Planning a Florida hike?
Here are some of the more common questions I’ve fielded over the years from folks who want to square away their logistics well before they hit the trail.
It’s smart to keep in mind that hiking in Florida is different than hiking in the rest of the United States. Plan accordingly!
WHEN should I hike?
For serious hikers, the best time of year is between late October and mid-April. Backpackers prefer January through March. Day hikers can get out early any time of year, but in the summer months, should be off the trail before noon.
WHAT should I bring?
At an absolute minimum, every hiker needs to carry enough water and food for the trip, a map, GPS or compass, and first aid basics. I always carry a hiking stick, too. You’ll find it handy for slippery mud, unexpected wading, clearing the path of spider webs, and fending off any problematic critters.
WHAT should I wear?
Lightweight, breathable clothing that can stand up to humidity and heat. Even on cool days, you’ll find me wearing quick-dry nylon pants, Coolmax shirts, lightweight socks that wick moisture well (never cotton!), my New Balance running shoes, and a hat, usually a baseball cap or something else with a brim. There is little need for hiking boots in Florida unless you’re doing a backpacking trip somewhere up in the Panhandle or North Florida. Better to have footwear that breathes and drains water (if you’re hiking South Florida)!
WHERE should I go?
If you’re a day hiker and new to Florida hiking, visit Florida State Parks for a wide array of gentle nature trails, interpretive trails, and boardwalks, all of which have nearby facilities like restrooms and water fountains. More experienced day hikers will enjoy the longer trails in Florida State Forests and in our many natural lands across the state. For backpackers, the Florida Trail is a prime destination, with both weekend loops on public lands and long-distance linear hikes ranging from a week to a couple of months.
HOW should I hike?
Use common sense for your own safety. Always let someone know where you’re going and check in with them when you return. Carry a cell phone if it makes you comfortable, but keep it turned off, please, until you need it and keep in mind that many wilderness areas have no cell service. Follow Leave No Trace principles.