A Trail to Discover
History. Florida National Scenic Trail offers a chance to discover the natural beauty of linking
the wild and rural areas of the state. Added to the national trails system in 1983, the Florida Trail
will one day extend for 1,300 miles from Gulf Islands National Seashore in Northwestern Florida to
Big Cypress National Preserve in South Florida. As of January, 1991 there are over 300 miles of
certified Florida National Scenic Trail stretching through the Apalachicola, Ocala and Osceola
National Forests; St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge; Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State
Trail; South Florida Water Management District lands, including the Kicco, Bluff Hammock and
lower Kissimmee sections; Avon Park Airforce Range; and Big Cypress National Preserve.
James A. Kern, a Miami wildlife photographer and real estate broker, envisioned the Florida
Trail in 1964 while hiking the Appalachian Trail. In an effort to generate support for the project,
Kern founded the Florida Trail Association, a nonprofit group of trail enthusiasts who dedicated
themselves to building a trail the length of the state. With over 5,000 members, the association can
now lay claim to over 1,000 miles of constructed trail. This includes the main Florida Trail as well
as numerous side and loop trails. On weekends, Florida Trail Association members fan out to do trail
maintenance. Routinely they wade through swamps to build bridges, cut back the thick sub-tropical
vegetation, and paint trail blazes. Work is led by section leaders responsible to maintain specific
sections. The Florida Trail Association and the USDA Forest Service develop and maintain the
National Scenic Trail through cooperative agreements with the various public and private
Trail Development. Portions of the Florida Trail are continually being certified as part of the
Florida National Scenic Trail, giving it various degrees of protection. Permanent easement
agreements are being sought with cooperative landowners and land management agencies to insure
that trail segments remain undisturbed, giving America's populace a rare recreation resource.
The Florida National Scenic Trail will adopt privately owned sections only with the landowners
Only through the generosity of public-spirited landowners, who join this cooperative venture,
will more trail become accessible to the public. At this time, the Florida National Scenic Trail is only
partially completed, as shown on the map. Because the Florida National Scenic Trails planned route
generally follows the existing Florida Trail, a route is defined, but not assured. The progress made to
date hails the beginning of a new era for Florida and lovers of the outdoors. Thanks to the efforts of
the Florida Trail Association; UDSA Forest Service; Florida's Department of Natural Resources;
Division of Forestry; Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission and Water Management Districts;
National Park Service; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Army Corps of Engineers, and Department of
Defense; along with some private landowners, the Trail represents the focus of cooperative efforts to
preserve a part of Florida's natural beauty.
More information is available from the National Forests in Florida, 227 N. Bronough St., Suite
4061, Tallahassee, Florida 32301, or the Florida Trail Association, Inc., P.O. Box 13708, Gainesville,
Explore the Trail Route
The Florida National Scenic Trail is primarily a foot path that meanders through a variety of
Florida's ecological regions, overlaying the route of the existing Florida Trail. The most popular time to
hike the trail is late fall through early spring when temperatures are cooler, rainfall lower, insects
relatively inactive and migratory wildlife abundant.
Northwestern Region. In Florida's western panhandle region, appropriate trail locations are still
being sought. The trail may follow the beautiful Gulf of Mexico beaches from Gulf Islands National
Seashore to the Apalachicola River. Blackwater River State Forest, and Pine log State Forest contain
the only completed sections of the Florida Trail.
Big Bend Region. The Big Bend region extends from the Apalachicola River to the Suwannee
River as the trail continues s outhward. In the heart of Apalachicola National Forest, hiking -he trail
often means wading in waist deep water, through the Bradwell Bay Wilderness. This 23,000-acre area is
one of the largest designated wildernesses in the East. It is noted for titi thicket, deep gum swamp and
virgin stands of pine and cypress. The trail through the St. Marks National Wildlife refuge follows a
turn-of-the-century train railroad bed through protected wilderness. In addition to its botanical
diversity, the refuge is a popular birding location with over 300 species. Traveling east, the trail follows
the northern reaches of San Pedro Bay on logging roads crossing lands owned by private timber
companies. Once at the Suwannee River, the terrain varies from flat dirt roads to high sand hills and
limestone rock bluffs, sandbanks, cypress swamps and spring-fed tributaries. Most of the trail along the
Suwannee is located on scenic private lands, one of the least protected sections of the trail.
