Orlando Beyond the Roller Coasters – Hike These Scenic Byways!

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9 Scenic Hiking Trails in Orlando, Florida - Flat, Sandy trails, and pine trees in the Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve, one of the hiking trails in Orlando, Florida

You might be heading to Florida for some theme park fun this spring break. Did you know that Central Florida also has tons of hiking trails? When you need a nature fix, check out these top hiking trails in Orlando for a back-to-nature experience.

Florida wetlands parks and nature areas are home to alligators, turtles, and many species of birds. From lakeshore loop trails to shady urban trails, there are miles of trails all over Central Florida.

You don’t have to drive far. Many of Orlando’s best hiking trails are only about a 30-minute drive from theme parks and major attractions. You can hit the trail in the morning and ride roller coasters in the afternoon!

9 Scenic Hiking Trails in Orlando, Florida - View from Lake Eola Loop Trail, one of the hiking trails in Orlando, Florida
Lake Eola Park Chinese Pavilion. Photo credit: Kirsten Harrington

1. Lake Eola Park

This picturesque urban park lies smack in the middle of downtown Orlando. The paved hiking trail is just under a mile long but there’s lots to see. There are great views of the Orlando skyline, swans nesting along the shoreline, and even a Chinese pavilion.

The path is a great place to take photos, let the kids burn off steam at the playground, and stretch your legs. The majestic live oaks and cypress trees provide shade and there are benches if you need to rest. You can even rent a swan-shaped boat and pedal around the lake.

If you hike on a Sunday you can stop at the Orlando farmer’s market afterwards. Downtown also has lots of great restaurants and coffee bars for a post-hike refreshment. My favorite coffee shop is Craft & Common. The orange, cinnamon-flavored Dunes Latte is a must-try!

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9 Scenic Hiking Trails in Orlando, Florida - View of Wekiwa Springs, a natural swimming hole at the start of the Volksmarch Loop Trail, one of the hiking trails in Orlando, Florida
Wekiwa Springs. Photo credit: Kirsten Harrington

2. Wekiwa Springs State Park

The showpiece of Wekiwa Springs State Park in Longwood is the crystal clear springs that form a natural swimming hole in the center of the park. The 72-degree water makes a refreshing post-hike dip. Bring a bathing suit, picnic, and spend the day. Arrive early before the parking lot fills up.

Wekiwa Springs hiking trails include short walks along the wet hammocks to longer, challenging hikes. You might see deer, tortoises, eagles, or bobcats along the trail. The 5.8 Volksmarch Loop Trail meanders past pine trees, sabal palms, and hanging vines for a wild Florida feel.

To turn your hike into a multi-sport adventure, rent a canoe and paddle to Wekiva Island. Gators, turtles, and herons will keep you company along the way. You can stop for a cool drink on the island – just head back before the afternoon thunderstorms.  

9 Scenic Hiking Trails in Orlando, Florida - View of picnic area along the trail at Oakland Nature Preserve, one of the hiking trails in Orlando, Florida
Oakland Nature Preserve. Photo credit: Kirsten Harrington

3. Oakland Nature Preserve

If you’re looking for top-rated hiking trails in Orlando, move the Oakland Nature Preserve high on your list. The scenic boardwalk is lined with lush foliage, and this 150-acre hidden gem is just 30 minutes from Central Florida theme parks.

Stroll along the boardwalk to the edge of Lake Apopka, where you can often see alligators and osprey. I like to visit in the morning when it’s cooler and sit under the peaceful pavilion at the edge of the lake. Check the website for monthly special events, like yoga at the lake and kayaking trips.

The Oakland Nature Preserve is just off the West Orange Trail, a popular biking and walking trail. Rent a bike at Wheel Works in the nearby Winter Garden and ride for about 20 minutes to reach the nature preserve. Explore this charming historic town after your hike and grab a bite at the Plant Street Market. 

9 Scenic Hiking Trails in Orlando, Florida - View of people canoeing near the shore at  Lake Louisa State Park, one of the hiking trails in Orlando, Florida
Lake Louisa State Park. Photo credit: Kirsten Harrington

4. Lake Louisa State Park

Hikers will enjoy the variety of scenic trails, abundant wildlife, and camping along the lakeshore at this state park. You can even make a reservation for “glamping,” where a luxury tent will be set up before you arrive.

With over 4,000 acres, Lake Louisa State Park offers over 20 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails. Cypress trees, live oak, and open prairies provide habitat for bobcats, deer, and eagles.  Looking for something short and sweet? There’s a half-mile nature trail that starts at the parking lot. Pick up a map at the entrance gate and start exploring.

Lake Louisa State Park is less than a 20-minute drive from Walt Disney World Resort, making it an easy outing from the resorts and attractions in Kissimmee. New to hiking? Book a guided hike to learn about Florida’s complex ecosystem.

