Weekend Backpacker: Orlando

Wandering Florida's Hidden Wilderness
  |  Gorp.com

Forget Disney, Universal, and Sea World. Orlando is a hiker's paradise — and it's not all Mickey Mouse around here.

The heart of central Florida is also the heartland of Florida backpacking, with more organized hiking clubs and more nearby weekend backpacking opportunities than any other city in the state. Looking to ramble down coastal beaches and set up your tent next to the sea? Or wander through dense palm hammocks shared by canoeists and hikers? Or perhaps you're up for a real adventure — a walk through one of America's rare subtropical forests. With excellent opportunities to get out of the suburbs and see the Florida black bear, alligators, armadillos, wood storks, and sandhill cranes, why wait?

For a great overview of hiking trails in Florida, pick up a copy of Florida Hiking by local author M. Timothy O'Keefe. It details short city walks, day hikes, and trails worthy of backpacking. A Hiking Guide to the Trails of Florida by Elizabeth F. Carter also provides good detail — and maps — on backpacking routes in the Sunshine State. Susan D. Jewell's book Exploring Wild Central Florida covers day hikes and backpacking in the midsection of the state.

The true comfort zone for backpacking in Central Florida is late October through early April — December, January, and February being the coolest months with the least likelihood of being bugged by bugs. Winter temperatures can drop near freezing now and again, so be sure to watch the weather forecast before making your gear selections for an outing.


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