How to plan a visit to Florida State Parks

It took me almost 3 years of living in Florida to realize how much there was to explore in Florida State Parks. If you are interested in exploring Florida State Parks, but you aren’t sure where to start keep reading for how to plan your next visit to a Florida State Park!

Boardwalk trail inside Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

How many Florida State Parks are there?

There are 175 Florida State Parks, Trails, and Historic Sites. The parks vary and may include beaches, gardens, history and cultural experiences, springs, rivers, lakes, trails, wilderness, and more. The largest Florida State Park is Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, and the smallest is Fernandina Plaza Historic State Park.

A map of the Florida State Parks with colored pencil shading for the parks I have visited.
Map of the Florida State Parks I have been to as of March 2022

Where can I find information to plan a visit to a Florida State Park?

There are many resources to utilize to plan a trip to a Florida State Park. Below are four resources I frequently use to find information before I visit a new park.

1. Florida State Park Website

The Florida State Park website is invaluable when researching parks to explore. You can search the parks by type of park, experiences, and amenities. You can also search the map if you prefer to search by location.

The Florida State Park website will have basic information including address, hours, fees, experiences, amenities, a map, and frequently asked questions. This is a great place to start your search when you are planning to visit a new park.

A screenshot of the Florida State Parks website navigation window.

2. Instagram

Instagram is useful to see pictures and popular activities in various Florida State Parks. In depth information can be limited due to word limit count and type of content shared, but it can be a great starting point to get an idea of some of the parks you might be interested in visiting.

I have a few favorite Florida accounts that I follow that regularly post relevant content. Two of the accounts I recommend following are Florida State Parks (@fl.statepark) and Florida State Park Foundation (@floridastateparkfoundation). Additionally, you can search any state park by location and see some of the top posts.

I don’t usually rely on Instagram to provide a lot of information, so I don’t focus a lot of my efforts on Instagram when researching a new park. However, I do use Instagram to learn about new places to add to my ever-growing Florida Bucket List so I wanted to include it on this list.  

A screen shot of my instagram page Florida_on_foot

3. Blogs

This might be a shameless plug for my own blog, but I also search for other Florida bloggers when I am planning a new park visit. One of the reasons I love reading blog posts before I visit a park is there will usually be little details that can make your visit more pleasant that can’t be found on the Florida State Park website. Bloggers provide their personal perspective by sharing from their own experience.

Blog posts are created to help answer questions that you might not be able to find elsewhere. Below are some examples of questions you might find the answer to in a blog post.

  • Where to park for a certain attraction or section of the park
  • Must see activities in the park
  • What entrance to visit for parks with multiple entrances
  • Day or weekend itineraries
  • What other parks or activities are nearby and are worth checking out 
A screnshot of the homepage of my blog Florida on Foot

4. All Trails

If you are specifically interested in hiking in the Florida State Parks, All Trails is an excellent app to download. There is a free version that allows you to research and save trails, but you will not be able to download the trail maps for offline navigation. If you hike on well-marked trails where you have cell phone service, the free version is generally sufficient. However, for more remote hiking the paid version allows you to download the map to use even if you lose cell phone service and is worth considering.

A screenshot of the All Trails app trail information

Information provided on All Trails:

  • Trail maps (including routes that combine multiple trails)
  • Distance
  • Elevation gain
  • Route type
  • Reviews
  • Photos
A screenshot of the All Trails app with the trails at Hillsborough River State Park

One thing I really like about All Trails is if people have recently written detailed reviews, you may be able to get an idea of current trail conditions. I will frequently browse the reviews a few days before a planned hike to see if there is any useful tips or comments. Always check the date on the reviews and remembers that reviews are only as accurate as those that leave them. I also always try to leave a review after I complete a trail to help other hikers know what to expect!

A screenshot of the All Trails app showing the reviews you can read.

Where can I find events at Florida State Parks?

When you want to plan a visit to a Florida state Park, but are also interested in the ability to meet other people here are a couple ideas to find events or group hikes.

There are several hiking and paddling groups on social media. I have found groups mostly through Facebook and Meet Up. This allows you to connect with other people with similar interests as well as provide a great resource to learn about new parks and trails. Some groups may even host events for members to attend. While this can be a great opportunity to meet new people, always use caution when meeting up with people you do not know.

Another option for special events organized by the Florida State Park service. Currently on the Florida State Parks website there are over 250 events listed during the next several months. You can search events by date, event type, event theme, and park. These events vary and include educational programs, guided programs, recreation activities and more! With the wide variety of events planned there is certainly something that will pique your interest.

What should I bring with me to visit a Florida State Park?

This could easily be its own blog post, and maybe it will be in the future, but below are some basics to consider taking with you when you plan to visit a Florida State Park. The exact items you will need are going to depend on the type of park you are visiting, what activities you plan, and how long you will be at the park. One thing I always recommend is cash for your park entrance fees.

A picture of a girl hiking with her dog

Day Hiking:

  • Day pack
  • Water
  • Snacks – see this post for some inspiration
  • First aid kit
  • Map
  • Sunscreen
  • Rain jacket

A great list for hiking or camping is the ten essentials.

Paddling/Springs:

  • Dry bag
  • Water resistant phone case
  • Sunscreen
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Life jacket

This is not meant to be an all-inclusive list, but it’s a great place to get started.

Summary: How I plan a visit to a Florida State Park

  1. Pick a park – this is usually inspired by something I’ve seen on Instagram, a park near me, or an area I will already be visiting
  2. Visit the Florida State Park Website – I am a pen and paper kind of gal, so I usually write down key information including the activities I want to do while I am at the park
  3. Search for blog posts on the park – I utilize blog posts to provide unique details and tips that can’t be found on the park website
  4. Review All Trails – if I plan to hike, I will review the trails on All Trails to decide which ones I want to hike
  5. Pick a date to visit the park – once I have all my information, I have a general idea of how long I will want to spend at the park as well as travel time to get to the park, next I review my calendar and pick a date that works
  6. Check the weather – in the days leading up to my visit I will check the predicted weather. Florida weather can change quickly, but having a general idea what the weather will be like helps me know what to wear and what to pack.
  7. Visit the park – even though I have researched the park and have an idea of what I want to do while I visit, I always leave room for spontaneity! I recommend talking to the park rangers to see if they have any recommendations, safety information, or current conditions on trails/water while at the park.

These are the steps that I generally take when planning a visit to a Florida State Park, but it doesn’t mean you have to complete all of these. However, I hope you found at least one helpful tip to plan your next visit.

What is your usual approach when planning a visit to a Florida State Park? I’d love to hear your best tips in the comments below!

Osprey Trail

Looking for Florida State Parks to plan a visit?

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