By Kelsey Hansen, Group Tours and Education Coordinator
Volusia county and the surrounding areas offer a great chance to get out on the trails, whether it is for a day hike or a weekend backpacking. For National Hiking Day we are providing some of our favorite places to hike and explore Florida’s unique and beautiful environment. Happy hiking!
Clearwater Lake to Alexander Springs, Ocala National Forest
Clearwater Lake Trailhead is the original starting point for the Florida Trail. The trail takes you along rolling sandhills, and through longleaf pine forests and sand pine scrub. The total trip is about 10.6 miles and is best hiked in late fall to early spring.
St. Francis Trail, Ocala National Forest
The St. Francis Trail is a 7.8-mile loop, with the option of doing a shorter loop of about three miles. The trail takes you through swamp forests and up through pine flatwoods. St. Francis trail was once home to a thriving river port on the St. Johns River. As you continue on the long trail, you will come upon a rise next to a canal the community used to haul citrus and timber to the river.
Ponce Preserve, Ponce Inlet, FL
Ponce Preserve is a short and easy hike of about 2.3 miles. The trails travel through mangrove forests, maritime hammocks, and out to the Atlantic Ocean. It is great all year around for nature hikes or for bird watching.
Hickory Bluff Preserve Loop Trail, Osteen, FL
Hickory Bluff trail is an easily accessible 1.4-mile loop. The trail provides a great opportunity to observe a sharp transition between two ecological communities, or ecotones. Hikers will start off in a scrubby flatwoods community and will quickly transitions to an oak hammock community. The loop will eventually take you to the St. Johns River.
Lyonia Preserve, Deltona, FL
Lyonia Preserve provides a beautiful protected area that offers a 4.4-mile loop through high sandy ridges and scrub habitat. The preserve was set up by the county to protect scrub-dependent species, such as the threatened scrub jay and gopher tortoise. The preserve also offers an interactive environmental center where visitors can learn about the flora and fauna of the area.
Scrub ridge at Lyonia Preserve, Deltona. Photo Credit: Florida Hikes
Tuscawilla Nature preserve, Museum of Arts & Sciences (MOAS), Port Orange, FL
Tuscawilla Nature preserve features a brief boardwalk hike through one of the few remaining hydric hammocks in Florida. This trail provides a distinctive outdoor experience at MOAS, with the chance to observe migratory birds in the late fall/early winter and learn about exotic species that thrive in this unique environment. The education complex contains over 1/2 mile of boardwalks and nature trails as well as an education center and interactive learning stations.
Tips for first time hikers…
Bring plenty of water and snacks (for longer trails)
Check the map before you venture out
Check the weather
Make sure you go with a buddy
Make sure you wear the right shoes and socks
Choose the right trail based on your fitness level
Leave no trace!
For more resources for first time hikers… check out this article from REI
Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash