Magnificent nature trails showcase the plants and animals of Central Florida
Visitors to The Sunshine State can expect to spend a lot of quality time outdoors. The ecologically diverse region of Central Florida attracts nature lovers year-round. Set out on a day hike into ancient landscapes. Stretch your legs on popular multiuse trails along area lakes and rivers. Spot exotic plants along the way, and always look up: Kissimmee's bird population adds wild colors and songs to the experience.
More than 1,000 miles of scenic trails traverse the state along The Florida Trail. The section of the trail that passes through central Florida and Kissimmee takes serious hikers into the heart of Florida's cattle country and the Kissimmee River floodplain. Pick up the trail at one of 12 trailheads that access 100 miles of natural beauty. At Yates Marsh, stroll through pine forests and open prairie, thickets of palm and open cattle ranches. Hit the trail at the Chandler Slough trailhead and walk under a canopy of live oaks and weave in and out of wetlands. The trail also follows the route of the Kissimmee River and heads through the bird-rich Kissimmee Prairie and by numerous area lakes. See more popular hikes in the area.
Another statewide draw for nature enthusiasts, the Great Florida Birding Trail is a network of 500 trails that crisscross the state. Florida's vast areas of undeveloped land, its multiple habitats and location along many migratory routes make it an ideal location for birding year-round. See nesting wood storks and migratory songbirds seasonally. Herons and wading birds flourish in the wetlands. Graceful whooping cranes and sandhill cranes always stop visitors in their tracks. Bald eagles and wild turkeys are prolific in the area as well. Many of the Kissimmee area's top attractions are featured stops along the trail, including the Disney Wildlife Preserve, Gatorland, Forever Florida and many area lakes and parks.
The Walt Disney Company purchased this former cattle ranch and partnered with the Nature Conservancy to create a 12,000-acre nature preserve near Kissimmee. The goal was to protect endangered species and to restore the land to its natural habitat of longleaf pine savannah and freshwater wetlands. The science behind the project has become an international success story and preservation model for the Florida Everglades. Partnerships continue with Central Florida University and national and regional ecology groups to monitor the plant and wildlife in the preserve.
Visitors are welcome to walk through the preserve along a 2.5-mile loop trail. Native animals and plants thrive along Lake Randall, one of Florida's last undeveloped lakes at the headwaters of the Everglades. Mixed within so many amazing shades of green, spot wood storks roosting in old growth cypress groves, one of the largest populations of bald eagles in the Southeast and other residents such as big-eared bats and gopher tortoises.
Runners and bikers find plenty of area trails to get a quick workout in. Expect flat trails and plenty to catch your eye on your morning jog or bike at area parks. Kissimmee Lakefront Park features a 3-mile paved trail along the shores of Lake Toho. Join a steady stream of walkers and joggers here. Shingle Creek Regional Park's trails take joggers deeper into the woods. Visitors can also bike the longer trails in the area. The Reedy Creek Trail follows Reedy Creek through cypress swamps and pine forests at the headwaters of Everglades. Walkers linger along the boardwalk and shorter nature trails, trying to spot gators, snakes and birds, while paved areas let bikers rack up some quality miles. Another popular course for bikers, the Osceola Loop Trail winds through Kissimmee and St. Cloud and along the banks of Lake Toho.