Few places are as amazing as the Lake Wales Ridge. When you hike at the Nature Conservancy's Tiger Creek Preserve, you can't help but think about how ancient this section of Florida is.
The Lake Wales Ridge is the highest and oldest landmass in the state, and is one of the most ecologically diverse places found anywhere. There's a little bit of everything here – sandhill habitats, swamps, marshes – you name it. The plant and animal life here is just as incredible. Look for hawks, swallow-tailed kites soaring above, and watch for flowering Lopsided Indiangrass and blooming wiregrass along the trails.
Ready to explore the Lake Wales Ridge? Head over to Tiger Creek Preserve where there are two trails to hike. The shorter George Cooley Trail is less than a mile in length, but is a great place to get a feel for the Lake Wales Ridge. For a day hike, you'll find the trailhead for the Highlands Trail about a quarter of a mile away. Drive over and park in the Highlands Trail parking lot, and get ready for an immersive look at the Lake Wales Ridge highlands and a short walk out to Patrick Creek. Keep in mind that most of the trail passes through pine flatwoods, making this hike a rugged and sunny experience. Don't forget your hat and sunscreen! The trail is about 7.2 miles in length.
Folks, this is one of my favorite Central Florida hikes. It's rugged and extremely beautiful, and is a delight for nature lovers. Visit the Tiger Creek Preserve website for more information and directions.