Established in 1931, Highlands Hammock State Park is renowned for being one of the oldest state parks in Florida.
Situated in Central Florida, around a two hour drive from Orlando, Fort Myers, and Tampa, it was set up by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), who at one stage used the park as their national headquarters.
Boasting a diverse wilderness that showcases the best of nature, the park is home to a patchwork of ecosystems like swamps, old-growth hammocks and open meadows. As well as a diverse range of wildlife including black bears, alligators, otters, white-tailed deer and panthers.
One of the central features of the park is a boardwalk that meanders through a raised cypress swamp that features trees which are over 1000 years old. One of them has a girth of more than 36 feet!
Other attractions include nine trails for hiking, some of which are open to equestrians, as well as a tram ride that takes on a course where you can see numerous alligators.
While it is a popular day trip destination, for those who want to stay the night, the park offers plenty of plots for RVs, trailers and tents. As well as group and equestrian campsites too.
The park provides visitors with the chance to enjoy its stunning scenery in several ways.
Below are just a handful of some of the various things you can see and do during your time there.
CCC Museum at Highlands Hammock State Park
The park is among the first eight built by the Civilian Conservations Corps.
It also houses the fascinating Civilian Conservation Corps Museum which showcases the work of the men who built the park by hand, after being given the green light by President Roosevelt.
The museum presents interactive displays, as well as an educational film which features former members of the CCC relating their experience.
For children, there is also a pretty cool scavenger hunt they can take part in.
Hiking at Highlands Hammock State Park
Considering there are nine different trails that run through it, it should come as no surprise that hiking is a very popular activity at the park.
Taking you through the swamp, the boardwalk is the most popular course to take. However, it is worth making the effort to check out some of the other trails as well.
One of the easier ones is the Young Hammock Trail, which is a half-mile jaunt through some of the park’s most incredibly scenic sections. Along it, you will also find informative signs that point to the area’s history.
For a more challenging experience, the Altvater Trail will take you from the campground on an entire loop around the park.
Biking at Highlands Hammock State Park
If you prefer to explore the park on two wheels, there is a shady and lush loop that you can attempt. Extending for three miles, it takes you past an extraordinary terrain of oak and cypress trees that are interspersed with creeping vines and gorgeous, vibrant flowers.
Overall the trail is pretty flat and is appropriate for all skill levels. Although it does have a few twists and turns, as well as undulating areas.
If you didn’t bring your bike with you to the park, you can rent one from a concession stand that operates within it.
Horseback Riding at Highlands Hammock State Park
Most of the trails at the park are also open to equestrians, so if you brought a horse, you will have several opportunities to explore its stunning landscape.
Probably the most serene way of doing so, there usually isn’t much in the way of traffic whilst on the trail.
Throughout the course you’ll also find numerous hitching posts and designated areas for equine trailer parking.
Birding at Highlands Hammock State Park
The park is an excellent location for birding, with several breeds residing here either on a permanent or seasonal basis during the migration season.
Over at the forest and hammock, you’ll find plenty of songbirds including robins and warblers. So be sure to bring your binoculars with you for the best opportunity to spot them.
Down by the swamp, egrets and herons can be found among their nests, while the likes of eagles and raptors are also regularly sighted too.
Depending on the time of year you visit, you may be able to spot migratory birds like the bobolink, purple martin and cedar waxwing.
When not looking at the sky, other wildlife you might be able to see includes deer, armadillos and raccoons. Watch out for black bears, panthers, alligators and snakes as well!
Pets at Highlands Hammock State Park
Dogs are allowed to join you at the park. However, they must be kept under control on a hand held leash that does not exceed 6 feet in length.
Some other restrictions on their presence may apply. So to clarify what they are it might be worth your while contacting the park’s main office.
Camping at Highlands Hammock State Park
The campground at Highlands Hammock State Park is renowned for being like a home away from home.
Overall there are 116 campsites available. Many of which are fairly level sites that are set up for RVs and trailers with connections for water and electricity. About 23 of these sites are specifically set aside for tent only camping.
All sites at the campground come with picnic tables as well as fire grills. Other amenities include modern and well maintained bathrooms with hot showers, as well as a dump station. You’ll also find a playground for children.
As well as these options, the campground also has an equestrian campsite as well as group camping. Both of which provide primitive accommodation options.
Highlands Hammock State Park
5931 Hammock Rd
Sebring, FL 33872
Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Highlands Hammock State Park: