Activities

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Amphitheater icon

Highlands Hammock - Amphitheater

Located off the loop drive, the Amphitheater provides a secluded outdoor setting for weddings, Easter Sunrise Services, memorial services, and other occasions in a clearing within the heart of the hammock.  Encircled by woods, the Amphitheater ensures privacy, quiet, and beauty in a peaceful setting.  A large number of wooden benches below an altar can accomodate substantial attendance.  Parking is available in a field in close proximity to the facility.  Visitors may walk a short distance from the parking area down a woods lane into the clearing.  The Amphitheater may be rented for $25.00, plus tax, and may be booked through the Ranger Station.  Call the Ranger Station at 863-386-6094 to reserve or for more information.   

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Highlands Hammock - Bicycling

A three-mile paved loop drive through the hammock offers nature study and is ideal for bicycling. Bikes are not permitted on nature trails and boardwalks. Bike racks are conveniently located at loop trailheads for visitors who wish to walk the trails. The loop is also suitable for roller-blading or roller-skating. A six-mile, off road bicycle trail runs through the park and is best suited for mountain bikes.  Bike rentals are available at the Hammock Inn Concession. Helmets are highly recommended for all cyclists and Florida law requires helmets for cyclists age 16 and under.  Helmets are available for loan at the Hammock Inn Concession. Call the Hammock Inn 863-402-0061 for bike rental fees and more information.   

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Highlands Hammock - Birding

Highlands Hammock is a destination in the East Section of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. The park features 15 distinct natural communities in its more than 9,000 acres, which provide a diversity of habitat for wading birds, raptors, songbirds, migratory birds and ducks.

Wetlands including cypress swamp, hardwood swamp, and marshes and upland habitats such as pine flatwoods, scrub, and scrubby flatwoods account for the many species of birds. Red-shouldered hawks are common. Pileated woodpeckers may be spotted crossing the loop drive. The herons, ibis, egrets and other wading birds may be observed from Cypress Swamp, Fern Garden and Richard Lieber boardwalks or on the South Canal Tram Tour. A large mixed flock of black and turkey vultures roosts in the cypress trees at the South Canal bridge, and barred owls and wood ducks may be seen on the tour in the spring. Warblers are common on loop trails in winter and spring. Swallow-tailed kites appear circling above the picnic area in the spring and summer, and there is a window of time when pronthonotary warblers may be sighted.

For scrub and flatwoods species, birders may walk along the Tiger Branch service road on the north side of the park entrance, and along the Primitive Wilderness Campground road between Kosove Pavilion and the park entrance on the south side. The Florida scrub-jay may be found in the park, but not always in places easily accessible to visitors. Crested caracaras and sand hill cranes may be seen outside of the park from nearby back roads. Highlands

Hammock offers good birding experiences for the beginner who has just taken up bird watching, as well as advanced and professional birders adding to their life lists.  For more information, call the Ranger Station at 863-386-6094.  

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Highlands Hammock - Campfire Circles

Campfire Circles are gathering places where campers may enjoy interpretive programs presented by park staff during the fall, winter, and spring months.  There are two circles in the family campground.  Saturday night campfire programs are presented by the rangers at the Campground Outdoor Theater located in the woods behind the Campground Playground or at the Campfire Circle next to the Shuffleboard Court.  Contact the Ranger Station (863-386-6094) for a schedule listing program topics and meeting times.  

Full facility camping icon

Highlands Hammock - Camping

The family campground offers water and electric hookups, a dump station, access to restrooms with shower facilities, laundry and dishwashing areas.  Currently, there is no free WiFi in the campground.  However, WiFi is available at the Hammock Inn Concession, which is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm during peak season months.  Campers are advised that both the Hammock Inn camp store days open for business and the hours of operation may vary during the slow summer season.  For more information, call the Hammock Inn at (863) 402-0061. Campsites have picnic tables and fire rings.  Sites vary from being open and sunny to partially or fully shaded and range in length from 20 to 50 feet.   

Maximum RV length = 50 feet. 

Three paved campsites, designated as American Disability Act sites, are near an ADA-accessible restroom.  A maximum of eight people with two tents are allowed per site. RV sites are allowed to have the RV and one tent.  A recreation hall with a full kitchen, stage, large seating area, restrooms, BBQ grill, and playground may be rented for family reunions, weddings, parties, meetings, rallies, and other events.  Well-behaved pets are welcome in the campground.  The campground is a short walk from the State of Florida Civilian Conservation Corps Museum and picnic area.  Playgrounds, bike trails, and nature trails are also available.  Ranger-guided programs and social activities during the busy winter season provide additional activities for campers to enjoy.

Reservations:  Camping reservations may be made up to 11 months in advance through ReserveAmerica. Book online or call 1-800-326-3521 (8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.) or TDD 1-1-888-433-0287.

Equestrian camping icon

Highlands Hammock - Camping Equestrian

Equestrian camping at the new horse camp located at the park's South Property will be opened at a future date.  Equestrian trails are available for those who own horses. Call the Ranger Station at 863-386-6094 for more information. 

Primitive camping icon

Highlands Hammock - Camping Primitive

Camping, Primitive Wilderness    

Drive-to wilderness sites, located in an open pine flatwoods area, have picnic tables and fire rings, but no electricity or running water. A solar outhouse is located in the center of the campground in proximity to campsite # 8.  Full service restrooms with showers are available to primitive wildnerness campers in the family campground with payment of shower fee of $8.00 plus tax at the ranger station.  

Reservations:  Camping reservations may be made up to 11 months in advance through ReserveAmerica. Book online at www.reserveamerica.com or call 1-800-326-3521 (8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.) or TDD 1-888-433-0287.  

Group camping icon

Highlands Hammock - Camping, Primitive Grp

Group Camp 1 and Group Camp 2, located in the Primitive Wilderness area, are available for organized groups of six or more. Each group camp can accommodate up to 25 campers.  Group sites do not have water or electricity. They have a picnic table, campfire circle, and a solar outhouse within walking distance. Scouts and other youth organizations may book reservations 60 days in advance of arrival date. Youths must be chaperoned by at least one adult, 21 years of age or older, for each ten youths. Adult groups may book reservations 30 days in advance of arrival date. Group camping is booked through the park. Fees are $1.00 per youth per night and $5.00 per adult per night. Call the Ranger Station at 863-386-6094 to make reservations.

 

Geoseeking icon

Highlands Hammock - Geo-Seeking

The Florida State Parks Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Geotrail is now at www.Geocaching.com. Nine parks were built by the CCC and Works Progress Administration in the 1930s. Search for all nine caches and end at the CCC Museum at Highlands Hammock State Park and receive a commemorative geocoin. GC codes:

GC38Y93 Fort Clinch State Park

GC3BG4G Florida Caverns State Park

GC3D02X Highlands Hammock State Park

GC3BG4A Hillsborough River State Park

GC3ABB5 Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park

GC3BG4N Myakka River State Park

GC3ABBC O’Leno State Park

GC38Y8V Ravine Gardens State Park

GC3BG4E Torreya State Park

GC38Y9F Florida State Parks FINAL CCC Cache – located in Highlands Hammock State Park.

The Operation Recreation GeoTour hosted by Geocaching.com, stretches from Pensacola to Key West and includes 71 of the First Three Time National Gold Medal Award Winning Florida State Parks and Trails. Visit 20 caches and win the Official Operation Recreation Geocoin. Download and print the Official Tracking Sheet to begin your adventure. Remember to cache and save with unlimited entry for a year with the Florida State Parks Annual Pass.

The Florida Park Service is proud to announce it has launched the Operation Recreation Kids GeoTour. Look inside Operation Recreation GeoTour geocaches for one of six possible Nature Cards. Every cache has one of six species. Record the name of the Florida State Park where you first find each of the six species on the Kids Official Tracking Sheet. Find all six species and win the ORGT Kids GeoTour Geocoin!

 

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Highlands Hammock - Hiking Nature Trail

Highlands Hammock is known for its hiking trails, which range in distance from 975 feet to over 3,000 feet.  Eight of the nine trails are located on the loop drive, and visitors can easily extend their walks as several connect via a bridge or catwalk. Trails run through hydric hammock, cypress swamp, hardwood swamp, and pine flatwoods.  Hammock means “shady place,” and Webster’s Dictionary defines hammock as "a fertile, raised area with hardwood trees in the southern U.S.”  True enough. But visitors to the park know exactly what it means…."Beautiful!"  

The hammock is a quiet sanctuary shaded by a towering tree canopy of oaks and pignut hickories. Visitors might begin by walking the Alexander Blair Big Oak Trail.  A short hike leads to one of the park’s magnificent thousand year old oaks.  Continue on to Hickory Trail via a narrow catwalk.  Walk deep into the woods under the expansive canopy and wonder over the giant oaks and air plant-laden branches.  Amble along the boardwalk of Richard Lieber Memorial Trail and view the colorful, scattered leaves. See autumn in Florida and observe a flock of white ibis feeding.  Another thousand year old oak marks this trail, which also connects to Fern Garden.  Discover how pineland has transitioned into hammock as a result of fire exclusion on the Young Hammock Trail.  Stroll along the boardwalk over Charlie Bowlegs Creek and search the tea-colored water for alligators on Cypress Swamp Trail.  Take a journey back in time to primitive Florida on the Ancient Hammock Trail. Observe a yellow-crowned night heron on the Fern Garden boardwalk.  Wild Orange Trail, which connects the loop to the picnic area, is a unique blend of wild orange trees, pine flatwoods, bayhead and young hammock plant communities. The Allen Altvater Trail runs through open, sunny pine flatwoods and provides interpretive information about Florida fire ecology.  It is located east of campsite #115 in the family campground.  Visitors may also walk the Scrub Trail on the South Hammock property, which is located across CR 635 from Seven Lakes.  

