While there used to be much more oaks when we first hiked this loop as kids, the ones that stay continue to impress with their command of the upper canopy.
With towering cabbage palms and live oaks up to a thousand years old and more, this is a most fascinating and immersive forest, particularly along this short loop amid the gentle giants of the woods.
At Highlands Hammock State Park, the Ancient Hammock Trail is the very best of the routes that displays the glory of whats been maintained in the heart of Highlands Hammock.
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Open 8 AM to sunset. No animals or bikes, please. The path can also be accessed by strolling across the road from the southwestern end of the Fern Loop and walking east a short range along the road.
Place: SebringLength: 0.6 mile loopTrailhead: 27.470057, -81.548639 Address: 5931 Hammock Rd, SebringFees: $6 per vehicleRestroom: At the picnic area and concessionLand manager: Florida State ParksPhone: 863-386-6094
Continue past another fallen oak, and you come back to the beginning of the loop at a half mile. Cross the bridge, completing your hike at the parking lot after 0.6 mile.
Follow the footpath into the dark forest, a virgin hammock of incredibly old live oak and laurel oak. Some of the cabbage palms sport oddly fluted bases, like pottery.
Many fallen trees vouch for the age and size of these grand giants. Even the wild citrus trees are huge.
Bridge at the beginning of the trail.
After crossing the bridge, pause to read the “Prayer of the Woods” on the left. Sunshine barely infiltrates the thick canopy.
Reaching a bench, the path makes sharp right to skirt a fallen grand old oak. Another fallen and decomposing oak provides a bed for strap ferns and sword ferns.
The trees lean in.
Hiking Trails at Highlands Hammock.
A high double trunked oak increases from a sea of needle palms. You hear the consistent ker-plop of hickory nuts falling to the forest floor.
The trailhead sign.
Look between the palms to see the huge oaks.
Thick patches of sword fern thrive in the deep shade. Listen for the knock of a pileated woodpecker, Floridas largest woodpecker, which choose these old-growth trees.
As the trail curves to the right, it passes under an arch formed by a cabbage palm leaning over the trail.
Follow United States 27 south from Avon Park or north from Lake Placid to Hammock Rd (CR 634) in Sebring, at a traffic control with popular signage. Turn west and follow the road into the park. The entryway station is on the passengers side, and a bike path parallels the roadway to the park
As soon as inside the gates, keep going and youll reach the one-way counterclockwise driving loop. The Ancient Hammock Trail is about three-quarters around this three mile loop drive, on the. You can also walk over from the trailhead for the Fern Hammock Trail, less than a quarter mile past the Ancient Hammock Trail on the.
Walking past an aging oak.
Edge of the floodplain.
At the T crossway, turn left, walking into the lush understory of needle palms and marlberry.
The trail curves past the hulk of one fallen tree, now house to a riotous surge of sword ferns.Pass a bench at 0.2 mile. The much deeper in along the walk, the bigger the trees end up being.
The path sits high in the hammock, above a reputable old floodplain. Ancient oaks form the canopy, a true climax forest.
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The path can also be accessed by strolling throughout the road from the southwestern end of the Fern Loop and walking east a short range along the roadway.
Discover more about Highlands Hammock State Park.
More tracks to check out in this park.
Park Map (PDF) Reserve Campsite Official Website.
Highlands Hammock State ParkOne of Floridas earliest state parks, Highlands Hammock secures an old-growth forest while enabling you to explore it on a network of routes constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.
See our photos of the Ancient Hammock Trail.
Follow US 27 south from Avon Park or north from Lake Placid to Hammock Rd (CR 634) in Sebring, at a traffic light with prominent signs. Turn west and follow the roadway into the park. The Ancient Hammock Trail is about three-quarters around this 3 mile loop drive, on the. You can also stroll over from the trailhead for the Fern Hammock Trail, less than a quarter mile past the Ancient Hammock Trail on the.