Seeing the world does not necessarily mean draining your lifesavings or racking up a mountain of debt. With planning and preparation it need not cost you the earth – especially if you’re a nature lover like me.
On my first trip to Orlando, Florida, I did all the things one expects a tourist to do: I visited Universal Studios, Sea World and Walt Disney World. I took part in one of the “Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows” and spent hours exploring the “Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Orlando Odditorium”. I would have attended a Cirque du Soleil show and I also would have tried my hand at indoor Skydiving had I not come down with food poisoning. There were so many touristy things I did and only right at the end of my trip did I realise that there was a whole section of Orlando that I hadn’t even scratched the surface of: its beautiful great outdoors. I thus resolved to come back and take care of unfinished business.
Once my annual leave dates were confirmed I set about researching affordable accommodation in backpackers lodges. I also found some rather cheap flights on flythomascook and decided to make the necessary bookings.
I arrived in Orlando at the beginning of spring: the perfect time to explore the many trails and hikes on offer. While I can’t say I enjoyed every hike I did, here are my 3 favourites:
Florida Trail, Tosohatchee
This 10 mile trail runs next to the swamps and takes you through oak & cypress forests, pine flat woods, and deep into the palm hammocks. The trail runs in a loop so it’s a perfect one day hike with the family as you walk around the marshes and reeds along the paths, make sure to look out for the picnic spots and rustic bridges to venture across through the dense vegetation.
Florida Trail, Forever Florida
Of the 7.3 miles, the first 2.3 miles are unfortunately along the US 441 roadway, but after you have completed this segment, you suddenly find the exquisite Forever Florida. Even though this is a commercial attraction it’s well worth visiting. On this working cattle ranch you will find the gorgeous pine flat woods and cypress swamps showcased. If you enjoy camping, they do have a campsite that can be made use of with prior permission.
Florida Trail, Chuluota Wilderness to Joshua Creek
At 4.3 miles long, this is a pleasant easy going trail which allows you to experience the high and dry uplands of the Chuluota Wilderness. You will also get to see the magnificent floodplains of a variety of feeder streams which nourish the Econlockhatchee River. A real feast for the eyes.
There is far more to Orlando than just the colourful theme parks and croc-wearing tourists. It has caves, ranges and valleys with emerald landscapes and crisp clean cascading rivers. There are so many more hikes and trails to choose from that after you’ve experienced a few of these, your perception of Orlando will certainly be changed forever.