Photos/Text by Kelsey Walters
Our corner of Florida isn’t exactly known for higher elevations. The coastline is relatively flat and hills in the area are mostly man-made. As you travel further inland, however, the scenery begins to change and rolling hills creep up from the sea level to which we are accustomed.
The area surrounding Lake Apopka, Florida’s fourth largest lake, is a wealth of natural landscapes and exploration opportunities. Our family spent the day exploring Green Mountain Scenic Overlook and the Lake Apopka Loop Trail for a relaxing and sunny afternoon adventure.
Outdoor Things to do Around Lake Apopka
While there are no sprawling mountain ranges to be found in Florida, Green Mountain does provide a vantage point you don’t often find in Florida. At 180 feet above sea level, the easy-going trail starts off with stunning views over lush, green bluffs. A quick, paved walk will lead to the overlook tower. Here, you can take in views of truly natural Florida with nothing man-made in sight.
From there, your adventure is really up to you and there are plenty of options. For an easier option, a quarter-mile of gravel-paved trail will lead you further into the lowlands. The trail is full of lazy, winding switchbacks to ease you down the hillside and makes it accessible to most hikers and leisurely strollers. This and the surrounding areas are also extremely popular with bicyclists.
Hiking Around the Lake Apopka Loop Trail in Florida
Further on, you’ll come to the access point of the Lake Apopka Loop Trail. From here, you can hike as far as you’d like – up to 17 miles over Lake Apopka’s north shore to the opposite side of the lake. With Avery in tow, we took our hike at “little kid pace” (which is glacial as she stops to inspect every bug and leaf, and pick every wildflower).
She also brought her treasured Florida reptiles, amphibians and wildlife guides to study and reference in case we came across something good. We brought along her wagon for snack/cooler storage and shaded rest, and made our way three miles out and back on the wide trail, which is a combo of loose gravel and roughly paved surface.
At that point, you have access to several other trails or can continue on your path. Much of the trail to this point is shaded by a lush canopy mottled with sunlight, and this time of year is perfect for a relaxing walk cooled by spring breezes. There are stretches of clear skies, however, so be sure to pack your sunscreen!
As always, if you’re outside in Florida, there’s bound to be plenty of mosquitoes. Don’t forget bug spray, as there are plenty of them, as well as biting flies and other pesky things, to go around. We also spotted a great deal of different butterflies, dragonflies and bees along our way (or “fuzzy buzzies” as Avery calls them).
Because of its length and changes in elevation, the trail is a popular spot for hikers training for the Appalachian Trail or other long stretches. Be advised, however, that this trail is for day use only and offers no overnight camping spots.
At our halfway point, we found a large canal leading to the lake. We spotted tons of birds searching the waters for lunch, and a nice-sized gator just below our feet on a walkway over the water. We stayed quite a while watching him lounge in the water, while he kept a close eye on us as well. Other wildlife sightings reported along this trail includes bobcats, river otters and coyotes.
Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive in Florida
If you’re able to pack more exploring into your day, the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is just across the lake. It is an 11-mile one-way drive along the shoreline that promises ample wildlife spotting. It’s only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. so plan accordingly. It can also be accessed by pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as from the Lake Apopka Loop Trail if you plan to do the full 17 miles.
Other access points of this trail offer waterfront access to the lake for boating and kayaking/canoeing. The area is considered one of the county’s premiere birding destinations with over 370 species located along the shores. Lake Apopka’s South Lake Trail offers even more hilltop and lakeside scenery as well as several parks. No matter where you end up, the shores of Lake Apopka have something to offer every adventure seeker.
GREEN MOUNTAIN SCENIC OVERLOOK AND TRAILHEAD
Open daily from 7 AM – 8 PM
LAKE APOPKA WILDLIFE DRIVE
Open Fridays – Sundays (and federal holidays) from 7 AM – 3 PM
Find more Florida day trips here!
- Outdoor Things to Do that Allow Social Distancing
- Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens – Williston
- Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park – Gainesville
- Dudley Farm Historic State Park
- Salt Springs
- Kanapaha Botanical Gardens – Gainesville
- Camping Season: Riverside Lodge Resort, Inverness
- Wild Florida – Drive Through Safari, Gator Park and Airboats, Kenansville
- Juniper Springs Recreation Area
- St. Johns River Cruises @ Blue Spring State Park
- Homosassa Springs
- Crystal River Archaeological State Park
- McKee Botanical Gardens – Vero Beach