The city of Orlando, Florida, is practically synonymous with theme parks. Millions of visitors come to Florida from around the world each year to enjoy Disney World, Universal Studios, and other attractions. But with its abundant sunshine and unique ecology, Central Florida has more to offer than roller coasters and water slides.
In fact, lovers of the outdoors will find plenty of beautiful hiking trails in and around this popular city. If you want to get away from the mass-market atmosphere of the theme parks, there's no better way to do it than by exploring some of the best hikes in Orlando. And in a city that sometimes seems designed to suck the dollars right out of your wallet, it's nice to know that these hiking trails also offer some of the best free things to do in Orlando.
The last thing you need on a walking trail is to be carrying more bags than you have to. That's why Bounce offers luggage storage in Orlando. Grab your hiking shoes and your sunscreen, drop off your other baggage, and get ready to see the wilder side of Central Florida.
Our Top Hiking Trail Picks in Orlando
Disney Wilderness Preserve
In Orlando, Disney is more or less inescapable. Even if you've come to Orlando in search of the best hiking trails and have no intention of setting foot inside a theme park, Disney still has something to offer you in the form of the Disney Wilderness Preserve. Don't worry; the Disney Wilderness Preserve is only named after Walt and isn't owned by the House of Mouse.
In this preserve, you'll find three different trails. There is the red trail, the yellow trail, and a nature trail which is great for seeing local wildlife including birds and reptiles. The red trail covers two and a half miles, and another mile at the end will bring you to beautiful Lake Russell. The yellow trail is the longest at 3.6 miles. If you're up for more of a challenge, you can combine the trails for nearly 10 miles of hiking. The terrain is flat, making for an easy walk as you explore the Florida wetlands. There's very little elevation gain, and the two trails combine to make a pleasant loop through the preserve.
Located near Winter Park just to the north of Orlando, Baldwin Park was once a naval base but has been transformed into a residential area that makes a great place to do some hiking in Central Florida. The Lake Baldwin Loop covers 2.5 miles around the lake of the same name. The paved trail is easy on the joints and offers a relaxing way to spend an hour or two out in nature while remaining close to the city. There are also some great places to eat in Baldwin Park, so you could go for an early morning walk and then go in search of the best brunch in Orlando once you've worked up an appetite.
Cross Seminole Trail
The sprawling trail covers an impressive 22 miles and runs from the outskirts of Orlando to outlying communities like Winter Springs and Lake Mary. The multiuse trail is popular for horseback riding and biking as well as hiking and is split up into sections so that you don't have to take on the whole thing if you don't want to. Then again, if you're up for a long walk, this is one of the best in the area. The lengthy trail runs through a variety of different environments, from urban to rural, making it a popular place to get some fresh air and exercise in the Orlando area. As with many Central Florida trails, Cross Seminole Trail offers very little in the way of elevation gain, so it's only the length that makes it somewhat challenging. Many portions of this trail are paved, making it a great option for an urban hike.
Orlando Wetlands Park
Another easy trail that will nevertheless make you feel like you've traveled a long way from the city, the four-mile Orlando Wetlands Park Trail is a great option for lovers of wildlife. As you travel through the park, you'll come across many different species of birds, mammals, and reptiles, and get to enjoy some of the best wildlife viewing in the region. There's also a 2.5-mile Birding Route which is ideal for birdwatchers, but given the park's popularity, you'll probably want to get here early, especially on a weekend. Be warned that the park hosts an annual festival in February which makes it even busier than it normally would be, so this isn't necessarily the best place to try to get away from the Florida crowds. However, the wildlife opportunities offered by Orlando Wetlands Park make it worth it. Over 220 bird species await in this 1650 acre park, so it's no wonder it's so popular.
Bear Creek Nature Trail
For an easy hike in the Orlando suburbs, Bear Creek Nature Trail near Winter Springs is short but sweet. Covering just under a mile, this trail travels along sandy bluffs through ancient oak and cypress trees, making it a great quick getaway if you just want to stretch your legs and enjoy the Florida sunshine. The small parking lot of this trail quickly fills up, so it's best to get here early if you want to explore this easy but rewarding location.
Located to the southeast of the city of Orlando, Moss Park offers a range of different natural parks in a single area. Moss Park itself is home to a couple of hiking trails, the Bear Island Nature Trail and the Crosby Island Marsh Loop Trail. Both are rated easy, with Bear Island covering 1.5 miles and Crosby Island covering a little over one mile of easy terrain. This is a relaxing place to explore outside the city that will bring you into contact with some of the local wildlife without being too taxing. The packed earth trails offer a great surface for walkers, and this is an excellent place to visit with the family or if you just want a gentle stroll for an hour so.
