What is the Florida Trail?
- A place to lose yourself in nature while finding yourself.
- A public hiking resource spanning the state of Florida from the edge of the Everglades to the tip of Pensacola Beach.
- One of only 11 National Scenic Trails in the United States.
- An extraordinary volunteer effort spanning more than 50 years.
Conceptualized by wildlife photographer Jim Kern in the mid-1960s, the Florida Trail is our state’s answer to the Appalachian Trail. It’s more than half the length of that legendary trail, with trailheads within an hour of most major Florida cities. And since 1989, it’s been a destination for long distance hikers looking to spend a few months on a trail during the winter, our best season for backpacking.
It’s a footpath
The Florida Trail is primarily a footpath. The trail is maintained to backcountry wilderness standards, just as other National Scenic Trails are. Signs indicate where cyclists and equestrians are not permitted. Multi-use sections occur where the footpath must be shared down an access corridor which, in many cases, has been paved. It is not a continuous footpath, however, although you can walk from one end to the other. To connect the footpath segments, you must roadwalk between them.
It’s a goal
After 50 years, the Florida Trail is also a goal, an idea, and a purpose around which people gather. The goal is a continuous ribbon of protected foot trail across our state, a corridor of nature which day hikers and backpackers alike can enjoy, where people can find the serenity that comes with a walk in the woods. It’s this goal that’s driven the volunteers of the Florida Trail Association since 1966. It’s this goal that brings like-minded souls together to spend time in the outdoors, to immerse themselves in Florida’s incredible diversity of habitats, and to fall in love with the natural beauty of a state where protecting natural resources is a constant battle.
The Florida Trail still has more than 200 miles gaps bridged by roadwalks and crosses private lands that are at risk of closure. Friends of the Florida Trail is working to raise funds for land acquisition and to find legislative methods of closing the gaps in the Florida Trail.
It’s a Florida treasure
Fifty years of trail development means the Florida Trail is Florida’s oldest and longest recreational resource. It enables day hikers to find places of stunning natural beauty, botanical wonders, and geologic curiosities. It lets backpackers get away from it all and get back to nature for a weekend, a week, or a few months. Browse through the trail starting at its southernmost point and discover the beauty of Florida as it unfolds along the footsteps you take along the Florida Trail.
Where is the Florida Trail?
The Florida Trail runs between Big Cypress National Preserve just north of the Everglades to Gulf Islands National Seashore on Pensacola Beach. Bookended by two national parks, it crosses dozens of public lands managed by agencies at the local, state, and federal level. It can be found in all of our National Forests in Florida, on levees managed by South Florida Water Management District, in wildlife management areas, Florida State Parks, Florida State Forests, and many city and county parks and natural lands as well. It even crosses two military reservations.
Who looks after the Florida Trail?
Mostly volunteers. Thousands of volunteers have contributed millions of hours to the creation and maintenance of the Florida Trail. As a National Scenic Trail, it belongs to all of us, but there are many stewards. The Florida Trail is managed by the USDA Forest Service and built and maintained by the volunteers of the Florida Trail Association. Do your part to help keep the trail open to the public by joining a volunteer work crew or getting involved with a local chapter of the Florida Trail Association.
Who provides trail information?
The Florida Trail Association is your official source for maps and rules and regulations regarding parts of the trail.
Since 2002, Florida author Sandra Friend, founder of FloridaHikes.com, has been writing guidebooks to the Florida Trail. Joined in 2013 by John Keatley, who founded the Florida Trail Hikers Alliance, they have produced a comprehensive guidebook, The Florida Trail Guide, which is patterned after The AT Guide and updated regularly. They supply the GPS tracks, waypoint information, and photographs to Guthook Guides for the Florida National Scenic Trail app.
Sandra and John provide detailed Florida Trail hike planning information on their website as well.