Five Tips for Hiking in Florida

A common misconception is there is no hiking in Florida, however that could not be further from the truth. There are miles of trail to explore and below you will find five tips for hiking in Florida!

A trail at Colt Creek State Park surrounded by palm trees

1. Change your perspective on hiking in Florida

I think this might be one of the most important tips, especially if you have recently relocated to Florida. When most people think about taking a hike one of the first things, they think about is mountains. I was born and raised in West Virginia which is nicknamed The Mountain State. When I first moved, I made the mistake of thinking beaches were the only way to enjoy the outdoors in Florida. I still can’t believe it took me 4 years of living here before I started hiking in Florida. Don’t make the same mistake I did!

An alligator between the water and the grass basking in the warm sunlight

I wish it would’ve happened sooner, but I am grateful I changed my perspective and started exploring the Florida Park system. Florida has 175 state park sites, 11 national park sites, and 3 national forests. This is in addition to numerous city and county parks as well as nature preserves. There is no shortage of places to go hiking in Florida!

Tree with many visible roots at Sacred Hill in Edward Medard Park

In Florida you can hike along beaches or springs, through mangroves and swamps, across boardwalks and bridges, or enjoy the view from the top of observation towers. The opportunities are endless when hiking in Florida and I am always impressed by the diversity and beauty.

2. Plan to hike Florida during the dry season

While a lot of the United States is bundling up and staying inside during the winter in Florida this is prime hiking season.  November through April is preferred for hiking due to milder temperatures, less precipitation, and fewer insects. This is the opposite of the rest of the country where hiking season peaks during the summertime.

Boardwalk without railing with a tree branch hanging over diagonally.

You can still enjoy a hike from May to October, but you may need to consider a couple extra precautions listed below.

  • Hit the trail early – check the hours the park is open and plan to get there shortly after if you can
  • Bring extra water – during the hotter months you can get dehydrated more easily
  • Limit the total distance of your hike – consider saving your longer hikes for the winter months
  • Check trail conditions for flooding – heavy rains during the summer months lead to more flooding on the trails and some may be impassable depending on the recent amount of rainfall

3. Bug spray and sunscreen are essential for hiking in Florida

Speaking of bugs, even during the winter months you still want to pack bug spray for all your hikes. Mosquitoes, no-see-ums, ticks, and chiggers can all be encountered while hiking in Florida. Insects are often more bothersome during the warmer, summer months, but can still present a problem at anytime of the year.

In addition, anytime you are heading outside you want to wear sunscreen. Florida’s nickname is The Sunshine State for good reason and it is always important to protect yourself. Other items you may want to consider having to ensure you stay safe in the sun include sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen safe clothing.

4. Bring plenty of water and snacks on your hike

While this tip isn’t necessarily specific to Florida, it is still important. Even if I am only going out for a short hike, I always pack water and a couple of snacks in my backpack. In Florida, the weather can be extremely hot year-round, and dehydration can happen quicker than you think. That is why it is important to be proactive to stay hydrated and not wait until you are thirsty to start drinking water. I usually pack at least 1-2 liters of water for any hike. If I am planning a longer hike I will pack more. I also often take my dog hiking and when I do, I will pack double the water. See this post for my tips for hiking with dogs if you want to bring your dog too!

Me holding a dog water bottle while my dog drinks out of it

I always like to have some kind of snack with me and I will usually bring a protein bar or CHOMPS stick because it is something easy to throw in my bag. Many times I don’t end up eating anything, but I’d rather have it with me than feel unprepared. Depending on the distance I have to drive to the park or trail I may also end up eating something on the way home. For more ideas of hiking snacks see this post.

example of hiking snack options including chomps, peanut butter pretzels, mixed nuts, fruit, and protein bars

5. Always pack a raincoat when hiking in Florida

While it is less common to have a sudden rain shower during prime hiking season (November through April) a rainstorm can appear quickly in Florida. One good thing is it can often disappear as quickly as it appears, but it is always better to be prepared.

Two girls smiling on a boat in rain jackets with the hoods pulled up

I always keep a raincoat in my backpack just in case. In addition to a raincoat, hiking in proper footwear is crucial. I recommend something waterproof in case you get caught in a rainstorm, or if you encounter any flooding on the trails. Personally, I love hiking in my Merrell boots.

a picture of my legs and hiking boots taken by me from above while on a trail hiking in Florida

Final thoughts on Hiking in Florida

There are many things to consider when preparing to take a hike, but these are a few of my favorite tips when it comes to hiking in Florida. Planning ahead by preparing yourself as much as possible will help ensure your safety on the trails and ensure you have a positive experience. What did you think of these tips? Do you have any other tips you’ve picked up over the years while hiking in Florida? Comment below and let me know!

Me standing on the edge of a lake with my back to the camera, taking a break while hiking in Florida

Are you looking for new places to hike in Florida? Check out the posts below and plan your next hike!

Hillsborough River State Park
De Leon Springs State Park
Blue Spring State Park
Myakka River State Park
Everglades National Park

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