What is the Florida Trail?
- A place to lose yourself in nature while finding yourself.
- A public hiking resource spanning the state of Florida from the edge of the Everglades to the tip of Pensacola Beach.
- One of only 11 National Scenic Trails in the entire United States.
- An extraordinary volunteer effort spanning almost 50 years.
The Florida Trail is this, and so much more. Conceptualized by wildlife photographer Jim Kern in the mid-1960s, the Florida Trail is our state’s answer to the Appalachian Trail. It’s more than half the length of that legendary trail, with trailheads within an hour of most major Florida cities. It provides hundreds of access points for day hikers, and dozens of opportunities for backpacking trips of a weekend, a week, or more.
We’ve covered it all in The Florida Trail, a sweeping retrospective of the history of the past 50 years of the Florida Trail as a coffee table book.
It’s a footpath
The Florida Trail is primarily a footpath. The trail is maintained to backcountry wilderness standards, just as other National Scenic Trails are. Signs indicate where cyclists and equestrians are not permitted. Multi-use sections occur where the footpath must be shared down an access corridor which, in many cases, has been paved. Some of the longer multi-use segments of the Florida Trail include the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail around Lake Okeechobee; the Cross Seminole Trail in Seminole County; the Navarre Bicycle Path; the Pensacola Beach Bike Path; and the Palatka Lake Butler Trail used intermittently by the Florida Trail between those two communities. Along most of those paved segments, the Florida Trail is also wheelchair accessible.
It’s a goal
After 50 years, the Florida Trail is also a goal, an idea, and a purpose around which people gather. The goal is a continuous ribbon of protected foot trail across our state, a corridor of nature which day hikers and backpackers alike can enjoy, where people can find the serenity that comes with a walk in the woods. It’s this goal that’s driven the volunteers of the Florida Trail Association since 1966. It’s this goal that brings like-minded souls together to spend time in the outdoors, to immerse themselves in Florida’s incredible diversity of habitats, and to fall in love with the natural beauty of a state where protecting natural resources is a constant battle. The Florida Trail still has gaps bridged by roadwalks and crosses private lands that are at risk of closure. Friends of the Florida Trail is working to raise funds for land acquisition and to find legislative methods of closing the gaps in the Florida Trail.
It’s a Florida treasure
Fifty years of trail development means the Florida Trail is Florida’s oldest and longest recreational resource. It enables day hikers to find places of stunning natural beauty, botanical wonders, and geologic curiosities. It lets backpackers get away from it all and get back to nature for a weekend, a week, or a few months. Browse through the trail starting at its southernmost point and discover the beauty of Florida as it unfolds along the footsteps you take along the Florida Trail.
Where is the Florida Trail?
See our current end-to-end trail map for the big picture. The Florida Trail runs between Big Cypress National Preserve just north of the Everglades to Gulf Islands National Seashore on Pensacola Beach. Bookended by two national parks, it crosses dozens of public lands managed by agencies at the local, state, and federal level. It can be found in all of our National Forests in Florida, on levees managed by South Florida Water Management District, in wildlife management areas, Florida State Parks, Florida State Forests, and many city and county parks and natural lands as well. It even crosses two military reservations.
Who looks after the Florida Trail?
Mostly volunteers. Thousands of volunteers have contributed millions of hours to the creation and maintenance of the Florida Trail. As a National Scenic Trail, it belongs to you and I, but there are many stewards. The Florida Trail is managed by the USDA Forest Service and built and maintained by the volunteers of the Florida Trail Association. Do your part to help keep the trail open to the public by joining a volunteer work crew or getting involved with a local chapter of the Florida Trail Association.
Who provides trail information?
We’ve been writing guidebooks to the Florida Trail since 2002. Although the Florida Trail Association is your official source for maps and rules and regulations regarding parts of the trail, we’re pulling together the best of our Florida Trail information here. We help underwrite the nonprofit Florida Trail Hikers Alliance, which encourages hikers to experience the Florida Trail and connects you with the resources you need to enjoy the Florida Trail, including many online groups where experienced hikers help out new hikers.
Ready to start hiking the Florida Trail?