Health + Fitness

Great Outdoors: Orlando Hikes That Will Make You Feel Like a Conquistador

(Photo: Steve Bower/Shutterstock.com)

Nature lovers can bask in Orlando’s natural splendor any time of year, especially if they like to hike. Just a short drive from the “City Beautiful,” stunning trails filled with rugged scrub palm prairie and dense live oak and Cyprus trees await. If you’re looking to venture into wild Florida, try one of these great outdoors escapes.

Put a Spring in Your Step

Unlike other parts of the country, the earth beneath Florida is hollow and full of fresh water, known as the “aquifer.” In some spots, the ground spits open and bubbles forth into a natural spring. Wekiwa Springs State Park is ground zero for natural adventure in Central Florida, complete with 14 miles of hiking and biking trails, eight miles of equestrian trails and a large family camping area all centered around the park’s spring.

Feel Little in Big Spaces

Just a quick hop, skip and a jump past Orlando city limits lies the confusingly named Little-Big Econ State Forest, consisting of more than 9,500 acres of protected floodplain along the banks of the Econlockhatchee River (e-con-lock-hat-chee). Home to the occasional music festival (and pack of wild coyotes), this vast expanse of wilderness features five different hiking trails with multiple access points. Bring you boots, because this region experiences heavy rainfall in the summer and is known to flash flood during afternoon downpours.

Find Wilderness in the Backyard

Connecting Orlando to Winter Park and the Cross Seminole Trail, the Cady Way Trail is a 7.2-mile paved path through the backyards of some of the area’s most iconic communities. Great for getting to where you’re going or simply getting out and exercising, this urban trail offers hikers water fountains, sheltered rest stops and even emergency signaling devices. Just be sure to look both ways before crossing paths — this corridor is popular with overzealous touring cyclists.