Hiking the Florida Trail does not resemble any of the other National Scenic Trails in the United States, starting with the terrain.
Yes, it is” flat ” compared to other states, but you will be surprised the botanical diversity and the hills and ridges will be more evident when you reach it.
Our hiking season is from October to April, with an optimal long-distance hike in January, February and March.
The migration from south to North is the progress of a normal hiker crossing to move, to the rhythm of changing the season and the expiration of the season general weapons (hunting the deer) on public lands.
Starting at the south end, however, this means that most hikers on the Florida Trail start with the most difficult part of the trail: the Big Cypress Swamp.
The good news? Once you get through it, nothing is quiet but difficult. Different, but not the challenge that Big Cypress meets you from the start.
Most hikers need 60 to 90 days to finish the trail. You have several options during your hike, and you can” choose one” to always count as a hike through: to the East or west around Lake Okeechobee, to the East or west around Central Florida and to the west to the terminus of Fort Pickens or to the north to the Florida border.
The official South End of the Florida Trail is located in the Oasis Visitor Center in the Big Cypress National Reserve. The official northern terminus is at Fort Pickens in Gulf Islands National Seashore.
Some hikers hike the Florida Trail as part of a much longer hike, the Eastern Continental Trail.
This continental Route was popularized by Sunny “Nimblewill Nomad” Eberhardt and extends from Key West, Florida, to Cap Gaspé, Quebec. If you are considering such a Quest, read our ECT Details here.
Here’s a walk through what you’ll see along the Florida Trail, from south to North. The video thru-hike (2016) combines our pictures with those of other long-distance hikers. The end-to-end Video (2019) is from Sandra’s hike.
The Community Of The Way
Who walks the Florida Trail? If you have wandered on the AT, the PCT or the CDT, you will see more familiar faces than expected. American long-distance hikers are well represented on the Florida Trail.
Since 2014, the non-profit organization FTthruHIKE (formerly Florida Trail Hikers Alliance) has been developing a hiking community in Florida.
To do this, it hosts an annual launch of the Florida Trail to meet hikers and facilitate walks to the otherwise remote southern terminus, located halfway between Miami and Naples in the middle of Florida’s largest swamp.
For many years, there has also been an annual Florida Trail long-distance hikers ‘ meeting, an event now coordinated by FTthruHIKE.
It’s called Billy Goat Day-in honor of the only Billy Goat, one of America’s best long – distance hikers-and takes place on the last Saturday in January.
It’s a great place to talk to hikers who have finished the Florida Trail, including Billy Goat, and those who are actively working on their hikes through and in sections. It usually takes place somewhere in the Orlando section.
In the last six years, the number of visitors has risen from a few dozen hikers to over 125. It doesn’t hurt that it’s the biggest hiking food on the Florida Trail during the hiking season.
A big part of FTthruHIKE’s efforts is to connect people-hikers help hikers-across the state of Florida.
Remember, the Florida Trail is half the length of the Appalachian Trail and runs through two time zones.
In addition to a very active Facebook group called Florida Trail Hikers, each year ftthruhike operates a private group of hikers of the current year and Section.
In this way, hikers can interact with volunteers across the state who help hikers by placing water covers, helping with Shuttles, and jumping in an emergency.
A side effect of the growth of this “Angels of the way” community – people who prefer to remain anonymous, with the exception of the walkers who help them – is that some churches along the way have adopted the support of the walkers as part of their mission and consciousness.
With the participation of the church, residents are increasingly aware of the path that leads through their community.
While the Florida Trail will never be the Appalachian Trail in terms of hiking volume-or might not support it– we are encouraged that the hiking community of the Florida Trail is beginning to flourish.
Hiking In Florida: The Real Deal
If you are planning a hike in Florida, you need to know some important facts about Florida.
1) Florida weather is unpredictable in Winter. It may be 83 degrees today and 43 degrees tomorrow. You need to pack prepared for a full range of time.
It’s unlikely to snow during your hike, but you can certainly feel freezing temperatures, especially in the Panhandle.
