State Parks Where You Can Get Active for the New Year

Runner on curving Boardwalk

It’s January, and that means many of us are looking for a fresh start and some quality time outdoors to breathe the cool air and get our heart rate up!

Research has shown that outdoor exercise has extra benefits. We picked out some of the best Florida State Parks for fitness, including group classes, exercise trails and opportunities to get your feet moving and explore. 

Big Lagoon State Park near Pensacola – Just a short drive from downtown Pensacola, this coastal park protects — you guessed it — a big lagoon. That makes it a great destination for paddling, and the lagoon is ringed by trails and boardwalks great for running and cycling. Kayak, canoe and stand-up paddleboard rentals are available. 

Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park in Jacksonville – Equestrians, hikers and off-road cyclists can explore over 15 miles of multi-use trails that wind through the park and even connect to the trail systems of the adjacent city-managed preserves. Pumpkin Hill Creek can be accessed at a kayak launch or by either of the two creek overlook trails. 

Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park in Gainesville - Instructor Maggie Rucker teaches an all-levels yoga class from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. the first Saturday of every month. Under the canopy of hardwood trees swaying in the refreshing breeze, you will go through beginner to more advanced stretching and movements, improving your flexibility, blood flow and certainly your state of mind.

Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park in Tallahassee – This park is known for its beautiful historic gardens, but a lesser-known part of the park, the Lake Overstreet trail system, includes six miles of shared-use and five miles of off-road bike trails through serene, and sometimes hilly, forest.  

Lake Louisa State Park near Orlando - The park’s three major lakes, Louisa, Hammond and Dixie, offer plenty of room for canoeing, kayaking and paddleboarding. Bicycling is popular on the park’s seven miles of paved roads over rolling hills and on 20 miles of unpaved multi-use trails. Rental bikes for all ages are available at the Dixie Lake Picnic Area for use on roads. 

Hillsborough River State Park near Tampa – Just minutes from downtown Tampa, this diverse park offers a refuge from city life with its seven miles of nature trails and ample places to cool off in the water. Bicycles and canoes are available to rent from the park's concession. The park also hosts fitness events like the River-N-Rapids Half Marathon in April and the Hillsborough River Swamp Stomp in November. 

Hugh Taylor Birch State Park in Fort Lauderdale – North of Miami, this barrier island park last year added wider multi-use lanes to its two-mile park loop road, making it a popular destination for cyclists, runners and even roller-skaters. Bike rentals are available! 

Lovers Key State Park in Fort Myers Beach – A renowned destination for weddings, Lovers Key State Park has more than just a beautiful Gulf beach. Almost five miles of trails and a playground mean this park is a great place for both parents and kids to get moving. 

Find fitness opportunities at a Florida State Park near you

This article was published in the Real Florida ℠ Connection, the Florida State Parks e-newsletter. Sign-up to get updates and stories from your state parks the first week of every month.