Late fall, winter, and spring are ideal seasons for exploring the trails.  During the summer rainy season, insects are more prevalent and portions of trails are often wet, muddy or overgrown.  Wear sturdy footwear suitable for hiking.  Carry water and insect repellent.  Binoculars, cameras, and field guides are recommended.  Trail maps are available at the Ranger Station.  

Museum icon

Highlands Hammock - Museum

Museum / State of Florida Civilian Conservation Corps Museum     

Museum docents offer guided tours of the museum and provide visitors with an overview of the Great Depression, the work and legacy of the CCC.  Three films are shown throughout the day, per visitor request, on the museum stage.   “CCC:  A Vacation From Poverty,” is a brief 15-minute video providing an introduction to the CCC and the State of Florida CCC Museum. A longer film, “The CCC:  A Proud Chapter,” with a running time of 30 minutes, features CCC alumni interviews and a guided tour of park structures built by CCC enrollees that are still in use today. The third film, “The Historic Journey,” is another 15-minute documentary that was made during the 2010 CCC Festival.  Four men, all of whom were in their 80s and 90s, recall their lives during the Depression and in the CCC.  Their stories and oral histories make up most of this video.  Visit the museum to learn about the history of the park and the role the CCC played in building it as well as the history of the CCC in Florida and the United States.  Interactive exhibits highlight the 1930-1940 era. Visitors may also view exhibits reflecting the CCC legacy across the country as well as Highlands Hammock and other Florida State Parks.  Museum hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily during the busy winter/spring season.  Hours are shortened and may vary in the slow summer / early fall off season according to volunteer staffing.   Call the Ranger Station at 863-386-6094 for more information.  

Pets icon

Highlands Hammock - Pets

Pets are welcome within the campgrounds and in all outdoor areas, with the exception of trail boardwalks.  Visitors are advised that alligators may be present in wetland areas of the park. For their safety, please respect this park rule and refrain from walking dogs on boardwalks.  Pets are not permitted on the park’s tram tour.  Visitors are required to keep dogs on a 6 foot, hand-held leash at all times and to clean up after them.  Plastic waste bags are available at the Ranger Station and at dispensers located throughout the park.  Service animals are welcome in all visitor use areas in the park. Please contact the Ranger Station at 863-386-6094 for specific pet restrictions or inquiries.

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Highlands Hammock - Picnic Pavilion

Pack a basket or cooler and have a leisurely picnic in our pleasant, shady picnic area. The kids can climb on the playground and swing on the swings, while parents enjoy catching up with family and friends in one of six picnic pavilions. Shelters may be reserved for the day and payment is required when booking.  Smaller pavilions rent for $30.00 plus tax.  Panther or “Big Pavilion” rents for $50.00 plus tax.  Alligator Pavilion has a large built-in fireplace grill.  Electricity is available at Alligator and Panther Pavilions.  Alligator Pavilion, Otter Pavilion, Panther Pavilion, and Bobcat Pavilion are ADA-accessible.  Otter Pavilion is in close proximity to the ADA-accessible restroom. BBQ grills are also available in the picnic area.  The State of Florida's Civilian Conservation Corps Museum and Hammock Inn are located in the picnic area.  Call the Ranger Station at 863-386-6094 for more information or to make reservations.

Picnicking icon

Highlands Hammock - Picnicking

Pack a basket or cooler and have a leisurely picnic in our pleasant, shady picnic area. The kids can climb on the playground and swing on the swings, while parents enjoy catching up with family and friends.  BBQ grills are available in the picnic area.  The State of Florida's Civilian Conservation Corps Museum and Hammock Inn are located in the picnic area.  Call the Ranger Station at 863-386-6094 for more information.   

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Highlands Hammock - Playground

Highlands Hammock State Park has three playgrounds located within a short drive, or less than 15 minute walk from each other.  They are located in the picnic area, the family campground, and at the recreation hall. 

The largest play area is located in the picnic area. This playground consists of a lower platform area with a smaller double slide and monkey bars which connect to an elevated walk-over ladder leading to the upper platform with a small rock wall, firehouse pole, climbing ladder and twisty slide. Two swings are available.  (Best for ages 5-12).

The medium sized playground in the family campground consists of a low double slide and curved slide connected to a crawl tunnel leading to the upper platform which has a wavy slide and a straight slide. Two swings are also located in this area. (Best for ages 3-6).

