Florida Trail Association

Trail FAQs

Hiking Season

Q: When is Florida’s hiking season?
A: The hiking season in Florida runs basically from late October through April. Because of unpredictable weather and hunting seasons in the fall, we recommend thru-hikes start in the south in early January and end in the north by April. This schedule will avoid almost all general gun hunting restrictions and place your hike during the winter “dry” season.

Trail Length

Q: How long is the Trail?
A: There are several answers to this question. For thru-hikers, hiking from one end to the other, the mileage ranges from 1,089 to 1,136, depending on which routes they take.  The total mileage including both National Scenic Trail certified and non-certified is 1,501.  The mileage varies slightly every year as local maintaining chapters relocate parts of the Trail, working to take the FT off of private property and roads and into a protected corridor (certified as National Scenic Trail).

Trailheads

Q: How do I get to the Florida Trail?
A: The northern terminus of the Florida National Scenic Trail is at the Fort Pickens parking lot of the Gulf Islands National Seashore just south of Pensacola.  The southern terminus is on Loop Road (SR 94). Access to Loop Road is available from Tamiami Trail (US 41), 55 miles west of Miami Courthouse, 42 miles west of the Florida Turnpike, and 52 miles east of Naples.  There are numerous trailheads along the length of the trail which are specified on each map.

Bicycles on the Trail

Q: Can I ride my bike on the Trail?
A: Several short portions of the Florida Trail coincide with shared, multi-use trails where bikes and sometimes horses are allowed. However, the vast majority of the Florida Trail is designated for foot traffic only.  See BikingFlorida.com for bicycle trails.

Building Fires

Q: Can I build fires for cooking?
A: Carry a backpacking stove to cook your meals. Don’t rely on fires. Not only is it more convenient and easier in wet weather, it minimizes your impact on the land around your camp. Campfires are not allowed at all along some sections of the Trail and may be temporarily banned in other areas during periods of high fire danger. When you can build a fire, keep it small. Use only pre-existing fire rings or build a leave-no-trace fire on a deep sandy base.

Horses on the Trail

Q: Can I ride my horse on the Trail?
A: Several short portions of the Florida Trail coincide with shared, multi-use trails where bikes and sometimes horses are allowed. However, the vast majority of the Florida Trail is designated for foot traffic only. For information on equestrian trails, see FloridaHorse.com.

Pack Animals

Q: Are pack animals such as llamas and alpacas allowed on the Florida Trail?
A: No. There are many other multi-use trails available in Florida; and pack animals may be permitted on equestrian trails. See FloridaHorse.com for a list.

Permits

Q: Do I need a permit to hike the Trail?
A: A few landowners require advanced notification and permits to cross their land. It is essential that you notify the Florida Trail Association office a minimum of 30 days before starting a thru-hike. See our permits page for more information.

Pets on the Trail

Q: Are dogs allowed on the Trail?… what about cats?
A: Since many Florida state agencies and private landowners either prohibit dogs or place severe restrictions on them, the Florida Trail Association cannot recommend taking your dog on any portion of the Florida Trail outside of the boundaries of the three National Forests: Apalachicola, Ocala and Osceola. You personally will need to check with each land manager on their current policies on dogs before your hike.  Pets in general are not allowed, including ferrets, iguanas, turtles, and the like.

Alligators

Q: Should I worry about alligators?
A: Only if you’re afraid of them. Yes, they do exist. Yes, you’ll see them along the trail. But we’ve had no reports of alligator attacks on hikers. Any alligator in the wild will perceive you as a threat and rush away. Unless, of course, you’re bending over a creek or canal at dusk or dawn, or swimming in their habitat, in which case they might mistake you for prey. Be careful when and where you filter your water.

Building Fires

Q: Can I build fires for cooking?
A: Carry a backpacking stove to cook your meals. Don’t rely on fires. Not only is it more convenient and easier in wet weather, it minimizes your impact on the land around your camp. Campfires are not allowed at all along some sections of the Trail and may be temporarily banned in other areas during periods of high fire danger. When you can build a fire, keep it small. Use only pre-existing fire rings or build a leave-no-trace fire on a deep sandy base.

Clothing

Q: What clothing is suggested?
A: Rain protection is a must and layering is the rule for clothing. Layered synthetic clothing will allow you to regulate your body temperature on those days that start with finding your water bottle frozen solid and end with you basking in semi-tropical heat.

Essentials

Q: What should I carry on a hike?
A: To be prepared for most contingencies while hiking, authorities recommend that any hiking trip include these “essentials.”

Map and compass
Water (and some means to treat water from streams)
Warm clothing and rain gear
Extra food
First-aid kit
Whistle (three blasts is the international call for help)
Flashlight (with extra batteries and bulb)
Sharp knife
Fire starter and waterproof matches

Physical Demands

Q: What are the greatest physical demands of this trail? It seems the elevation gain-loss would not be signifcant.
A: Slogging through marl mud and deep water in Big Cypress; hiking the 8-miles of swamp forest in Bradwell Bay; miles of rough uneven terrain (limerock and grass) on the South Florida dike systems we use, and soft sand in scrub habitats like parts of the Ocala National Forest.  No climbing, but still physically demanding.

Water

Q: Is the water safe to drink?
A: All water in Florida should be treated unless identified as potable by signs. You must filter, boil or chemically treat all surface water. Particular care should be taken within the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. At high tide the surface water within St. Marks is brackish, being infused with seawater.

Weather

Q: What’s the weather like?
A: While Florida winters are very moderate compared to the rest of the United States, we do get fronts that come through during the winter that can cause the temperature to drop below freezing in a matter of hours. Fortunately, such weather usually doesn’t stay with us for more than a few days. Be prepared for temperatures ranging from 20 degrees to 80 degrees during this winter hiking season.  Summer hiking can be very hot, especially if there is no shade.  It is crucial to wear a hat and lightweight clothing to protect you from the sun and bring plenty of water to prevent heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  Summer is also a time for thunderstorms.  Florida has some of the most violent storms in the world.  Be prepared to take cover if you see one approaching to avoid dangerous lightning strikes.

Blazes

Q: When I see a double blaze, indicating a turn, is it always clear which way I should turn, or is it a guess?
A: No, it is not always clear which way to turn. In some places, offset blazes indicate the turn of direction (upper blaze being the direction of travel), in others they do not. But in general you should be able to see the next blaze from where you are standing.

Campsites

Q: Can you Backpack setting up camp along the way? Using the Leave no Trace method? Meaning not in a managed campsite of any type.
A: It depends when and where you are hiking. During hunting seasons on certain public lands, you MUST use designated campsites. On many others, you can camp where and where you wish using LNT principles.

Maps

Q: Where can I get maps of the Florida Trail?
A: Maps are available at the Florida Trail Association’s office and our online store. In addition, maps are available for all three National Forests the trail passes through from the USDA Forest Service and their district ranger offices.

Shelters

Q: Are shelters available along the Trail?
A: There are currently only seven hiker shelters along the Florida Trail. It is therefore necessary for you to provide your own tent. We recommend tents, bivys or hammocks with no-see-um netting.

Traffic on the Trail

Q: How many hikers would one expect to meet on any given day in the months of January, February, and March?
A: It depends on where you are and when. On weekends in the Ocala National Forest or Little-Big Econ, dozens. In the middle of Big Cypress, probably no one but your group. Day use is heavy on weekends but mainly in state parks and areas near urban centers. During the week, the trail is yours.