Northern Region. Between the Suwannee River and north Orlando, the trail passes through the
Osceola and Ocala National Forests. These forests are characterized by pine flatwoods, swamp forests
and hardwood hammocks. South of the Osceola National Forest, the trail winds through picturesque
ravines and crosses a colonial rice plantation before it enters the Ocala National Forest. It passes
numerous sinkhole lakes, ponds, rivers and freshwater springs.
Central Region. Through the heavily populated central region, extending from north Orlando to
the north shore of lake Okeechobee, the trail lies mostly on public lands. It skirts the Orlando area and
picks up along the Kissimmee River. This beautiful section passes through live oak and sabal palm
hammocks, sand pine, open prairies and along the riverbanks.
Southern Region. The southern section of the trail includes lake Okeechobee and the Big Cypress
National Preserve. Around lake Okeechobee, the trail follows U.S. Army Corps of Engineer's levees and
passes over and around water control structures that were constructed in the 1940's to control flooding
and drain the Northern regions of the Everglades. The trail winds southward in Big Cypress National
Preserve through a mix of cypress swamp and sawgrass marsh dotted with tropical hammocks of sabal
palms and air plants. Endangered species, such as the Florida panther and the Everglades kite may
occasionally be seen in this area. At the extreme southern end lies a pristine example of sub-tropical
Enjoy the Trail
Because many different public agencies and private interests are participating in the development
and management of the Florida National Scenic Trail, users must be mindful of the type and width of
the trail tread. The support facilities available, such as campgrounds, and the rules and regulations
governing use of the trail, will vary from segment to segment.
Florida National Scenic Trail users are urged to show appreciation for the voluntary public and
private efforts to develop and manage the trail by using it and its related facilities properly by complying
with any applicable rules and regulations. Users should be especially careful to respect the rights of
private property owners, particularly those who have generously allowed the trail to cross their land.
Please stay on the trail, especially when crossing private lands.
Trail Marking. Certified segments of the Florida National Scenic Trail are signed with the
marker shown on the map side of this brochure. These are supplemented by paint blazes, usually
orange, and routed wooden signs that provide distance and directional information. Other segments are
marked similarly, but lack official Florida National Scenic Trail symbol.
Permitted Uses. All segments of the Florida National Scenic Trail are open to travel by foot for
hiking and backpacking.
Fees and Permits. The use of some segments of the Florida National Scenic Trail and overnight
facilities requires the payment of a fee and/or obtaining a permit. Fees are also required to camp in
many developed federal, state, and county campgrounds. Users should check with managing authorities
in advance to determine if permits and/or fees are required.
Camping. Facilities for backpack camping along the Florida National Scenic Trail vary greatly.
Some managing authorities permit backpack camping anywhere along the trail. Others permit camping
only at designated sites. In some cases, the trail may already be open to use but designated camping
sites have not yet been established. Along such segments it may be difficult to find anyplace to camp
legally. Users are urged to plan their trip in advance to assure themselves proper overnight
accommodation. Patience is needed while the trail is being developed. Above all, avoid trespassing and
violating private property rights.
Interpretive Facilities. Major interpretive centers explaining the natural history and geology of
Florida are located within the trail planning corridor at Big Cypress National Preserve, Gulf Islands
National Seashore, several national forests and state parks.
Fishing. A Florida fishing license is required for fishing in lakes and streams along the trail.
Hunting. Many public and private lands through which the Florida National Scenic Trail passes
are legally open to hunting during the proper seasons. It is not intended that passage of the trail
through these lands should in any way lead to their closure to hunting. In general, the trail will remain
open during hunting seasons. However, some segments of the trail may be closed during hunting
seasons by the managing authorities responsible for those segments. Trail users should check in
advance with the managing authority regarding use of specific trail segments during hunting seasons.
Trail users are encouraged, and in some areas required, to wear "hunter's orange" while using segments
in areas open to hunting.
Additional Information. For specific information on trail segments crossing state lands, write to:
Florida Department of Natural Resources, 3900 Commonwealth Blvd., Tallahassee, FL 32399-3000.
Information on trail segments in the national forests write to: National Forests in Florida, 227 N.
Bronough St., Suite 4061, Tallahassee, FL 32301.