ABOVE: Palm Island Boardwalk in Mount Dora. (Mount Dora Buzz photo)
The kids are back in school and now you can take some time back for yourself in the great outdoors. Here’s the top ten walking trails in Lake County to take in some nature and exercise. Who knows, you may enjoy them so much, you bring the kids on your next visit.
ABOVE: Hidden Waters Preserve (Mount Dora Buzz photo)
Hidden Waters Preserve, Eustis Arguably some of the best trails in Lake County, this preserve offers various well-marked paths with small rolling hills, a hidden flowing creek, a large pond and plenty of gopher tortoises, water birds and butterflies. The blue markings keep you on the Lake Alfred Trail, which loops the lake and the red markings are for the Ravine Trail. Open 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Located at 2010 Abrams Road in Eustis.
ABOVE: Trout Lake Nature Center (TLNC photo)
Trout Lake Nature Center, Eustis The 230 acres include not only a nature center, swinging bridge, picnic area and educational exhibits, but also a network of short, wide trails that meander through a variety of upland and wetland habitats with lots of opportunities for spotting wildlife. A boardwalk leads to a covered dock on Trout Lake.Open 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on most days. Located at 520 East County Road 44 in Eustis.
Lake Gertrude Walking Path, Mount Dora This short and shady 3.51-mile path around residential Lake Gertrude is surrounded by lush landscaping and beautiful Mount Dora homes along the lakefront. Dusk and dawn walkers will see plenty of small rabbits nibbling along the western shore. Located at North Morningside Drive from U.S. Highway 441 or from the south on Old Highway 441. Dawn to dusk
ABOVE: Lake May Reserve trail, (Lake County photo)
Lake May Reserve Oak hammocks, upland scrub, hardwood forested areas and old citrus groves fill this 136-acre reserve that also encompasses a 20-acre lake and wetlands. There are multiple trail loops where hikers might stumble upon interesting reindeer moss in shady areas or gopher tortoises in the scrub habitats. Located at 36300 County Road 44A in Eustis. Open dawn to dusk.
Pine Meadow Conservation Area, Eustis Opened in 2018, this 770-acre conservation area, complete with more than six miles of passive recreational trails, offers fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and wildlife viewing. The area has become popular with birders due to its nearly 120 species, including bald eagles, blue-winged warblers, Henslow’s sparrows, swallow-tailed kites and others. Visitors will find public restrooms, picnic tables, a canoe and kayak launch area and a dog-friendly trail. Located at 2280 Pine Meadows Golf Course Road in Eustis. Open dawn to dusk.
ABOVE: Palm Island Boardwalk, Mount Dora (Mount Dora Buzz photo)
Palm Island Boardwalk, Mount Dora Enjoy this recently refurbished eight-acre preservation area that offers walking trails through wooded areas where hikers can view scenery and wildlife, such as birds and alligators, from an elevated boardwalk. There are covered areas, benches and picnic tables along the way. Located at 411 South Tremain Street in Mount Dora. Trail hours are daily from dawn to sunset.
Sawgrass Island Preserve, Umatilla Located at the north end of Lake Yale, this isolated 1178-acre watershed preserve boasts an impressive 600-acre sawgrass marsh and offers six multi-loop grassy trails that wind through forest, marsh, hardwood hammocks and lakeside habitats. This vast preserve, known for its great bird-watching, is home to Florida sandhill cranes, pileated woodpeckers, great horned owls, herons and other birds. Located at 11931 Sawgrass Island Road in Umatilla. Trail hours are 8:00 a.m. to sunset.
ABOVE: Tavares Nature Park (City of Tavares photo)
Tavares Nature Park, Tavares This 101-acre park is just minutes from downtown Tavares, but you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of the Ocala forest. Benches provide resting opportunities in some spots and there is a picnic table and pavilion next to a small pond at the park’s center. A small fishing dock on Lake Dora provides the perfect vantage point for sunrises over the lake. The perimeter trail is approximately a two-mile loop with other trails in between. Located at 1551 Milwaukee Avenue in Tavares. Trail hours are daily from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Bourlay Historic Nature Park, Leesburg This 88-acre wooded park on the southern shore of Lake Griffin has historical sites along Settlers Bend Trail. The “Cracker House” near the parking lot provides helpful information before hikers start off on the trails. There are 10 exercise stations along the Buddy’s Bounty Trail, a .48-mile loop. The short Nature Way Trail features a gazebo for a shaded place to rest. Located at 851 North Canal Street, Leesburg, FL 34748. Trail hours are daily from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
ABOVE: Lake Louisa State Park (Florida Parks photo)
Lake Louisa State Park, Clermont This State Park features 20 miles of unpaved, multi-use trails for hikers and cyclists. Three major lakes, Louisa, Hammond and Dixie, are ideal for canoeing, kayaking and paddleboarding. Visitors should keep on the lookout for wildlife including deer, bobcat, gopher tortoises, fox squirrel and flighted creatures like bald eagles and osprey. Located at 7305 U.S. Highway 27 in Clermont. Hours are 8:00 a.m. until sundown.
Not only do Lake County’s trails provide beautiful places to unwind in Florida's natural environment, the hikes can also provide good exercise with substantial health benefits.
“Regular walking cuts the risk of heart attack in half and increases HDL cholesterol levels and also lowers blood fat levels and triglycerides.”,” said Candace Huber, Director of CREATION Health at AdventHealth Waterman in Tavares.
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