Celebrate National Park and Recreation Month

A kayaker takes in the view on the water.

Since 1985, Americans have been celebrating National Park and Recreation Month during July.

It’s no coincidence this is recognized when people want to get outside and enjoy a wide range of activities. Whether you enjoy hiking, swimming, snorkeling or paddling, Florida’s state parks offer family-friendly outdoor fun.

Some people enjoy outdoor recreation while on long vacations while others are visiting parks closer to home. It is also National Picnic Month since picnics go hand in hand with fun outdoor activities.

Hiking Trails

Hiking is a great way to explore Florida’s natural areas. Whether you prefer a short nature trail or a longer hike, Florida's state parks offer more than 2,275 miles of trails.

Check out the Lake Overstreet trail at Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park in Tallahassee. This 5-mile, double-loop trail winds around Lake Overstreet and offers views of a pristine shoreline, gently sloping hills and ravines, and forests of mixed pine hardwoods. If you walk quietly, you might see white-tailed deer, bald eagles or a barred owl.

Whenever you visit Florida State Parks, it is important to remember these safety tips: 

  • Bring drinking water and sun protection and wear comfortable shoes. 
  • Give wildlife plenty of space by remaining at least 25 yards away. If you are close enough for a selfie, you are too close. Binoculars will help you see wildlife from a distance. 
  • Do not attempt to feed wild animals. It's dangerous for you and for the animals. 
Barred Owl at Maclay Gardens

Barred Owl at Maclay Gardens

Photo credit: Park Ranger Scott Groves

Swimming and Snorkeling

Freshwater springs are terrific places for swimming and snorkeling. Northeast Florida offers several locations for springs hopping and outdoor fun. Check out these parks along the Suwannee River – Lafayette Blue Springs State Park, Madison Blue Spring State Park, Fanning Springs State Park, Manatee Springs State Park, Troy Spring State Park and Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park. Ruth B. Kirby Gilchrist Blue Spring State Park feeds into the Santa Fe River and Ichetucknee Springs State Park is the headwaters of the river with the same name.

Pack a picnic lunch and plan to spend the day enjoying the clear 68- to 72-degree waters of the spring.

Remember these safety tips:

  • Never swim alone.
  • Always keep a watchful eye on children near the water.
  • Rest when you are tired.
  • Wear a life jacket if appropriate.
  • Apply sunscreen to protect your skin.
Four boys ready to swim or snorkel at Manatee Springs State Park.

Four boys ready to swim or snorkel at Manatee Springs State Park.


Kayaking and canoeing are an amazing way to see Florida's waterways and are popular in parks across the state. Florida’s state parks feature miles of some of the most diverse aquatic ecosystems in the country.

Colt Creek State Park in Lakeland offers two lakes where you can launch your own canoe or kayak. If need to rent equipment, park staff can help with that, too.

The Estero River is a popular spot for paddling. Launch from Koreshan State Park in Estero. The river is a brackish waterway that leads to Estero Bay approximately 3 miles to the west. Equipment rentals are available,  

For safety, remember to wear your life jacket, bring a sound-producing device and pack drinking water and sunscreen.

  • Use the Online Trail Guide compiled by DEP's Office of Greenways and Trails to locate the statewide network of trails. This guide features paved and unpaved trails for hiking, biking, equestrian, multiple-use, paddling and motorized use. All are open to the public.
A man fishes while kayaking on the lake at Colt Creek State Park.


Pack a picnic lunch and head to John D. MacArthur Beach State Park in North Palm Beach. After a morning of walking the beach and exploring the nature center, you can enjoy a picnic lunch under the covered pavilion.

A family watches a turtle in an aquarium at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park.

A family watches a turtle in an aquarium at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park

More About National Park and Recreation Month  

Besides encouraging people to enjoy time outside, Park and Recreation Month is a time to bring awareness about our public lands and appreciate those park professionals who serve millions of visitors each year. 

Florida State Parks are proud to join with the National Recreation and Park Association to celebrate Park and Recreation Month. The theme this year is "Where Community Grows." Join in the fun on social media by using hashtag #WhereCommunityGrows.  

Learn more about Park and Recreation Month by attending DEP's monthly Outdoor Florida Webinar Series. The topic on July 12, 2023, at 10 a.m. (Eastern) is "Making the Most of National Recreation and Park Month." Speakers from Palm Beach County and the city of Port Orange will talk about local events to celebrate recreation. Save your spot and register now!