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 exercising outdoors has extra benefits. We picked out some of the best Florida State Parks for fitness, exercise trails and other opportunities to get moving and explore the outdoors. 

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 15 miles of multi-use trails that wind through the park and 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.

Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park in Tallahassee: This park is known for its beautiful historic gardens, but a lesser-known amenity 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 paddle boarding. 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, 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. The park also hosts fitness events like the River-N-Rapids Half Marathon each April.

Hugh Taylor Birch State Park in Fort Lauderdale: Last year, this barrier island park north of Miami added wider multi-use lanes to its two-mile park loop road, making it a popular destination for cyclists, runners and 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 its beautiful Gulf beach. Almost five miles of trails and a playground make this park a great place where adults and kids can enjoy being active. 

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.