Don’t leave this inflated jacket behind because it’s Florida! Bring a sleeping bag that can hold 20F or less. Learn more about hiking in Florida.
2) Florida is wet. All the time. Even if we have droughts, the water sources dry up, the humidity of the air remains high.
Quick dry clothing is a must. Expect a wet chill when it’s cold.
Most of the time, you will find it necessary to pack a wet tent in the morning and store it for drying if you have the opportunity to take a break in the sun.
You can also use hiking shoes or boots that are not waterproof, because the water is trapped in your boots and your feet spoil.
3) Florida is Sandy. The underlying soil in Florida is mostly sand. Most of the state was in one place or another under the sea.
Sand gets into your shoes and steals your soles. Be sure to use socks that can withstand strong abrasion.
Low-cut Leggings are a good investment to keep the sand out of your shoes. We love girls ‘ dirty gaiters.
4) Florida has bugs. Many of them. Mosquitoes, ticks and chiggers can be a problem all year round, although we love winter for hiking, as we can have a frost that triggers them for a while.
Invest in a good insect repellent and carry it with you. Consider treating your clothes with permetherin before your hike for extra protection.
Depending on where you are in Florida, mosquitoes can carry really unpleasant tropical diseases, including Zika.
5) Florida is sunny. Expect plenty of sun exposure while hiking the Florida Trail. There are long, shadowless distances, especially between the northern end of the Big Cypress Swamp and Orlando.
In South Florida, the trail follows water management levees; in Central Florida, it crosses many open meadows with only an occasional Oak Hammock for shade.
Wear a hat, bring sunglasses and use sunscreen. Think of long sleeves and long pants for sun protection. The Shorts may seem perfect for hiking, but they tear their legs to the briers in sections that are not very neat.
6) Florida has podiums. There are less than 250 miles of podiums along the entire Florida Trail. You’ll do over 175 miles of trails on the average hike.
Most podiums are on quiet side roads. Some of them are located along dangerous domestic and American roads.
Walkways – and the occasional use of asphalt bike paths in urban areas-can be very hard on your feet, especially combined with the moisture and sand you find everywhere.
To dispel rumors about the types of roadwalks you will encounter on the Florida Trail – because, frankly, not everyone is so bad– here is our YouTube playlist of roadwalks, which Sandra finalized in January 2019, so that she can finally claim an end-to-end hike on the Florida Trail.
7) some permits are required. You must agree on some permits in advance. These are not optional.
There are three tracks on which an absolute, positive, permit is required and you can and will be accompanied by the track if you are caught without:
Cross the Big Cypress Seminole reservation (private tribal land), camp at St.Marks National Wildlife Refuge (state) and cross / Camping Eglin Air Force Base (military Base).
There are other permits that can be arranged during the hike. Learn more about permits in our “plan your hike” section.
8) you must join the Florida Trail Association. This is not optional for thru walkers.
The Florida Trail still traverses a few private plots where the corridor is negotiated between the Florida Trail Association and private owners. Join us here.
9) it is wise to carry cards. Unlike the Appalachian Trail, you can’t just follow the flames-which by the way are orange along the Florida Trail.
You can buy an excellent set of maps from the Florida Trail Association.
10) it is wise to carry out your logistics planning in advance. We have a complete guide, the Florida Trail Guide, who can help you.
It is modeled according to the AT guide and replaces height profiles (not relevant here) with coarse maps.
It contains many maps of the city, suggested zero-day stops, all post-delivery stops, information on how to get to and from the termini, where to buy fuel and much more.
We also have an interactive version of the guide, Guthook Guides / Florida National Scenic Trail, which offers GPS view of the trail and offline maps.
Here are the ten most important questions to walk the Florida Trail. We publish about 15 pages in our guide that cover other important topics such as “how and where to filter water” and “how to get to and from the termini”.”
Yes, you’ll see alligators and snakes (see our Florida hiking information for details).
Yes, there are parts of the trail that are too dry, just as there are parts that are quite wet.
If you look at the details we present for each of the trail sections along the Florida Trail, below are our tips on how to clean your water filter and avoid toxic tropical plants(note: both are important to know when hiking in the Big Cypress section).