When you think of great hiking, central Florida might not come to mind, but it should. Did you know that FL has over 5,000 miles of hiking trails across the state + many nature reserves?
We know the first steps (see what we did there) finding a hiking trail can be the hardest – so we’ve done the work for you + rounded up 14 of Central Florida’s Best Nature Trails around Lakeland and everything within an hour or less.
Gator Creek Preserve
9725 US Hwy 98 N, | Map | 20 minutes from downtown Lakeland | Easy – Moderate | 7 miles of trails, combined | Pro tip: Just around the corner from downtown Lakeland and Publix, this trail is perfect for lazy Saturdays. Get ready to work up an appetite as you stroll under shady oaks and pines.
Colt Creek State Park
16000 national road 471 | Map | 30 minutes from downtown Lakeland | Easy | 12 miles of low traffic loop trail | This trail offers a grassy, padded hike with a cool breeze + shade. DYK past field activities included limestone mining, timber harvesting, citrus production + turpentine?
Lake Kissimmee State Park
14248 Camp Mack Rd. (Lake of Wales) | Map | 1 hour from downtown Lakeland | Moderate | 13+ miles of trailhead | house for Florida’s Third Largest Lakethis state park offers excellent wildlife viewing opportunities, nature trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, and a real “Cow Camp” from 1876.
Lake Wales Ridge State Forest
851 County Road 630 (Antifreeze) | Map | 1 hour from downtown Lakeland | Moderate – Difficult | 11 miles of overlapping trailhead on the Arbuckle Tract | The Lake Wales Forest contains the highest concentration of endangered plants in the continental United Statesso bring your cameras + take your trash with you.
The Gopher Tortoise Gate can be accessed via Loyce E. Harp Park | Map | 12 minutes from downtown Lakeland | Moderate | 8.5 miles of trailhead | This water treatment area transformed into a natural park is reserved for locals and is normally very lively. Just make sure you have proper shoes + enough water, if you plan to do the entire trailhead.
Lakeland Highlands Scrub
6998 Lakeland Highlands Rd. | Map | 21 minutes from downtown Lakeland | Easy | 2.8 miles of sandy soil, grassy trails + boardwalk | It’s a oasis of calm on the edge of the suburbs, perfect for lunch breaksas the trails can last from 30 minutes to 2 hours.
twisted lake meadow
971-999 Ohlinger Rd. (Babson Park) | Map | 1 hour from downtown Lakeland | Easy | 4.6 miles of spartina + boardwalk | Begining with follow a trail in a jeep along the ecotone where scrub + grassland meet, this trail leads you into a series of oak hammocks draped in spanish moss. Pro tip:These trails are quite open so be sure to use lots of sunscreen.
12993 FL 60 (Lake of Wales) | 1 hour from downtown Lakeland | Moderate | 6.2 miles of spartina + boardwalk | Map | Named after the Société Universelle Mining Industrie Commerce et Agriculture a Frenchman (who owned the timber rights to the land), the town of SUMICA was established in 1917, thrived on timber and turpentine. After the pine harvest, the town disappeared in 1927, the remains making it both a ghost town today and largest of the Polk County Environmental Lands.
Hickory Lake Scrub
1628-1698 S Scenic Highway. (Antifreeze) |1 hour from downtown Lakeland | Moderate | 0.7 miles in two loops | Map | Three words: old brush dune. Tread carefully in the deep white sugar sand (beach vibe throughout) and explore rare plants along the trail, which descends to the edge of Hickory Lake.
Peace River Hammock
Mount Pisgah Rd. Fort-Meade | Map | 46 minutes from downtown Lakeland | Moderate | 1.5 miles of shaded grass and trail | The airy path attracts a variety of colorful butterflies + birds. The reward for completing this trail is to reach the bank of the Peace River.
Circle B Bar Reserve
4399 Winter Lake Road. | Map | 17 minutes from downtown Lakeland | Easy | 4.8 miles of trafficked loop trail | Take your time on these trails – there are something new and interesting to see every timeincluding our famous Lakeland giant lizard-like leviathans.
Sherwood Stokes Reserve
7598 Lake Marion Creek Road. (City of Haines) | 49 minutes from downtown Lakeland | Easy | 1 mile of white sugar sand, brush + moss | Map | With 70+ bird species, it is a paradise for bird lovers. You will be in a nest with tall cabbage palms that reach for the sky + breathtaking views of Lake Marion Creek.
Reserve Marshall Hampton
Marshall Hampton Reserve, 3115 Thornhill Road. (Winter Haven) | Map | 20 minutes from downtown Lakeland | Easy – Moderate | 7+ miles of shaded + unshaded trails | Nestled just across from Circle B, this reserve offers a trail for everyone.
Hillsborough River State Park
Hillsborough River State Park, 15402 US-301 (Thonotosassa) | Map | 38 minutes from downtown Lakeland | Moderate | 9.8 km round trip and two loops | If you are looking for an adventure, you might want to consider this state park. Nature trails, rapids, swing bridge, fishing area + pedal boat rental are locatedclose to the convenience of downtown Tampa.