Hiking Trails and Running Paths in Lakeland and Polk County

Hiking Trails in Polk County Florida

Hiking in Florida doesn’t typically involve much elevation gain, making it a great family activity for all ages. I always feel refreshed after spending time outdoors. There is just something invigorating about breathing fresh air, enjoying a beautiful Central Florida oak canopy, and spotting Florida wildlife.

If you’re looking for a local nature trail or cross country style running path, this list is for you. The hiking trails included in this article are on dirt, sand, or grass, most of them meander through the woods, Florida scrub, or around a lake. Keep in mind that during certain times of the year {mostly the rainy season} some of these trails may be closed due to flooding or other natural concerns. Most of these trails also have specific hours they are open. Links are provided to check with the government entity that manages each trail.

If you prefer a paved walking trail (ideal for strollers or wheelchairs) take a look at our list of Walking Trails and Paved Paths in Lakeland and Polk County. Looking for a place to ride a bike? We’ve got a list of Bike Trails for Families and Mountain Bike Trails.

Circle B Bar Reserve Lakeland

Hiking Trails in Polk County

Circle B Bar Reserve

If we were going to suggest ONE outdoor place to visit in Polk County, it would be Circle B Bar Reserve. With a total of 6 miles of trails on over 1,200 acres, Circle B is a great place to spot alligators, a variety of birds, and other wildlife {I’ve seen wild hogs, armadillos, and snakes}. It also has five covered picnic areas. Look for display signs to pick up a nature trails map. Our favorite trails at Circle B are the Shady Oak Trail and Alligator Alley that runs along the lake, this is where we typically see alligators at a safe distance in the water. Note that some trails may close seasonally during alligator mating season for the safety of the wildlife and visitors.

The Discovery Center building is filled with nature displays and a small treehouse kids can play in. Restrooms are located inside the Discovery Center and open during hours of operation. A portable restroom is located just southwest of the parking lots and available at all times. PETS ARE NOT ALLOWED at CIRCLE B.

Location: 4399 Winter Lake Rd., Lakeland, FL 33803
Learn more:
Circle B Bar Reserve Website

Marshall Hampton Reserve

Marshall Hampton Reserve is located on the opposite side of Lake Hancock from Circle B Bar Reserve. The site is more than 1,100 acres and is mostly dominated by live oaks, slash pine, sweet gum and palmettos. Marshall Hampton Reserve provides more than seven miles of multiple-use trails for hikers and joggers to enjoy, and the two loop trails provide very different views of the property.

The Acorn Hammock Loop Trail is a 3.5-mile shaded loop trail through a scenic oak hammock. Beware of wet and muddy areas, especially during the rainy season.

Osprey Overlook Loop Trail is a 2.5 mile loop path along an elevated berm all the way around the 60-acre pond. The beauty of this trail is an elevated view of the pond and its wildlife. Hikers will enjoy the elevated view of the pond and its wildlife, look for osprey and eagles catching their prey. Beware of uneven terrain and holes on this hiking trail.

Location: 3115 Thornhill Rd., Winter Haven, FL 33880
Learn more:
Polk County Environmental Lands Website

Holloway Park Hiking Trails Lakeland

Holloway Park

Holloway Park offers endless opportunities for nature lovers. You can hike, jog, bird watch, take photos and walk your leashed dog along the beautiful and scenic trails. The Park includes a series of 3k, 5k, 8k and 10k grass running trails and is often used for competitive running events. This park is run by the Holloway Park Foundation, Inc., a 501(c) 3 corporation. {State wide cross country meets are held some weekends at Holloway Park – check the links below before you visit on a weekend}.

Looking for a field to play in? We’ve got a list of local parks with open grass spaces, including Holloway Park.

Location – 2 Entrances:
Off Hwy 98 – 2402 Holloway Park Dr, Lakeland, FL 33803
Off Lakeland Highlands Road – 3050 Lakeland Highlands Rd, Lakeland, FL 33803
Learn more: Holloway Park Website or Facebook

Lakeland Highlands Scrub Entrance

Lakeland Highlands Scrub

Lakeland Highlands Scrub has one shaded 1/2 mile trail (Shady Oak Trail) and several multi-use trails that cross and loop around one another through the open dry prairie, pine flatwoods, marshlands and basin swamp. The terrain includes wooded areas, sandy soils, grassy trails and a boardwalk over the wetlands. It connects to Se7en Wetlands trails as well.

