When it comes to loving Florida, we at Florida Conservation Voters don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk. Walk all the beautiful hiking trails our state offers, that is. In honor of National Take A Hike Day we wanted to share with you some of our staffs’ favorite places to hike in Florida. Of the 125 state parks, 9 state trails, and 11 national parks in Florida, not to mention the abundant natural areas and neighborhood parks that decorate the state, there’s a place to hike for everyone. So here are a few of our favorite spots as told by each staff person at FCV:
It is so hard to choose just one favorite place but here goes – we love hiking to the Cathedral of Palms, which is on the Florida Trail and not too far from Tallahassee. Standing beneath the canopy of this old growth palm forest, you immediately understand how this amazing place got its name. Together, the palm fronds create a subtle mosaic of dappled sunlight and almost seem to shield the space from sound. It is a sacred place — there’s no other way to describe it! (This is an older photo – we’ve been going there since the girls were small enough to carry on our backs!)
A bored Saturday in 2012 led to my friends and I going on an adventure. We decided to hike the Garden of Eden trail in Bristol, Florida. It was such a fun day and the views from the bluffs over the Apalachicola River are breath taking. This spur of the moment adventure sparked our love for hiking together.
Choosing a favorite place to hike in Florida seems an impossible task because there are so many wonderful options. But when I think of my best hikes they seem pretty unextraordinary; they’re when I was alone (usually a little stressed) and needed some time to think. I do my best thinking in nature. So, I chose a spot I visit often, only 15 minutes away from my home in Tallahassee – Lafayette Heritage Park. I go there when I need to think. Those walks under the canopy trees with bits of sunlight shining through the branches are sacred.
My favorite place to hike and camp is Ocala National Forest. PublicLands not only protect our numerous endangered and protected species, but it also allows for the public to explore and appreciate our protected lands. Refuges have played a formative role in my life as well, I’ve gone camping in many of Florida’s refuges and learned a great deal while also solidifying my love for the outdoors and my passion for protecting them.
The rugged, yet delicate, landscapes of northwest Florida’s shoreline are my favorite place to hike — especially in the colder months. The purple muhly grass gently blowing in the sweet-smelling coastal breeze, the total silence interspersed with melodic birdsong and small laps of waves from beyond the scrub, and the warmth of the winter sun against the crisp air – there is no way to put this magic into words. Every turn in the trail is a rush of color and form. And then, the blue, infinite sea demands the full attention of your imagination. The possibilities of our human experience on this earth are endless.
Our family likes to camp, hike and kayak the Blackwater River. The sandy banks are perfect for exploring and picnics. The slow, meandering river is great for relaxing with tons of opportunity to spot wildlife. On warm days you can swim and on cold days, you can wade in the shallows.
For me it’s as simple as taking a walk on a trail in my community. I enjoy taking the time to separate from the hectic day to day activities to reconnect with nature. Palm Beach County offers a number of trails from the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Cypress Trail to trails on the Serenoa Glade Preserve. Whether I hike a paved or earthen path I find peace in the beauty of Florida’s natural environment.
Our love for the outdoors makes our jobs that much more satisfying knowing we are helping to preserve the very places we treasure the most. We couldn’t do it without all of you. So, from all of us at FCV… and we mean this in the nicest way possible… TAKE A HIKE!!