The Longest Hiking Trail in Florida

Written by Jude Speegle
Published: June 3, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/aimie Tuchman
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Florida is not known for its temperate weather. In fact, Florida is known for being viciously hot at times. It’s not unusual to find Christmas at a balmy 80 degrees, nor is it strange for the temperature to surpass 100 in the summer. What is surprising is how there are still those who will brave the weather and go hiking on the longest trail in Florida without a worry. Yes, Florida is ripe for the hiking enthusiast, full of its own ecosystems to explore. The longest hiking trail in Florida, the Florida Trail, makes its way through many of them.

What Are Some Florida Habitats?

Quiet, colorful sunrise over the Florida Everglades
Florida habitats include coastal, forest, prairie, scrub, and wetlands.

jo Crebbin/Shutterstock.com

The five well-known Florida habitats include:

  • Coastal- This is where the sea meets the land, and not all shorelines look the same.
  • Forest- Find yourself lost within the trees or blocked in by bushy shrubs packed in the trees.
  • Prairie- Long stretches of grassland make up vast swathes of Florida, and they can get swampy when it rains.
  • Scrub- The most critical habitat, scrub, is Florida’s version of the desert. These are sandy areas made of low-lying scrub-like bushes and smaller trees within soft sand.
  • Wetlands- We encroach the most upon the wetlands, which are generally swamps or areas that get flooded regularly and are host to all sorts of life.

Now that we know a bit about the different habitats found along the state of Florida, let’s learn about the longest hiking trail in Florida.

Facts About the Florida Trail

Big Shoals State Park Florida
The Florida Trail is 1,500 miles long.

Michael Rivera / Creative Commons – License

With sweeping boughs of oak trees dangling sleeves of Spanish moss, there is nothing quite like hiking through the wilderness of Florida. The Florida Trail is the longest trail that stays within the confines of a singular state.

Fully titled the Florida National Scenic Trail, this longest hiking trail in Florida is also one of only eleven such named Scenic Trails. According to the United States Geological Survey, the eleven trails are:

  • Appalachian National Scenic Trail
  • Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail
  • Continental Divide National Scenic Trail
  • North Country National Scenic Trail
  • Ice Age National Scenic Trail
  • Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail
  • Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail
  • Florida National Scenic Trail
  • Arizona National Scenic Trail
  • New England National Scenic Trail
  • Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail

The Florida Trail is the only trail recommended for those looking to hike in the winter months because its prime season is October-April. This is due to Florida’s more hospitable climate at this time of year. 

Coming in at a whopping 1,500 miles, the Florida Trail is the longest trail in the state. Much of the other popular trails throughout Florida are just smaller sections of the Florida Trail. It’s made up of the Southern region, the Central region, the Northern region, and the Panhandle region.

There are small loops and areas that locals enjoy traversing regularly throughout those regions.

In 1966 the Florida Scenic Trail was opened to the public and thus began the Florida backpacking adventure. 

Where to Find the Trail

Florida,-,January,17,,2015:,Florida,Trail,Sign,In,The
The Florida Trail has access points all along its length.

Shannon Carnevale/Shutterstock.com

Access to the Florida Trail is just an hour’s ride away in much of Florida. There are many access points all along the trail. There are two huge loops and two spurs to the trail. Loops are where the trail separates at a point and then comes together again. Spurs are smaller trails that branch off the main one and lead to dead ends.

The Florida Trail crosses through many state forests and preserves, which are essential because they help maintain the integrity of nature in a state overrun by people.

Maps are available that shows all the sections of the trail and its access points for the intrepid forester.

Certain sections of the trail are accessible in different manners than just walking, like biking or horseback riding. Here is a list of all areas of the trail:

  • Big Cypress- 38.3 miles
  • Seminole- 56.2 miles
  • Okeechobee- 112.8 miles
  • Kissimmee- 111.3 miles
  • Orlando- 148.0 miles
  • Ocala- 72.3 miles
  • Western Corridor- 241 miles
  • Northeast Florida- 123 miles
  • Suwannee- 74.8 miles
  • Big Bend- 116.2 miles
  • Apalachicola- 77.9 miles
  • Central Panhandle- 99.3 miles
  • Eglin- 98.3 miles
  • Blackwater- 45.5 miles
  • Seashore Dunes- 32.3 miles

With these sections in mind, it’s easy to see the trail’s path through the length of Florida.

What is the Florida Trail Like?

Big,Cypress,National,Preserve.,Tamiami,Trail.,South,Florida.,Usa
The Florida Trail starts with the most demanding section, and then after that is an easy walk.

VIKVAD/Shutterstock.com

It can be challenging for those who don’t live in Florida to picture precisely what hiking in the Sunshine State would look like. Is it just marching along the sands of a beach for three months? No, it’s not.

Going back to the beginning of the article, where we explained the habitats found in Florida’s diverse ecosystem, we can begin to see what a hike through this trail will look like.

People know that Florida is flat; there are competing hills and valleys along this state. It’s primarily easygoing. But since it is more flat in this state, you feel a hill when you get to one. They are apparent against the skyline and can feel like mountains even though they are nothing compared to hills in other states.

The Big Cypress Swamp is where many hikers begin their journeys. Right in the heart of the wetlands. Don’t worry, though, that is the biggest hurdle to jump. After this, you can explore all the other diversity Florida has on top.

You will hike through forests interspersed with the prairie grasslands. Scrub is one of the most common parts of the terrain, and it is a mix of the two previously mentioned. For much of your trek, you will be able to see the sky and land ahead.

The Florida Trail is like no other. It is an all-encompassing, three-month journey that will lead you down a beautiful and satisfactory route without too much challenge.

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About the Author

Jude is a writer both by trade and by heart. They have been writing since a very young age and have eight years of professional writing experience. Passionate about animals, Jude has three birds and three cats.