How to Hike on Florida's Space Coast
Hiking in Florida is different than an average trek
From forests to sanctuaries, the Space Coast is lush with foliage, wildlife, and unexpected wild spaces waiting to be explored. One of the best ways you can experience this lesser-known side of the Space Coast is by going on a hike! Believe it or not, you can hike in Florida, and though it may be an unconventional form of trek, there are trails, parks, and refuges full of trails that are just waiting for you to explore.
As you might guess, hiking in Florida is quite different than anywhere else in the world. With flat terrain and humid temperatures, preparing for a hike is crucial to having the most enjoyable experience and avoiding unexpected hardship. Florida’s climate can be a bit unpredictable, so dressing appropriately and bringing the proper supplies while on your outing will enhance your experience exponentially. For a good, old-fashioned trek in the Sunshine State, it’s best to know the “when, what, and where” for Florida hiking:
- When to venture out
- What to bring and to wear
- Where to go and/or stay
When to Hike in Florida
Generally speaking, winter is a great time for every sort of outdoor recreation in Florida because you’ll find the temperatures conducive to spending long periods of time outdoors very comfortable. If you do plan to do outdoor exploring during the warmer months, specifically June through August, it is wise start early and to finish your journey before noon. Florida summer’s are no joke. So make sure that you choose short, shaded trails on your summer vacation treks.
What Supplies Should I Bring on a Florida Hike?
- Water and Food: enough for your trip and more than enough to stay hydrated.
- Directional Aids: GPS, a map, and/or compass. Most Trails on the Space Coast are clearly marked and even provide boardwalks for easy hiking, but it doesn’t hurt to keep these handy, especially if you’re planning a trek on the Florida Trail or similar excursion.
- Protective and Preventative Supplies: Bug spray, sunscreen, basic first aid, small flashlight and/or headlamp, sunglasses, pocketknife.
- Hiking Stick: though it is excellent for balance and stability, it’s not limited to just that. It can aid in unexpected wading and clearing the path of spider webs or vines and vegetation.
- Miscellaneous: camera, phone, and field guide.
*Use common sense for your own safety. Always let someone know where you’re going and check in with them when you return. Carry a cell phone, especially if you are hiking solo. Keep in mind though that many wilderness areas may have limited cell service.
What Clothing Should I Wear on a Florida Hike?
- Rain Gear
- Hat (one with a brim for extra sun protection)
- Lightweight socks (good for wicking moisture)
- Lightweight, breathable, closed-toed shoes (also good for wicking moisture)
- Lightweight, breathable clothing for varying weather conditions
Where Can I Hike on Florida's Space Coast?
Whether a beginner to hiking in Florida or someone you consider more experienced, there’s a wide array of options along Florida’s Space Coast. Simply researching Florida State Parks and Florida State Forests will bring you a plethora of options, but here are some of the top trails to trek on the Space Coast:
- Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge: This wildlife conservation park is home to more endangered species than anywhere else in America. Occupying 140,000 acres, you can hike the trails that provide a “full range of habitats, containing 1000 species of plants, 117 species of fish, 68 amphibians and reptiles, 330 birds, and 31 mammal species.” Additionally, there is access to the observation deck, where you can capture views of the Canaveral National Seashore, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Mosquito Lagoon, the Indian River, and the Kennedy Space Center.
- Enchanted Forest: This flagship sanctuary is a 470-acre forest that preserves a diversity of natural habitats. There are several miles of hiking trails that allow visitors to enjoy the natural beauty of the region. You might even happen upon the Education Center, which showcases, and interprets the sanctuary's unique features suitable for visitors of all ages and abilities.
- Sebastian Inlet State Park: There are so many sites to see, activities to do, and natural surroundings to immerse yourself in at this state park; and yes, hiking trails are included, both to walk or to bike. For on-foot travelers, there is Hammock Trail. This trail is perfect for the more casual hiker who likes to savor and soak up their surroundings. “Meander under the shade of a coastal, sub-tropical, palm/oak hammocks and along the fringe of the mangroves” in this mile-long trail. There are even “plant identification signs telling about many of the unique species in this habitat.”
Rather cycle your way through the Space Coast?
If you prefer taking in the scenery on wheels, many of Florida’s hiking trails also include journeying by way of bicycle. Check out the Titusville Trifecta: three major biking trails that all meet in Titusville:
- Coast-to-Coast: This trail runs approximately 250-miles from the west coast to the east coast of Florida, connecting St. Petersburg to Titusville. As of 2020, the trail is 80% finished, but it’s going to be an amazing feat once it’s done!
- East Coast Greenway: The East Coast Greenway is an amazing bike trail that extends from the northern tip of Maine all the way to Key West. It’s a bucket-list bike trail that goes straight through the Space Coast!
- St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop: Part of the East Coast Greenway, this loop is a 260-mile paved multi-use trail running through five Florida counties. Access to this trail can be found at Canaveral National Seashore. It circumnavigates Titusville, the St. Johns River all the way to its headwaters in St. Augustine then follows the Sea back down to Titusville.
*For more specific information about these trails, check out the Titusville Welcome Center.
Things To Consider
Some parks and trails charge a fee ranging from $1 up to $15 per person. Additionally, some licensing and/or permits may be required depending on where you choose to traverse. It is important to research your desired location to see if such fees apply.
There are so many surprising ways to hike in Florida. Whether by the beach or in the brush, nature trails, day hikes, loop trails, or treks through marshlands, there’s a little something for everyone. So happy trails to you, right here on the Space Coast.
- Hiking in Florida. Floridahikes.com. https://floridahikes.com/florida-101. Accessed May 28, 2020.
- Hiking Basics for Florida. Floridahikes.com. https://floridahikes.com/hiking-basics-for-florida. Accessed May 28, 2020.
- Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Wikipedia.org. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merritt_Island_National_Wildlife_Refuge. Accessed May 28, 2020.
- Enchanted Forest Sanctuary. Brevardfl.gov. https://www.brevardfl.gov/EELProgram/Sanctuaries/EnchantedForestSanctuary. Accessed May 28, 2020.
- Sebastian Inlet State Park. Floridastateparks.org. https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/sebastian-inlet-state-park. Accessed May 28, 2020.
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