban preserve.
- Oakland Nature Preserve- Protecting more than 128 acres along Lake Apopka, Oakland Nature Preserve offers an accessible boardwalk through marshes to the lake and uplands trails to explore.
- Reedy Creek Swamp- At the Osceola District Schools Environmental Study Center, trails along Reedy Creek Swamp showcase the beauty of the ancient cypress and floodplain forest.
- Shingle Creek Steffee Homestead- With 1.3 miles of meandering trails through pine flatwoods and along the floodplain of Shingle Creek, the Historic Steffee Homestead portion of Shingle Creek Park makes for an easy family ramble.
- Split Oak Forest WEA- 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.
- Tibet-Butler Preserve- A wildlife haven within earshot of Walt Disney World, Tibet-Butler Preserve provides 3.6 miles of well-kept and gentle hiking trails for family fun.
- Triple N Ranch- Vast pine savannas and pitcher plant bogs await at one of the toughest loop trails in the Orlando area a 7.5-mile challenge at Triple N Ranch WMA.
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If you’re staying on property at the Mouse’s house, take a boat ride over from the Contemporary Resort to Fort Wilderness Resort to wander their miles of paved trails through the campground.
Outside Walt Disney World boundaries, you can hear the train whistle from the Magic Kingdom at Tibet-Butler Preserve, an excellent destination for families near Lake Buena Vista. Headed south, on weekends you can walk the boardwalk and trails at the Osceola Environmental Center in Poinciana to see the cypress-lined banks of Reedy Creek. A few miles beyond is the Disney Wilderness Preserve, so named since The Nature Conservancy was able to preserve this palmetto prairie and it’s cypress domes with funds provided by Disney.
Following US 192 east towards Kissimmee, look for a hike at the Osceola County Historical Society on Bass Rd – the half-mile loop trail is in the Shingle Creek Regional Park: Steffee Homestead across the street – and at Shingle Creek Regional Park: Babb Landing nearby. Peghorn Nature Park is the heart of St. Cloud but is not open Sundays. Gatorland is an attraction that has been around more than 50 years. It will get you up close to native Florida wildlife and it has an excellent boardwalk trail for families to explore a cypress strand.
For much longer and more rugged day hikes, continue east to Lake Lizzie Preserve (which is very open and marshy), Triple N Ranch, Bull Creek WMA, and Prairie Lakes WMA, the latter two with segments of the Florida Trail. If you can only do one rugged hike in the region, Triple N is a toughie and will take all day, especially if it’s wet.
To the northwest, Clermont offers four day hikes. Explore the lower, easier portion of the trail system at Lake Louisa State Park between the lake parking area and the stream through the park. Nearby Crooked River Preserve lets you walk through scrub to the lake’s weird cypresses; up the road. On the opposite side of the river is Palatlakaha River Park with its short loop trail. The Florida Scrub Jay Trail is an effort to restore this rare bird’s habitat on private land.