Florida, the sunshine state known for its beautiful beaches and warm weather, may not be the first destination that comes to mind when discussing hiking. However, contrary to popular belief, Florida offers outdoor enthusiasts great hiking opportunities.

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One of the main reasons Florida is often overlooked as a hiking destination is its lack of dramatic landscapes and towering mountains typically associated with traditional hiking trails. Instead, Florida’s terrain mainly consists of flat land and wetlands. While this may seem unappealing, it offers unique and diverse ecosystems to explore on foot.

The Sunshine State boasts over 170 state parks and preserves that span nearly 800 square miles of land. These parks offer various difficulty levels for hikers, ranging from beginner-friendly boardwalks to more challenging backcountry trails. Some notable examples include Everglades National Park, Ocala National Forest, Big Cypress National Preserve, and Myakka River State Park.

Everglades National Park is a must-visit for any hiker looking to experience some of Florida’s most iconic nature spots. The park offers several well-maintained trails that take visitors through picturesque views of mangrove forests, sawgrass prairies, and freshwater marshes teeming with wildlife such as alligators and tropical birds.

Everglades National Park

For those seeking a more secluded hike away from tourist crowds, Ocala National Forest has numerous backcountry trails that lead deep into pine forests dotted with crystal-clear springs perfect for cooling off after a long trek. This forest also features several primitive campsites along its trails where hikers can spend the night under starry skies surrounded by nature.

Ocala National Forest

Big Cypress National Preserve provides an immersive experience with its vast swamplands filled with cypress trees draped in Spanish moss. Hiking here feels like stepping back in time as you navigate through ancient hammocks (small islands) covered in thick foliage while looking for elusive creatures like the Florida panther.

Big Cypress National Preserve

Myakka River State Park is another popular choice among hikers, offering land and water trails to explore. The park’s canopy walkway takes visitors above the treetops for a unique perspective of the surrounding wetlands, while its wilderness preserve offers challenging hikes through oak hammocks and marshlands.

Myakka River State Park

Aside from these well-known hiking destinations, there are also lesser-known gems scattered throughout Florida waiting to be discovered by adventurous hikers. For example, Torreya State Park in North Florida boasts a rugged hike that leads up to the highest point in the state, offering stunning views of the Apalachicola River. Meanwhile, in Central Florida, the Lake Louisa State Park offers a variety of trails that take hikers through rolling hills, pine forests, and lakeside views.

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