Whether you’re new to hiking with your baby or toddler, or you’re looking for a new trail to explore, the Hike it Baby community is a valuable resource for finding family hiking trails around the country. In this article, we share three kid-friendly hikes in Florida to explore with babies and young children.
Hiking with young children (under 5 years old) is different from hiking with school-age children. These three hikes in Florida offer families of young children beautiful trails to explore while considering the unique ways young children hike, wander and doddle. While there are hundreds of trails to explore in Florida, our local Hike it Baby branches recommend these three hikes that are close to metro areas and beautiful to explore with young children.
Black Bear Wilderness Area Trail (Sanford, FL)
Black Bear Wilderness Area is a 1,600-acre reserve in northwest Seminole County that features a variety of wetland habitats within the floodplain of the St Johns River. The park is home to animals like the white-tailed deer, barred owls, coyotes, swallow-tailed kite, American alligators, river otters and musk turtles. And if you are quiet, you might even spot the park’s namesake: a Florida Black Bear. With 14 boardwalks, it’s a stable surface for little legs; however, remind your little ones not to get too far ahead (there are alligators) and that there are lots of tripping hazards with many exposed roots on the trail. Notes that bugs are plentiful, so bring lots of spray and watch where children are walking … the park is home to pygmy rattlers and cottonmouths, both of which are venomous, but they most likely hide in holes and under rocks.
- The best time to visit is winter because it will be nice and cool.
- Depending on your GPS in your vehicle, it might take you down a dirt road and you might think you’re lost. Keep going! You’re not lost. It’ll be on your right as you approach.
- The site is located on a floodplain, so during the rainy season, this park might be closed due to flooding. Also, hurricanes have been known to affect the park for periods of time, so make sure to check on if it’s open or closed.
Photo and trail review provided by Crystal Osborn.
Cypress Swamp Trail, Highlands Hammock State Park (Sebring, FL)
As one of Florida’s oldest parks and with 9,000 acres, Highlands Hammock State Park offers a labyrinth of trails and has everything from botanical gardens to boardwalks to view the wildlife and landscape. Catwalks and elevated boardwalks traverses cypress swamp, and visitors may observe alligators, birds and other wildlife. The Cypress Swamp Trail takes you through part of a picturesque Florida swamp dotted with large old cypress trees. This trail, like many in the park, are mostly shaded, but it’s always recommended to bring sunscreen or sun protection while hiking in Florida. Consider checking this hike out in late fall, winter and early spring while it’s cooler out and not very buggy. The park protects large tracts of pine flatwoods, hydric hammock, cypress swamp, and baygall and is known for being home to thousand-year-old oaks. Large wildlife include deer, black bears and the rarely seen but present Florida panther. Smaller critters include armadillo, turtles and otters. Look out for many varieties of birds, including red-tailed hawks, pileated woodpeckers looking for red carpenter ants and sleeping owls high in the trees. There is also sand everywhere and three playgrounds that you might happen upon when exploring.
- Bugs are fierce, so bring lots of repellent or risk being “bugged” for the entire hike.
- The hike hot and humid, so bring water to hydrate.
- Keep an eye out for rattlesnakes. They are nocturnal, but are always present in this park. If you are lucky enough to find yourself in the park close to dusk, be on the lookout for fireflies magically lighting up the forest.
- Narrow boardwalks make up a good portion of the trail through the swampy areas. They are open on one side, so you may consider carrying your kiddo.
Trail review provided by Ryan Drummond and Abby Czachur. Photo by Abby Czachur.
Lafayette Heritage Trail Park (Tallahassee, FL)
Lafayette Heritage Trail Park offers visitors a variety of activities, such as fishing, hiking and mountain biking. Amenities include picnic shelters, restrooms, boat docks, bike washing station and a playground among other things. There are three trails to choose from depending on your choice of activity. Shared Use Trail is a beginner trail that is used for hiking, running, walking, leisure biking and walking dogs. At 3 miles, it is wooded and crosses over water and railroad tracks and has a beautiful covered pedestrian bridge. The trail also brings you by a lily pond, which is always a welcomed treat for the kiddos. Animals you may see during your hike are alligators, birds and turtles. For a stroller-friendly hike, you can do an out and back to the bridge.
- Bring sunscreen and water with you on your hike.
- If you want to include other activities at the park, Mountain Biking Trail is a good choice for mountain biking and trail running; or you can canoe or kayak on the Lafayette Passage Paddling Trail.
- Restrooms are located at the trailhead as well as a playground for the kids after your hike.
Photo courtesy of https://www.talgov.com.
MORE RESOURCES FOR FAMILIES WITH YOUNG CHILDREN
Florida offers an abundance of trails for families with young children. For more family hike ideas, see:
- Hike it Baby calendar (or connect with local branches)
- Hike it Baby Family Trail Guide
- Florida state parks
- Hike it Baby: 100 Awesome Outdoor Adventures with Babies and Toddlers – New Book by Hike it Baby Founder Shanti Hodges
If you’re traveling through Florida and need more information or recommendations on trails or would like to join a group hike, the nearest Hike it Baby branches are Central Florida, Hernando County, Tampa Bay, Tallahassee and Gainesville.
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What are your favorite hikes in Florida for families with babies, toddlers and young children? Leave a comment below!