When you think of Orlando, Florida, does the topic of hiking trails come to mind? I’d doubt it, at least not for most people anyway. I’m sure many would agree that Orlando is more famous for certain other attractions and features than for its hiking trails.
However, there are many wonderful hiking trails in the Orlando area for hiking enthusiasts to enjoy… which makes this the perfect family friendly destination. It’s literally got something for everyone! So today, we’ll tap into 11 wonderful hiking trails near or in the Orlando area, guaranteed to provide you with a great outdoor adventure.
When it comes to hiking, many people would ask, “Why Orlando”? If you’re not from the area, there are a lot of attractions to visit when in Orlando, in between hiking adventures. The most notable ones would be Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios, and Island of Adventure, Kennedy Space Center, Aquatica Park, and LEGOLAND Florida. There’s plenty to see while in Orlando.
When considering what constitutes one of the “best” hiking trails, one should consider a few key factors:
Other factors could include accessibility of the hike, parking ease, and surrounding services or businesses nearby.
Some of the best hiking trails I’ve been on had a lot of nature surrounding them. I personally love shady hikes among many trees. Another thing I enjoy is being able to see nice views and also animals and birds nearby. Hikes that feature these aspects for me are the most enjoyable.
Key Benefits of Hiking (Physical and Mental)
There are definitely some wonderful benefits of hiking, both in the physical sense and mental as well. Here are some key benefits of hiking:
Now that we’re on the same page about what to look for and gain from a hike, here’s my list of some of the best hiking trails in and around the Orlando, Florida area. Some of these are well-known while others are more hidden gems. Many of these are paved trails and in the city, while some are more rural and outdoorsy.
1. Orlando Urban Trail
The Orlando Urban Trail is located in and around Downtown Orlando. It is considered to be the main hub of Orlando’s network of trails. The trail itself is about three miles long with a width of 12 feet across. The majority of the trail is an off-street path, made of concrete and asphalt. It is one of the most urban and scenic hikes in Orlando, due to its close proximity to downtown.
The trail runs from Lake Highland into Loch Haven Park and extends to Mead Garden in Winter Park. Highlights include connections to six lakes, and to Orlando Cultural Park. It also connects to the Gaston Edwards Trail.
2. Split Oak Forest Hiking Trail
The Split Oak Forest trail is found in an area of wilderness conservation land east of Orlando in nearby Osceola County. There are extensive trails throughout the entire park for hiking and exploring. The prairie and scrub-type habitat is home to a number of wildlife species.
Expect to see gopher tortoises, fox squirrels, woodpeckers, butterflies, sandhill cranes, kestrels, eastern indigo snakes, and various songbirds during your hike along the trails. Split Oak Forest is a natural habitat for these creatures and numerous others. You’ll enjoy the feeling of natural beauty during this hike.
For more information, check out this article about Split Oak Forest Hiking Trail here.
3. Mead Botanical Gardens
Mead Botanical Gardens is a scenic oasis, which includes a butterfly garden, a boardwalk, an amphitheater, as well as a diverse display of Florida’s ecosystems. Its one-mile path makes for a wonderful hike with loved ones, friends, and pets. Just be sure they are leashed!
The trails are set on 48 acres and provide excellent opportunities for birdwatching, geocaching, and identifying different types of plants. There are a number of shaded areas with benches and areas of grass suitable for picnicking or just resting. Free admission and accessible on-site parking help make this a fun day hike.
For more details, visit meadgarden.org.
4. Black Bear Wilderness Area
Black Bear Wilderness Area is a rustic, nature-filled hiking area. There are approximately 1600 acres of trails and boardwalks wind through wetland habitats very close to St. Johns River. This public land is a wonderful setting for viewing white-tailed deer, swallow-tailed kite, and even the Florida black bear. There is a 7 +-mile loop trail that follows St. Johns River.
This is not a simple, scenic hike. Be forewarned, you will be facing slippery, uneven terrain that requires hikers to move slowly. You also may not want to visit if the St. John’s River is in flood stage. Pets are welcome to tag along if they are leashed. There are no restroom facilities, so be prepared for that.