Split Oak Forest
Split Oak Forest shares a border with Moss Park and offers more hiking trails if the first Park only whets your appetite. The Green Trail in this park offers a scenic hike of 3.4 miles that takes in a small lake and some pleasant wetlands. The Lake Loop offers more of a challenge, covering a similar distance but over more rugged terrain. You'll see swamps, tall trees, wildflower meadows, and impressive natural landscapes that will make you feel a long way from the city. There is also the Three Lakes Loop trail of 5.3 miles and the North/South trail which offers a meaty 7.3 miles. With so many trails to choose from in this enchanting park, you could easily spend the whole day exploring and combine multiple routes into one giant hiking trail.
Black Bear Wilderness Area
If you're looking for something a little wilder in the Orlando area, the Black Bear Wilderness Area is the place for you. This local favorite is home to some of the best wildlife in the region and contains multiple hiking trails that offer an impressive variety of terrain and landscape that keeps people coming back for more. Wildlife you may spot here includes deer, bobcats, hawks, turtles, alligators, and rattlesnakes. As the name implies, there are even black bears in the area, although they are rare in Florida.
Options for hiking in the wilderness area include the two-mile-long round-trip to the St. Johns River. There's also the seven-mile Wilderness Loop Trail which winds through the forest and along the river. This trail easily gets muddy and slippery, so good shoes are essential, and it's best suited for intermediate hikers. There's even a wilderness campsite along the trail where you can spend the night if you really want to get away from it all.
Wekiwa Springs State Park
Though only 20 minutes north of Orlando, this 7000 acre State Park offers an impressive variety of hiking opportunities. Known for its tropical hammocks and emerald waters, Wekiwa Springs State Park is a popular spot for Orlando residents that want to reconnect with nature. The trails in this park range from less than a mile along a boardwalk to a river hammock, up to a challenging 13.5-mile trail which will show you the beauty and variety of the Florida wetlands as you explore this popular park. Some trails are multi-use, so keep an eye out for cyclists and equestrians. The park also offers wilderness experiences such as fishing, kayaking, swimming, snorkeling, and camping. The waters of the State Park stay at a comfortable 72° all year round, so the temptation to take a dip after your hike may be too great to resist. But however you choose to spend your time in this park, you'll be glad you made the journey to see the wild side of Florida and enjoy the backcountry while remaining close to Orlando.
Big Tree Park
Big Tree Park was once home to the oldest tree in Orlando and the oldest bald cypress tree in the world. Known as The Senator, this 3500-year-old giant unfortunately burned in 2012, leaving only charred remains. However, the park is still home to some of the biggest trees in Florida, and this impressive forest makes an excellent place to take a walk and enjoy some different terrain. The Big Tree Trail is a short boardwalk run that will take you to the remains of The Senator, but there are dozens of other trails through the forest that make it a fantastic place to explore on your trip to Florida.
Easy Hikes in Orlando
Because of its generally flat terrain, most hikes in Orlando fall into the easy category. Therefore, if you're on a family trip and just want to get outside in nature and see a little more of the state without going to yet another theme park, you're in luck. Big Tree Park, Bear Creek Nature Trail, and Baldwin Park all offer short and well-maintained trails that are fantastic places to explore for beginner hikers or families looking to take it easy.
Intermediate Hikes in Orlando
If you prefer more of a challenge, there are a few trails near Orlando you can try. The Black Bear Wilderness Loop provides more variety in terrain than you'll normally get in Central Florida's flat wetlands. Wekiwa Springs State Park also has some trails that are suitable for moderate hikers, and there's so much to do in this beautiful park that you may want to visit more than once to really get the best out of it.
Difficult Hikes in Orlando
Orlando is hardly the Himalayas, and finding truly challenging technical hikes in this very flat area can be tricky. The best way to challenge yourself is by going for distance. Therefore, longer trails like the Cross Seminole Trail are your best bet to really stretch your legs.
Hiking may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Central Florida. But thanks to great weather and some impressive scenery, the Orlando region has more to offer than you might think when it comes to outdoor exploration. Leave the amusement parks behind and drop off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage, and you may be in for a pleasant surprise as you explore the Florida countryside.