Take a Hike with Your Kids!
The Top Family-Friendly Trails in Central Florida. Adventure awaits at these 7 spots around town.
All parents can relate to the sentiment, “kids change everything.” It’s true, but that doesn’t mean you have to neglect your passions once the kids come along. For example, my husband and I have traversed hundreds of miles of sandy Florida trails over the years, and we didn’t want those adventures to stop when we became parents. So instead, we set out to find the best trailheads for our little adventurers. Below, find seven Central Florida trails laced with mossy oaks, exciting wildlife, easy-to-navigate terrain and diverse ecosystems the whole family can explore together.
Bear Creek Nature Trail
Length: 0.9 mile loop
Best for: Tiny tots, ages 2+
Bathrooms: None available on-site
Address: 1535 Winter Springs Blvd., Winter Springs
Description: The best way for families to introduce toddlers to the trails is by exploring the woods close to home. Bear Creek Nature Trail is a short loop that’s ideal for beginners. This trail offers a creek crossing, trees to climb on and an easy-to-follow route. It’s perfect for the youngest hikers who can’t go long distances and parents who like the feel of being just far enough out of suburbia to scratch that wilderness itch.
PLAY Tip: As a beginner trail, it’s a good idea to get your children familiar with being in the woods by talking about your senses as you hike. Ask: What do we hear? What do we see? What do we smell? How do the tree, leaves, and pine cones feel when we touch them?
Highlands Hammock State Park
Length: Varies, starting at 0.5 miles
Best for: All ages
Bathrooms: Multiple restrooms available throughout the park
Address: 5931 Hammock Rd., Sebring
Description: While a bit of a drive from metro Orlando, Highlands Hammock State Park in Sebring is worth the trip. This well-maintained park has nine beautiful trails to explore. A good jumping-off point is the Cypress Swamp Trail, which is a historic boardwalk originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Once you’ve finished that section, create your own loop out of the other eight trails. Don’t miss the Alexander Blair Big Oak Trail. The giant oak for which it’s named fell years ago, but you can still step up to the magnificent stump (oddly fascinating!). The trails in this park are a delight for all the senses.
PLAY Tip: Once you’re done playing in the woods, head over to Civilian Conservation Corps Museum that’s filled with exhibits, including a Fireside Chat with President Roosevelt.
Little Big Econ – Barr Street Trailhead
Length: 5.2 mile loop (or 2.6 mile one way)
Best for: Ages 5+
Bathrooms: Not available on-site
Address: 951 Barr St., Oviedo
Description: This popular trail winds through several Central Florida ecosystems, including a stretch along the beautiful Econlockhatchee River. Keep an eye out for gators sunning themselves on the riverbank, turtles, armadillos, deer, wild hogs and even otters. The trail is mostly shaded with well-packed soil, but there are roots and muddy spots, so watch your step. Kids will love swinging from Tarzan-like vines and playing in the waterfall.
PLAY Tip: To cut the hike in half, take two cars. Park one at the Barr Street Trailhead parking lot and then drive together to the entrance off Lockwood Blvd. near Evans Rd. intersection.
Family Day Hike Checklist:
- Snacks (trail mix, jerky, fruit, crackers)
- Lots of water
- First aid kit (bandages, Neosporin, alcohol wipes, blister treatment and antihistamine)
- Toilet paper and a towel
- Bug spray and sunscreen
- Whistles (in case of emergency)
- Tell someone where you’re parking, where you’re hiking and how long you’ll be gone.
Enchanted Forest Sanctuary Trail
Length: 2.5 mile loop
Best for: Ages 3+
Bathrooms: Available at the Nature Center
Address: 444 Columbia Blvd., Titusville
Description: Start your adventure at the Enchanted Forest Nature Center, where you sign in, pick up a trail map and learn about the surrounding habitats. The trails meander through various landscapes, from sandy oak scrub to shady towering canopies, hydric hammocks and floodplains. There are interpretive signs that explain each environment and its various plants and animals so that you can broaden your knowledge along the way.
PLAY Tip: Tortoise Trail and Magnolia Loop are mostly in the shade, making them ideal for family outings.
Circle B Bar Reserve
Length: Varies, starting at 0.9 miles
Best for: All ages, depending on the trail
Bathrooms: Available inside the Discovery Center
Address: 4399 Winter Lake Rd., Lakeland
Description: A straight shot down I-4 between Orlando and Tampa, the Circle B Bar Reserve is a former cattle ranch that is now a wildlife lover’s paradise — and a reason to visit Lakeland. Start your day by setting aside at least a half-hour to explore the Polk’s Nature Discovery Center, which includes an impressive exhibit outlining the various ecosystems you’ll see on the trail. After that, choose which loop to hike based on your skill and comfort level. A good place to start is the 1.3-mile Shady Oak Trail that begins paved and widens into a wide path under an impressive canopy of Spanish moss-soaked live oaks. Once the trail reaches the lake, turn back toward the Discovery Center to avoid the infamous Alligator Alley.
PLAY Tip: In addition to walking paths, there’s also an old cow camp across the street from one of the parking lots where kids can explore a hitching post and learn about Florida cowboys.
The Yearling Trail
Length: 5.5 mile loop
Best for: Ages 12+
Bathrooms: None available on-site.
Address: Ocala National Forest, FL-19, Fort McCoy
Description: The loop is the perfect trail for families with older kids who are interested in history and literature. The Yearling Trail is named for the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Yearling, written by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. You’ll see sinkholes, cattle dips, an old homestead, a cemetery and more. While it’s a wonderful trail following in the footsteps of early Florida settlers, the Ocala National Forest is rugged and remote.
PLAY Tip: Hikers are recommended to bring along bear canisters as a precaution.
Blackbear Wilderness Loop Trail
Length: 7.1 mile loop
Best for: Ages 8+, experienced hikers
Bathrooms: None available on-site
Address: 5298 Michigan Ave., Sanford
Description: This 7-mile hikers’ paradise is built on levees above the swampy land around the St. Johns River. The trail can be a bit strenuous for little legs but is perfect for tweens and teens who want a local adventure. Bring your binoculars and keep an eye out for various species of birds, wild hogs, deer, armadillos and the elusive Florida black bear for which this trail is named.
PLAY Tip: To avoid any spills, bring along a hiking stick or two for balance. And if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can even stay overnight on the trail’s primitive campsite.
4 Ways to Keep Kids Entertained While Hiking:
- Create your own scavenger hunt or search Pinterest for a free download.
- Put an outdoorsy spin on classic games like I Spy or 20 Questions.
- Bring along binoculars.
- 4. Roleplay by pretending you’re exploring an exotic jungle.