Your Wellness Guide: Hiking in Florida
Florida has some excellent hiking trails. Let's go exploring!
“Get some fresh air.” This phrase acts as an all-encompassing solution for whatever problem is at hand. Stressed at work? Get some fresh air. About to lose your cool? Get some fresh air. While overused, the sentiment does hold true: There’s rarely anything that a little outdoor time can’t fix, which is why hiking is a wellness habit that’s hard to beat.
“Besides physical fitness, hiking keeps your mind agile because you are paying attention to everything around you, from where you put your feet to what’s up ahead,” explains Sandra Friend, Florida author and founder of FloridaHikes.com. “Immersing [yourself] in nature is great for mental health, too. I find myself doing my best introspection and problem-solving while hiking,” she adds.
The Greater Central Florida area offers a variety of hiking opportunities: Seminole State Forest has large-scale, upland landscapes, while Black Bear Wilderness Area, just outside of Sanford, provides hikers with a deep immersion into floodplain forests along the St. Johns River. Other nature excursions include the arc of the Florida Trail east of Orlando through Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area, Charles H. Bronson State Forest, and Merritt Island’s National Wildlife Refuge.
“Florida is an amazing place to hike because of its botanical diversity,” says Friend. “Even on a short hike, you can experience five or six different habitats in just a mile.”
According to Friend, the key for novice hikers is to start with short, easy walks and build from there. “Go with friends since enjoying the outdoors is more fun when you can share the experience,” she says. “Or get involved with a group like the Central Florida Chapter of the Florida Trail Association that leads guided hikes.”