One of the few state parks in Florida that you must take a ferry or boat to, Hontoon offers some of the best day hiking available in the sunshine state. Located about an hour north of Orlando this area provides hikers a remote area to relax and enjoy a shaded 3.3-mile hike through Florida’s rich landscape and history.
The Indian Mound Nature Trail is an easy 3.3 mile out-and-back hike. As you wander through the hammock-covered trail, you will be immersed in the park's organic beauty. Looking up, the Orlando skyscrapers are replaced by pines that seem to be just as tall swaying in the wind. Fresh tracks from an armadillo nosing around looking for lunch take over muddy parts of the trail, while the imprint of the whitetail deer’s hoof makes its presence known. As you wind through the tunnel of oaks, you will make your way along a couple boardwalks, which act as a bridge over the swampy Cypress forest. You will pass through these two habitats a handful of times before reaching the end of the trail marked by an enormous oak tree.
What Makes It Great
While the Indian Mound Nature Trail may be only 3.3 miles round trip, you will see more wildlife than many see in a lifetime. Throughout your trek you will come across three benches strategically placed on the trail. Have a seat, give your legs a break, and let nature do the rest. You will be amazed at what you can see when you stay in one place just observing what Hontoon has to offer. Check above you in the pines for the barred owl, or listen for an armadillo clumsily walking through the palmettos looking for its next grub. As you finish your adventure on the Indian Mound Nature Trail and are waiting for the ferry to depart, make sure you catch a glimpse of the replica totem pole located by the playground. The original massive owl totem pole was recovered under layers of mud, silt and muck in 1955 during a dredge in the St. John's, by where the parking lot currently is.
Who is Going to Love It
This trail is perfect for a beginner hiker or someone that is looking for a short relaxing hike. There are interpretative signs posted throughout the trail educating visitors on the ecosystem, plant life, as well as animal life that call Hontoon their home. As you would expect from Florida, this hike does not have much of an elevation change.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
As you arrive to the address provided you will see a large dirt/grass parking lot. Parking is free and rarely fills up. Once you park, walk towards the water and you will see a metal floating dock. The State Park offers a free ferry service to get hikers to and from the island. Once you are at the dock, the ferry will head over to scoop you, your belongings, and yes even your pup to take you to Hontoon Island. The ferry runs from 8:00 am until one hour before sunset, so if you are like me and do not want to take the risk of guessing when the last ferry will leave, just check the big clock located at the ranger station, as it is always set to the last ferry departure. You can grab a free pamphlet at the ranger station that has a map of the area.
Bathrooms and water are both available at the ranger station, as well as doggie bags for you to pick up after your furry friend. Dogs are welcome in the park but must be on a six-foot leash at all times.