The smaller playground at the park's recreation hall is the perfect play area during birthday parties, family reunions, company picnics and more. When the building is not reserved or in use, this play area is also accessible to the public.  (Best for ages 3-6). Please inquire at the Ranger Station at 863-386-6094 for more information.

 

Restroom facilities icon

Highlands Hammock - Restroom Facilities

Restroom facilities are located throughout the park.  The Civilian Conservation Corps Museum, Hammock Inn, and picnic area restrooms are ADA-accessible.  Family campground Restroom #58 is equipped with ADA-accessible restrooms.  Highlands Hammock State Park contains many historical structures and continues to upgrade visitor facilities for accessibility. For your convenience, please inquire at the Ranger Station at 863-386-6094 upon arrival, for specific locations of ADA-accessible facilities.  

Tours icon

Highlands Hammock - Tours

The park tram tour is a guided, narrated tour which generally runs one hour and 15 minutes and offers visitors the unique opportunity of viewing alligators, turtles, wading birds, deer and other wildlife relatively close up.  The tram departs from the Civilian Conservation Corps Museum, runs through old growth hammock along the Loop Road before turning off into restricted areas past the Cypress Swamp Trail.  It continues through cypress swamp, pine flatwoods, and along South Canal where alligators may be observed basking in the sun on cold days.  The tram is ADA-accessible.   During the busy winter season, tram tours are scheduled to run Tuesday through Friday departing at 1:00 pm and 2:30 pm.  Trams are scheduled for 11:00 am and 1:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday.  A third tram will run at 3:00 pm on the weekend, if visitor demand is sufficient.   The tram does not run on Mondays.  The schedule will vary with the changing seasons, and visitors are advised to call the Hammock Inn Concession to verify tram operation.  The Hammock Inn hours of operation are 9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily during peak season.  However, the days and hours of operation will also vary with the changing seasons and may be limited to weekend business only during the slow summer months.   Tickets may be purchased one day in advance of the tour as well as on the day of the tour.  Tickets are sold only at the Hammock Inn Concession.   Tram tickets for adults and youth aged 13 years and older are $10 per person.  Tickets for children aged 6 to 12 years old are $5 per person.  Children aged 5 years and younger are free.  Inquire about the availability of private tours by calling the Hammock Inn. Private, pre-arranged tram tours for groups and organizations are $100 and may be booked according to availability, staffing and seasonal demand.  The tram can accomodate approximately 30 people.  As the tour is popular and tickets tend to sell out quickly, visitors are advised to purchase tickets a day in advance or early on the morning of the tour.  Visitors are further advised that tram operation and costs are subject to change and the prices do not include tax.  Please call the Hammock Inn at 863-402-0061 for information. 

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Highlands Hammock - Walking

Loop Exercise Stations / Healthline Fitness System

Park visitors may hike the trails and walk, run, and bike the park’s three mile loop drive beneath the beauty of spreading oaks.  The loop is the perfect place to train for a 5K, a marathon, or triathlon.  Visitors can extend their training and increase health benefits by incorporating the Healthline Fitness System into their activity. The system, using standards set by the American Heart Association, is a series of exercise stations located at strategic points around the loop.  The exercises are designed to strengthen the cardiovascular system and improve muscle tone and flexibility.  Instructions for taking the pulse and a list of target heart rates are posted at the Heart Check Station. 

Wildlife viewing icon

Highlands Hammock - Wildlife Viewing

Wildlife is often seen when least expected.  

Early risers walking the loop may glimpse a young bobcat disappearing into the woods. A family of otters quite suddenly emerges from the creek below the Ranger Station. White-tailed deer browse during the late afternoon and early evening hours in the campground, historic Orange Grove, and other areas.  Hear the cry of red-shouldered hawks hunting prey during the day, and listen for the deep resonating sounds of barred owls calling in the hours close to dusk. Bats, owls and night hawks are on the wing in the gathering darkness, and fireflies light up the hammock in mid-March. See alligators swimming and basking in the swamps from boardwalks above the dark waters and spy a yellow rat snake slipping off the side. Be still in the peace of Cypress Swamp as dawn turns to day and the forest awakens. Marvel over the dewy orb webs of golden silk spiders glistening in the morning sun. Glance at the flitting songbirds as they rest during their migration through Central Florida. Hear a pileated woodpecker hammering away in search of carpenter ants and catch the flash of black, red and white crossing the loop. Ride along the off road paths of the bike trail through pine flatwoods and spot a gopher tortoise out foraging in mid-afternoon. Enjoy a ranger-narrated tram ride and exclaim over the abundance of turtles, alligators and wading birds. Observe an anhinga drying its wings at the South Canal bridge. Hear cricket frogs warn of an approaching thunderstorm, and listen to the chorus of frogs calling after summer rainstorms in the hammock.

It is amazing!