Facts and Statistics
The Florida Trail is among the eleven congressionally designated National Scenic Trails. It measures around 1,300 miles. It is intended to offer recreational and other compatible activities, including hiking. It is permanent and non-motorized, which means that bicycles and vehicles are not allowed on the trail.
Over the course of its length, it displays incredible history, biodiversity and a rich culture of flora and fauna. It starts at the Big Cypress National Reserve and ends at Fort Pickens, in the Gulf Islands National Seashore. It can be accessed within an hour by most residents of Florida.
Its first blaze was marked by the membership of Florida Trail Association, in the Ocala National Forest, at Clearwater Lake Recreation Area. It began on 29 October 1966. In 1983, it was officially elevated to the status of a National Scenic Trail. Its official administrator is the National Forests in Florida program. However, trail development, care, and maintenance are mainly carried out by a group of volunteers and members of Florida Trail Association and other groups.
This 1,300-mile hiking trail, is divided into four main regions. These are The Southern Region, The Central Region, The Northern Region, and the Panhandle Region. Each region presents a unique set of biodiversity and views. Work on this trail is still in progress. Some gaps are still there forcing hikers to use roads.
In the northern region, the trail passes through Rice Creek Conservation Area, Etoniah Creek State Forest, Fall Creek, Plum Creek, Osceola National Forest, Swift Creek Conservation Area, and Camp Branch Conservation Area. Thereafter, the trail traverses Suwannee River Management Areas, Lower Alpha Conservation Area, Holton Creek Conservation Area, Suwannee River State Park, Twin Rivers State Forest, and Aucilla River.
In the Southern Region, the Florida Hiking Trail Passes through the Big Cypress National Preserve Miami Canal Levee, Kissimmee River, Lake Okeechobee, And Avon Park Air Force Range. It then finishes off at KICCO Wildlife Management Area.
The Central Region is comprised of Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area, Herky Huffman Creek Wildlife Management Area, Forever Florida, Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area, and Seminole Ranch Management Area. After that, the trail then enters C.H. Bronson State Forest, Mills Creek Woodlands, Little Big Econ State Forest, Ocala National Forest, Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park, Cross Florida Greenway, and Green Swamp Wild Management Area.
In the Panhandle Region, this hiking trail passes through the following forests and reserves. They are St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail, Apalachicola National Forest, Blountstown Greenway & SR20, Upper Chipola Water Management Area, and Econfina Creek Water Management Area. It then takes you through Pine Log State Forest, Choctawhatchee River Water Management Area, Yellow River Water Management Area and finally at the Gulf Islands National Seashore.
Flora and Fauna
Florida is home to a wide range of environments that are unique to the area itself. This implies that there are nature viewing opportunities and amazing wildlife on the Florida Nature Trail. This hiking trail crosses both remote and urban wilderness areas, while traversing different semi-tropical ecosystems. Good hiking boots are advised for this trip. From forests to prairies to swamps, there are endless opportunities for exploration. You can even beach walk on the Florida National Scenic Trail.
Some of the plant varieties in the Southern Region include pine flatwoods and swamplands. The trail cuts across pine, cypress swamp, saw palmetto, prairies of cabbage palm, saw grass, oak hammocks, and scrub.
In the central region, the trail passes through pine flatwoods, palmetto prairies, ranch land, freshwater marshes, cypress sloughs, oak hammocks, and scrub. The wide range of vegetation gives this area beautiful scenery.
Wine grass and long leaf are common forms of vegetation found in the Northern Region. Hikers can also come across flatwoods, hardwoods, pine plantations, oak hammocks, and cypress, among others.
The Panhandle Region is the final section of the trail, depending on which side you start your thru-hike. Vegetation found in this area include salt marsh, coastal pine flatwoods, oak hammocks, wild ground orchids, dune grasses, titi swamps, and pitcher plants, just to name a few.
The common wildlife in the Southern Region of the trail includes Florida black bears, panthers, alligators, cattle, and different birds. Wood storks, sand hill cranes, white-tailed deer, wild turkey, red widow spider, black bears, gopher tortoises, Florida pine snake, wild turkey, bobwhite, and alligators are some of the animals found in the central region.
Common wildlife in the Northern Region includes woodpeckers, red-cockaded, eastern cottontail rabbits, Gulf sturgeon, gopher tortoises, and deers among others. In the Panhandle Region of the Florida Trail, you are likely to encounter bald eagles, waterfowl, otters, alligators, black bears, deers, sea turtles, piping plovers, and warblers.
Things to Observe
There are several species of venomous snakes found along this trail. Therefore, it is important to take caution whenever you are hiking. Some of the snakes you are likely to encounter include coral snakes, southern copperhead, Florida cottonmouth, diamond rattlesnakes among others.
As it stands, there are more than 25 different groups and agencies managing this trail. Certifications, partnerships, memorandums of understandings, and other agreements by land managers and owners, forest administrators and interested groups form a unique management plan to celebrate the cultural, historic and natural resources of Florida.
A coalition was formed in 2010 by the National Forests in Florida supervisor with the aim of bringing on board a bigger group partners in the management of the trail. This was meant to ensure that this large natural resource is properly taken care of and the right programs put in place. The coalition is comprised of a large group of stakeholders who should ensure that high quality standards are maintained in the management of Florida National Scenic Trail.
The trail has modern facilities, is well maintained, and can accommodate a wide range of users. It includes children and people with accessibility needs. All people are encouraged to get outdoors and have fun, while still enjoying the beauty of the natural environment.
Florida Trail is one of the most bio-diverse regions in the United States. It providers hikers and others alike with a unique opportunity to day hike or hike through. It presents a unique opportunity of seeing beautiful environments and ecosystems.