Florida has some of the most beautiful state parks featuring some of the most amazing wildlife in the country. Take the time to disconnect from our hectic modern world and unwind in one of these places, and I promise you will not regret it.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Ocala National Forest
The Big Scrub is 360,000 acres of hiking heaven. Ocala’s 75-mile section of the 1,300-mile Florida National Scenic Trail is widely considered one of the best and most beautiful. Here you'll find bountiful hills, ponds, pine forest and boardwalks through cypress and gum swamps.
2. Withlacoochee State Forest
Named one of the "10 Coolest Places You've Never Been in North America" by the World Wildlife Fund, Withlacoochee (located in western central Florida) offers camping, hiking, biking, horseback riding and seasonal fishing and hunting.
3. Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
Florida's first state park and a National Natural Landmark, Paynes Prairie should not be missed. Where else are you going to catch a glimpse of alligators, bison and wild horses?
4. Little Talbot Island
Not only are there breathtaking beaches, visitors can hike through five different ecosystems and check out a vast array of wildlife on one four-mile trail. Don't forget to try fishing, kayaking and surfing while you're there. Or just head to one of the park's pavilions for a romantic sunset picnic.
5. Big Shoals State Park
Big Shoals is located approximately a mile east of White Springs, FL, and home to the largest whitewater rapids in Florida. If thrill-seekers come at the right time, they can kayak down the Suwanee in class III whitewater rapids. It's also a terrific hiking spot.
6. Bulow Creek State Park
This park is home to some of the largest and oldest live oaks in Florida. The star is the Fairchild Oak, which is over 400 years old and one of the largest live oaks in the South.
7. Little Manatee River State Park
Located not far from Tampa, Little Manatee isn't just the state park with the cutest name ever, it's a real hidden treasure. The Little Manatee River is a designated Outstanding Florida Water and flows for nearly five miles through rare and varied ecosystems. This one's a must-see for the nature nerds out there.
8. Torreya State Park
Challenging trails, high bluffs and the extremely rare Torreya tree can be found here.
9. Big Cypress National Preserve
Most of the trail at this unique park is underwater, so come prepared to wade more than hike. Watch out for alligators!
10. Osceola National Forest
This park is small in size but rich in spirit. Check out the Olustee Battlefield, where the largest Civil War battle in Florida took place, and possibly spot a Florida black bear!
11. Collier-Seminole State Park
Hike through a mangrove swamp and a landmark dredge in Naples, FL.
12. Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park
Forested swamp featuring diverse wildlife, including panthers and black bears. Also the home of the legendary ghost orchid.
13. Bok Tower Gardens
This impressive garden and bird sanctuary is located north of Lake Wales, FL. It's a National Historic Landmark and an absolute must-see.
14. Blue Spring State Park
At Blue Spring State Park, not only is the water a beautiful bright blue, endangered manatees are actually present in large numbers. Maybe it's because I've lived here so long, but I think they are adorable!
15. Florida Caverns State Park
The only place the public can visit caverns in Florida. It's located in the panhandle, but I bet it's worth the drive.
16. Falling Waters State Park
Come check out the tallest waterfall in Florida! Don't forget to see the butterfly garden, too.
There’s just no way to include every amazing place to hike in the Sunshine State. Please share some of your favorites with us below!