Lake Wales Ridge State Forest: Arbuckle Tract North Loop to Lake Arbuckle, Reedy Creek, and Lake Godwin, Frostproof, Florida
Hiking in Florida typically means looking for certain highlights such as interesting woods, creeks, lakes, or historic sites. But what if you could fit all of that into one hike? That's something the north loop at the Arbuckle Tract of Lake Wales Ridge State Forest manages to accomplish. In under just 14 miles, this trail visits the shorelines of Lake Arbuckle and Lake Godwin, affords numerous views of both Reedy Creek and Livingston Creek, and passes through a variety of different woods and ecosystems that range from unique pine flatwoods full of cutthroat seep grass to open, sandy scrub areas. This hike is easily among the most scenic I've done in Central Florida. Not often do you find such a mix of beautiful scenery on a single trail in Florida, keeping your interest piqued and letting the miles roll by faster. This hike occurred on Saturday, August 4th, 2018. My plan was to hike the North Loop in the Arbuckle Tract counter-clockwise from McLean Cabin Trailhead.
Paynes Creek Historic State Park is home to the site of Fort Chokonikla, one of several forts that were built in central Florida to control the Seminole Indians. Today, the historical side of Paynes Creek Historic State Park is not as visible as it once was, with nothing remaining of the fort. Other historical sites in the park include the site of a trading post and a monument. For hikers, the park has several miles of trails to offer, with rewards such as a suspension bridge across Paynes Creek and a view of the Peace River. Some of the park's trails also traverse uplands and pine flatwoods near the site where Fort Chokonikla once stood. This hike occurred on Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016. My plan was to hike the Historic Trail and Peace River Trail. If I had additional time to spare, I would also hike the Mary Jane Trail.
One of the larger lakes in the vicinity of the small town of Lake Placid, Lake June-in-Winter is home to a relatively new state park. Located on the western shore of the lake, the small park has several short trails that showcase the beauty of Lake Wales Ridge, although the condition of the park leaves something to be desired. Lake Wales Ridge is a low ridge that stretches through central Florida. This hike occurred on Sunday, July 12th, 2015. My plan was to hike the main loop in the park that consists of the Bobcat Trail, Deer Trail, and Eagle Trail, and then, time-permitting, to hike the short Tomoka Run Nature Trail.
The Kissimmee River is one of the largest rivers in Florida. In its large floodplain lies the route of the Florida Trail. The section of the Florida Trail that continues southeast from US Route 98 is known as the Chandler Slough section. The piece that I did on this day was overgrown and sometimes underwater. I eventually had to revise my plans, as this is one of those Florida hikes that is best done during winter. This hike occurred on Sunday, July 12th, 2015. My plan was to hike the Florida Trail from the Micco Landing Trailhead on US 98 to the Chandler Slough West Trailhead that is also on US 98. Unfortunately, I only did a short part of my plan due to the poor conditions of the trail.
Mark Oleg Ozboyd
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