Location: 6998 Lakeland Highlands Rd., Lakeland, FL 33813
Learn more:
Lakeland Highlands Scrub Website

Se7en Wetlands

This is one of our newer outdoor spaces, opened in 2018. Se7en Wetlands Park is part of a 1,600-acre area comprised of marshes, swamps, and lakes designed to help naturally clean already treated wastewater as it meanders through the retention areas. There is very little shade, be sure to stay hydrated. There are two Public Entrances to Se7en Wetlands:

  • Gopher Tortoise Gate (through Loyce E. Harpe Park on Carter Road – follow the road until it dead ends)
  • Wood Stork Gate (Se7en Wetlands connector trail through Lakeland Highlands Scrub Reserve)

There are no paper maps at Se7en Wetlands. Access the map digitally via the City of Lakeland’s Park Finder.

Location: 500 W Carter Rd. Mulberry, FL 33813 (Loyce E. Harpe Park entrance)
Learn more:
City of Lakeland Se7en Wetlands

Hiking Trail Polk County (2)

Gator Creek Reserve

Gator Creek Reserve has a series of adjoining loop trails, one of which is paved. This is a true outdoor experience so dress accordingly and be prepared for the possibility of mud and wild animals.

Location: 9725 U.S. 98 N. Lakeland, FL 33809
Learn more:
Gator Creek Reserve Website

Colt Creek State Park

This State Park is located in the NE corner of Polk County on Hwy 471. It is a great place to hike, bike, picnic, ride horses, fish, camp and just be outdoors. Admission is $4 per car.

Hiking – Visitors can hike or horseback ride on more than 12 miles of marked trails that meander through and around several of the park’s natural communities, including pine flatwoods, cypress domes and hardwood hammocks.

Bike Trails – There are over 12 miles of trails that are accessible for bikes. The trails are mostly hard packed and grass covered. Due to some areas of soft sand or muddy areas, mountain bikes are recommended.

Fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and camping are also available at Colt Creek State Park. Restrooms are located at the ranger station and the Mac Lake day use area.

Location: 16000 FL-471, Lakeland, FL 33809
Learn more:
Colt Creek Park Website

Circle B Bar Reserve Polk County (4)

Mosaic Peace River Park

This 460 acre park between Bartow and Fort Meade includes hiking and horse trails, as well as a 1 mile shaded boardwalk that meanders through the swamp.

TIP – Wear sturdy shoes and watch your step on the boardwalk, it can become slippery with algae growth, especially during the wet summer months.

Location: 2200 CR. 640 Bartow, Fl 33830

Mackay Gardens and Lakeside Preserve

The Mackay Gardens and Lakeside Preserve in Lake Alfred is 112 acres of beautiful natural land on the north side of Lake Rochelle. It includes 3 miles of hiking trails where you can spot wildlife, birds, and exotic plants. Mackay Gardens also hosts guided Nature Tours and Polk County Master Gardeners workshops.

Location: 945 Mackay Blvd, Lake Alfred, FL 33850
Learn more: Website

Peterson Park Boardwalk

We love the boardwalk at Peterson Park! It isn’t exactly a “hiking trail,” but definitely qualifies as a nature trail in my book. The boardwalk goes through the woods and around the lake. Access the boardwalk from the paved path OR from the screened pavilion area where the road ends. Keep an eye out to try and spot alligators and wildlife on this nature walk!

Location: 3700 Cleveland Heights Blvd, Lakeland, FL 33803
Learn More: City of Lakeland

Lake Morton Grass Walking Path

Not exactly a paved trail OR a hiking trail, Lake Morton in Lakeland is still a great place for a walk if you love swans and birds. It is exactly 1 mile around Lake Morton.

Enjoy the sunshine and fresh air while you watch the ducks and swans, just don’t feed them bread! There are feeders that dispense duck food around the lake or you can feed them corn (canned, frozen or fresh), lettuce, defrosted peas, oats, birdseed, etc. Learn why bread is bad for ducks.

Location: 100 Lake Morton Dr, Lakeland, FL 33801 – Public parking is available at the Lakeland Library or along the curb around the lake.

You can find additional nature preserves and hiking trails in Polk County on the county website.

Lake Kissimmee State Park is another great option for enjoying natural Florida lands.

Map – Find Hiking Trails Near Me

Editor’s Note – We are sometimes asked by people new to the area “are there any waterfall hikes near me?” Unfortunately with such flat terrain here in Central Florida, we don’t know of any hiking trails with waterfalls near Lakeland. We do have amazing lake views to enjoy while you walk or hike!

Whatever type of outdoor adventure you prefer, we hope this list helps you enjoy Polk County’s hiking trails and all the outdoor things to do in Lakeland!

Check out our full Outdoor Fun Guide for more outdoor things to do in Lakeland, Polk County, and Central Florida.