Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Guided tours
No
Backcountry camping
Yes
Lodging
No
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

For outdoor enthusiasts who find themselves surrounded by the urban sprawl of the University of Central Florida area in Orlando, it may seem that hiking and wildlife viewing are a bit out of reach. This is not the case, however, as the Orlando Wetlands Park is only a short drive east of Orlando. This water reclamation project turned wetland park has become a world class hotspot for birding, dirt path cycling, and exploring through wetlands, oak hammocks and palm tree-lined dikes.

Visitors begin their foray into the Florida wetlands at a well-maintained day use area complete with a picnic pavilion, education center, and information kiosk. The park's most popular trail begins just after the pavilion, opening up to a beautiful vista of wild Florida. Cabbage palms line the horizon, and on sunny days, the calm water reflects the wide open Florida sky. In the mornings, look east to see roosting birds waking up to fly out toward the coast. In the evenings, turn westward for golden sunsets that paint the water with a vibrant palette.

Continuing on the main trail, hikers and cyclists will soon see why this area is known as the birding loop. Waterfowl have made this park home in droves, so a bird identification field guide is a handy tool to carry. Whistling ducks, sandhill cranes, anhingas, cormorants, great blue heron, glossy ibis, limpkin and, of course, American coot are easily sighted from just about any location in the park. For a more rare bird sighting experience, visit in winter: This is when great white pelican and roseate spoonbills will be taking a rest from their cold weather journeys. Bald eagles and cara-cara frequent the park as well, so keep eyes on the skies and highest trees to get a glimpse of some spectacular raptors.

Birds are not the only animals to be  spotted at the park. During the warm weather, American alligators line the banks by the dozens as they soak up the sun. In the early morning, white-tailed deer and bobcat dart through the hammocks, and in the evenings, raccoons pop in and out of the cattails as they forage through the marsh.

Besides the trail system, the park features one primitive campsite. Available for hikers from the nearby Florida Trail access point (the Florida Trail is a 1,000-mile hike from the Everglades to the Panhandle), the Orange Mound Campsite is a truly secluded spot surrounded by dense palm hammock, giving an air of authentic Florida charm. Thru-hikers can doze off to the sound of barred owls trilling away and watch as dozens of bats flit through the night skies.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

Not Required

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Diverse wildlife viewing. Educational. Various trails. Multiple ecosystems.

Cons

Primary trail not shaded.

Features

Backcountry camping
Flushing toilets
Picnic tables
Covered picnic areas
Bird watching
Wildlife
Family friendly

Location

Field Guide

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