What Is It?
Highlands Hammock State Park showcases the unique ecosystems that exist in Florida. Featuring alligators, Florida panthers and a variety of native birds, the park boasts more rare species than any other state park in Florida. The park is a favorite among locals—a hidden treasure of Sebring. It is known as a prime spot for family gatherings, celebrations and camping.
What Is a “Hammock?”
The park gets its name from a term often used in the Southeastern United States to describe trees—normally hardwood trees—that form an ecological island, or micro habitat, within a contrasting ecosystem. This park is considered a hydric hammock, with massive oak trees towering over the wetlands below.
Highlands Hammock is one of Florida’s first state parks. It began when locals became concerned about losing the hammock to farmland and worked with conservationists to buy the land. This was an early example of grassroots environmental preservation in Florida. Workers with the Civilian Conservation Corps—a program formed under the New Deal—laid out the trails and made the park what it is today. The park is the home of Florida’s CCC Museum, which honors those workers.
What to Do
The 9,000-acre park has camping, hiking, birding and biking options. There are nine trails within the park. Eight are connected, allowing visitors to easily move from trail to trail. Multiple trails have boardwalk areas so visitors can walk through the swamps and wetland areas with ease. One of the most beloved trails—locally called “the catwalk”—features a boardwalk through Charlie Bowlegs Creek, which is surrounded by cypress trees. Visitors can take in the view and learn more about the park during a tram tour.
When to Go
Highlands Hammock is open 8 a.m. to sunset 365 days a year. October through April is considered the best time of the year to visit. During the humid summers, there are more insects, and trails can become muddy.
Entry to the park is $6 per vehicle. To learn more, visit www.floridastateparks.org or call 863-386-6094.