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Official Visitor Information for Polk County, FL
Hit The Trails Of Polk County On Your Next Central Florida Vacation
With 120 trails covering more than 375 miles, the trail systems of Polk County provide nearly limitless opportunities to tour the region, whether on foot, by bicycle, while paddling or on horseback. Many of the area’s trails provide a connection to larger state and national trail systems such as the Florida National Scenic Trail, General James A. Van Fleet State Trail and the Everglades Paddling Trail. This interconnectivity allows travelers to use Polk County as a “base camp” during their Central Florida vacation.
Diverse Natural Communities
Some of the more distinct natural features to experience as you travel throughout Polk County include:
Lake Wales Ridge – Many thousands of years ago ancient oceans covered nearly the entire Florida peninsula. A central ridge remained above water that allowed plants and animals on this ridge to continue to evolve in isolation, and today boasts the highest concentration of rare and endangered plants in the US.
Floodplain Swamps – Floodplain swamps are seasonally inundated by water during the rainy season. Native to the floodplain swamps are the bald cypress and tupelo whose root systems both feature “knees” arising out of the soil, and Florida’s state tree the cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto).
Wet Prairie – The wet prairie habitat serves as a transition from the many area lakes to the uplands. The topography tends to be relatively flat or gently sloping and the habitat is typically dominated by dense wiregrass and seasonally spectacular blooms of wildflowers.
Scrubby Flatwoods – Scrubby flatwoods are characterized by extensive and relatively flat areas with an open canopy of widely spaced longleaf pine trees. Within the scrubby flatwoods are barren areas that reveal the fine white sand that also provides a home to the endangered gopher tortoise.
Wildlife Viewing Paradise
Polk County is a great place to see a wide variety of bird and animal life due to the area’s diversity of habitats. In order to catch a glimpse of some of the many animal species that reside in Polk County, you will want to hit the trails at dawn or dusk when animals are most active. Some of the top parks/natural areas to view birds and other wildlife include:
- Circle B Bar Reserve
- Colt Creek State Park
- The Green Swamp Wildlife Management Area’s Hampton Tract and East Tract
- Lake Kissimmee State Park
- Lake Wales Ridge State Forest’s Arbuckle Tract and Walk-in-the-Water Tract
- Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park
A Sampling of Popular Central Florida Attractions
While some of the more remote trails will provide plenty of opportunity to get close to nature, the many miles of multi-use trails throughout Polk County will provide the ability to explore popular area attractions.
- Lakeland’s Lake-to-Lake Greenway and Bikeway System provides easy access to attractions such as Explorations V Children’s Museum, Polk Museum of Art, Hollis Garden and Florida Southern College’s collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture.
- After hiking the Pine Ridge Nature Trail at Bok Tower Gardens make sure you take in the award winning gardens, tour the Pinewood Mansion and relax on the Great Lawn during a carillon concert.
- At the northern end of the KICCO Trail, Westgate River Ranch provides activities including airboat rides, horseback riding, a zip-line, trap shooting, miniature golf, fishing and a weekly Saturday Night rodeo.
- Just off the southern end of the Fort Fraser Trail in Bartow is the Polk County History Center.
Click here to learn more about the area’s many trails and get additional information about biking, boating and camping for even more opportunities to explore the great outdoors of Polk County. To assist you in planning your Central Florida vacation, make sure you get a copy of the Visit Central Florida Vacation Guide.