9 Scenic Hiking Trails in Orlando, Florida - Alligator on the side of the Lake Apopka Loop Trail, one of the hiking trails in Orlando, Florida
Lake Apopka Loop Trail. Photo credit: Kirsten Harrington

5. Lake Apopka North Shore

When I want to hike a few miles mid-week or on a Sunday afternoon, I head to the trails along Lake Apopka. The Lake Apopka Loop trail offers over 20 miles of gravel trails, open for hiking and biking.

You might not have time to visit the Everglades, but you’ll find lots of alligators sunning themselves here. Birds abound too, with over 300 species of birds calling this lakeshore loop home. Bring binoculars, a camera, a hat, and plenty of water – there’s not much shade.

You can access the Apopka Loop Trail from Magnolia Park, which has restrooms and a picnic pavilion. There’s another trailhead with limited parking and restrooms at Green Mountain Scenic Overlook. There’s an observation tower, with open, expansive views over the wetlands and a series of switchbacks down to the trail. Look for wild orange groves on the flat, sandy trails.

6. Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve

This small gem is close enough to Disney that you could go for a hike in the afternoon and be back in time to catch the evening fireworks. With 3.6 miles of gentle well-maintained trails, the Tibet-Butler Preserve is the perfect place to bring the family. Stop at the Vera Carter Environmental Center before you start, or check out the interpretive trail to learn more about this diverse habitat.

Elevated boardwalks and Pine Circle trail wind through pine flatwoods and over wetlands. The Osprey Overlook Trail leads to a small lake where you can look for alligators and native birds. Be aware that after heavy rain the Palmetto Passage Trail sometimes closes due to mud.

9 Scenic Hiking Trails in Orlando, Florida - Views over the water from Cypress Boardwalk at Orlando Wetlands, one of the hiking trails in Orlando, Florida
Cypress Boardwalk at Orlando Wetlands Park. Photo credit: Kirsten Harrington

7. Orlando Wetlands Park

Located in Christmas, Florida, this popular birding spot is a great place to see pink roseate spoonbills, snowy egrets, and black Anhingas drying their wings. The Cypress Boardwalk offers views over the marsh, where you can spot eagles nesting and one of the many alligators that live here. You can also take a tram tour of the Orlando Wetlands if you prefer.

If you have more time, follow the 2.5-mile birding trail which takes you along Alligator Alley, Night Heron Lane, and Otter Boulevard. Berm roads that rim the exterior of the wetlands are open to biking also and offer 20 miles of hiking and riding.

After your wetlands hike, plan to visit Fort Christmas Historical Park. Explore a replica of an 1837 fort, tour eight pioneer homes, a schoolhouse, and an old sugar mill for a glimpse of Florida pioneer life.

9 Scenic Hiking Trails in Orlando, Florida - A bench along the Black Bear Wilderness Loop, one of the hiking trails in Orlando, Florida
Black Bear Wilderness Loop Trail. Photo credit: Kirsten Harrington

8. The Black Bear Wilderness Loop Trail

The Black Bear Wilderness Area sits on the floodplain of the St. Johns River near Sanford and Altamonte Springs in North East Seminole County. You might be lucky enough to see black bears, wild hogs, and otters on this 7-plus-mile loop trail. It can get muddy after the rain, so make sure to wear sturdy shoes. A network of boardwalks and bridges keeps things interesting.

There’s also a shorter option on a shady levee which leads to an observation tower over the St. Johns River. After your hike, make the short drive to Historic Downtown Sanford to explore the antique shops and restaurants.

9 Scenic Hiking Trails in Orlando, Florida - Wooden trellis and bench at the trailhead of Turkey Lake Loop, one of the hiking trails in Orlando, Florida
Bill Frederick Park Turkey Lake. Photo credit: Kirsten Harrington

9. Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake

This is one of the most popular parks in the Orlando area, and the good news is that it’s easy to get to Bill Frederick Park from Orlando International Airport. It’s not as secluded as some other parks, but there are tons of nature-loving activities like fishing, walking paths, and disc golf – there’s even a dedicated area to fly your drone!

Turkey Lake Loop is an easy 2-mile stroll that hugs the shoreline. This paved path is wide enough to accommodate strollers and wheelchairs, making nature accessible for everyone. Campgrounds and cabins are available to rent if you want to extend your stay.

What to bring hiking in Orlando:

Just because you’re near the popular theme parks doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind.  The biggest danger when hiking in Orlando is the heat. Be prepared and stay safe. Here’s what you should bring:

  • Plenty of water and electrolyte solution
  • Snacks
  • Bug spray (Florida mosquitos are no joke!)
  • Sunscreen, a hat, and sun shirt
  • Phone, camera, and a map
  • Close-toed shoes
Kirsten Harrington is an Orlando, Florida freelance food and travel writer. Her work has appeared in Outdoors, Travel Awaits, Edible Orlando, The Beijinger, GoNOMAD, World Footprints, Time Out, Wander with Wonder, Bahamas Air Up & Away, and numerous other publications. When she’s not writing, you can find her scoping out new adventures, hiking or enjoying a meal with her family. Visit www.kirstenharrington.com for more.
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