More information can be found here: seminolecountyfl.gov
5. Wekiwa Springs State Park
Wekiwa Springs State Park is only a half-hour from downtown Orlando and well-worth the drive. Only $6 for a carload of people to enter, it offers shorter 1-mile treks and hikes all the way up to 13 miles in length. The longer option makes for a great walking workout.
While at Wekiwa Springs, expect to encounter a variety of outdoor creatures including whitetail deer, gopher tortoises, wild turkeys, and numerous other birds. You may even spot the occasional bobcat or black bear. The part is also pet inclusive and there are places to swim and kayak.
Visit floridastateparks.org to learn more.
6. Pine Island East Trail Loop
This 3.4-mile loop trail is generally considered by most to be an easy route. Most people find it takes an average of an hour to an hour and 15 minutes to complete. This is a popular hiking trail for bird watching and mountain biking, so you’ll likely be sharing the trail with others. This trail is open year-round and is a wonderful hike regardless of the season. Dogs are welcome but must be leashed.
For more information about this awesome hike, please visit this website.
7. Hal Scott Preserve Yellow Blaze Trail
This 8.9-mile trail loop is located in the middle of Orlando. This trail is considered an easy to moderately challenging hike. It takes an average of just over three hours to complete. This trail is wonderful for birding, fishing, and camping. It’s unlikely you’ll encounter very many other hikers while there. This is a year-round trail and it usually has great weather any month you visit.
For details and directions, please visit St. Johns River Water Management District.
8. Cady Way Trail
Cady Way Trail is a longer trail compared to most on this list. It’s 13.1 miles but also rated as pretty easy to do. It’s paved and shady in most areas. There are plenty of parking areas throughout the trail and the grade is 5% or less along most sections. Located right in Orlando, this day hike is very picturesque and you will see much of the beauty of Orlando.
Expect the trail to be moderately crowded, as it’s a popular scenic hike right in Orlando.
9. Three Lakes Loop
If you’re looking for a breezy hike that takes you around a lakefront, this is the trail for you. Three Lakes Loop is often mentioned in lists of the best places to hike in Orlando, notably for the view. Like most popular Orlando-area trails, this one surrounds several bodies of water, allowing for spotting wildlife throughout any season.
This 5.3-mile looping trail is a wonderful choice for beginners and children. However, dogs are not permitted on the trail. This trail is unique in that it is a sandy trail that allows you to feel like you’re hiking to the beach but still close to Orlando. It may inspire you to visit one of the many beaches in and near Orlando.
For more information, check out this website about Three Lakes Loop.
10. Lake Lizzie Marsh Loop
Most locals are familiar with the Lake Lizzie Conservation Area, which offers a variety of hiking and equestrian activities. There is now a 1.7-mile trail that is being featured in the best hikes in Orlando’s list. Despite its name, the trail isn’t actually marshy. But be sure to bring along the bug spray and some closed-toed shoes.
This trail is free to get in, but if you want to camp in the area, you’ll need to purchase a permit. The park is open from dawn to dusk. Pets are welcome, provided they are on a leash.
For more details about this awesome hiking trail and camping area, please check out this link.
11. Lake Baldwin Park Loop
This is another terrific urban hiking trail near Orlando. The 2.5-mile Lake Baldwin Loop is quite a popular choice among locals for hikes along the water. This paved trail loops around considerable foliage featuring all types of flora and fauna. Similar to the Orlando Urban Trail, there are food choices at Baldwin Park if you’re hungry after the hike.
This trail has wheelchair-accessible parking spaces and is suitable for both wheelchairs and strollers. Dogs are welcome on this trail while being leashed.
For more info and directions, visit this website.
Final Thoughts on the 11 Best Hiking Trails in Orlando, FL 2023 Edition
Whether you live in the Orlando area, or plan to visit soon, you won’t be disappointed with any of these 11 awesome hiking trails in and around the area. Honestly, it makes Orlando that much more appealing! Options are key for any great vacation.
Hiking is a fun, family-friendly, healthy activity that can easily be enjoyed by those of all ages. In fact, many are pet-friendly and offer other activities to go along with the hiking aspect of them… making them a perfect day out!
And if you want to increase your stamina and build strength, you can try rucking some of these trails for a tougher workout. It’s fairly easy to get started and has lots of benefits for your body!