This post is contributed by Justin Fricke of The Weekend Warrior
There’s something missing in Florida—National Parks. We only have one and that’s down south. Way down south in the everglades. What we lack in National Parks, we greatly make up for in State Parks. We have 161 State Parks in Florida and one of the closest to Orlando is Wekiwa Springs State Park. Wekiwa Springs is in Apopka, FL and it’s only 15 minutes north of downtown Orlando.
Wekiwa Springs is basically an outdoor oasis amongst an urban jungle. It’s the perfect year-round getaway from the madness of the city.
The summers are brutally hot here in Florida, and Wekiwa Springs has one killer spring to help the locals and tourists cool off. The spring is at the center of the park. The grassy area where you can throw down a blanket is sloped, creating an amphitheater effect. The spring itself is crystal clear and 72 degrees year-round.
Springs can be inherently dangerous to swim into. A lot of them are just massive cave systems and it’s very easy to lose direction and get lost in them. The spring at Wekiwa Springs State Park is simple and only 15 feet deep. Just swim down along the rock walls and once you hit the sandy bottom you can look underneath the rock walls to see where all the water comes screaming out of the earth.
Florida winters is prime time for hiking with the onset of cooler weather. Wekiwa Springs State Park has miles on miles of nature trails. The shorter trails are just a couple of miles and the longest trail is over 10 miles. Serious hikers love the long trail, and who wouldn’t? It’s a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon by yourself or with a few of your close friends. Long distance runners, and all sorts of runners for that matter, love the trails. They’re great to train on with a softer running surface than the road. The trails are also well maintained, and it’s a wonderful change of scenery from running in urban landscapes.
In addition, any season is perfect paddling season in Florida. Throughout most of the year, it stays warm in Central Florida and one of the best places to paddle is the Wekiwa River. The State Park rents out canoes and kayaks for a nominal fee and the beach where you launch them onto the river is right near the spring. Right after launching your paddling vessel you should keep a wide eye out in the bay. Gators love to hangout in the area (don’t worry, it’s impossible for them to get into the spring where you can swim). Just admire them from afar and they’ll admire you from afar as well.
Further down the Wekiwa River are tons of opportunities for exploration. There are so many little canals where you can paddle to; you’ll be occupied for hours. Just keep in mind that water levels do play a key factor in where you can go. When there’s been a lot of rain, like during the summer, it’ll be easy to paddle through all the different canals. However, when there hasn’t been much rain, like in the winter, they tend to run a little dry. The only way to find out which canals you are able to explore and which ones are meant to be explored for another day is to simply explore for yourself.
The next time you’re feeling a little claustrophobic from the city of Orlando, just know there’s a natural oasis waiting for you. Wekiwa Springs State Park is the perfect place to get away from the city to experience nature, without having to pack and drive for hours.