Florida Hidden Gem: Highlands Hammock State Park

Fern-Lined Trail

Fern-Lined Trail

Boardwalk over Swamp

Boardwalk over Swamp

Narrow Catwalk over Water

Narrow Catwalk over Water

Catwalk through Bald Cypress Trees

Catwalk through Bald Cypress Trees

Bald Cypress Growing over Catwalk

Bald Cypress Growing over Catwalk

Bald Cypress Knees in Water

Bald Cypress Knees in Water

Bald Cypress Tree and Ferns

Bald Cypress Tree and Ferns

Reflections of Bald Cypress in Water

Reflections of Bald Cypress in Water

Fall Webworm Caterpillar on Boardwalk

Fall Webworm Caterpillar on Boardwalk

Hardwood and Ferns on Ancient Hammock Trail

Hardwood and Ferns on Ancient Hammock Trail

Hollowed-Out Base of Live Oak

Hollowed-Out Base of Live Oak

Over 1,000-Year-Old Big Oak

Over 1,000-Year-Old Big Oak

Tree Surgery Visible (center) at Base of Big Oak

Tree Surgery Visible (center) at Base of Big Oak

Highlands Hammock State Park is a hidden gem!  It is located near Sebring, Florida (south of Orlando), and is one of the state’s oldest parks.  It was initially submitted for status as a national park, but was considered too small.  The park first opened to the public in 1931, and the catwalk over the Cypress Swamp was built in 1933. 

Bald cypress trees grow throughout the swamp.  The trees send up fantastic knobby roots (“knees”) above the water line.  Theories about the purpose of the knees range from helping the plant breathe, to providing stability in the water.  One tree was even growing over and onto the boardwalk.  Walk carefully on the narrow catwalk, and watch for alligators.  This lush jungle feels like it is straight out of Jurassic Park! 

Other trails lead through the Ancient Hammock and to some of the state’s oldest trees.  The Big Oak is over 1,000 years old, 36 feet around, and still has some new growth sprouting at the top.  If you look carefully, you can see the Big Oak’s tree surgery in 1930.  At that time people thought you could stabilize and extend the life of a tree by filling the hollow space inside with concrete.  More info about Highlands Hammock State Park is at:  https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Highlands-Hammock

And by the way, Florida just won the National Gold Medal for Excellence in the United States Park System again – the only state to have won three times!

About Pam
Richard and Pam lived in the San Francisco Bay Area 14 years (1987-1999 and 2008-2011). They lived in Florida 13 years previously, until returning in July 2011 to present. They hope their photography will encourage you to get out and discover nature's beauty in your own backyard, parks, and wild places. Click on any pictures on this blog to see them full size with additional details.

21 Responses to Florida Hidden Gem: Highlands Hammock State Park

  1. Sharon says:

    Great photos! Those trees are really interesting.

  2. lauramacky says:

    Wow, that’s beautiful!

  3. Arindam Saha says:

    Loved the trees… Loved the catwalk even more… 🙂

    • Pam says:

      The catwalk was our favorite part! Adds a little excitement knowing that with one wrong step you might land in the water with the alligators! 🙂

  4. FeyGirl says:

    What a MAGNIFICENT place! I’ve never been…. But those trees!

  5. Forest So Green says:

    I like the fern lined path and the catwalk too 🙂 Annie

  6. Cool Bald Cypress, love how they adapt, growing over the walk way. The ferns add a nice touch.

    check out our fall colors; Rich Colors of Autumn

  7. Swati Singh says:

    Nice find the place and trees to take the captures..

  8. Nice post Pam. We’ve been to HH and really enjoyed it. We lived in St. Augustine (twice), and we really enjoyed our time in FL. After living there I feel it’s my duty to tell everyone going to FL, that to see the real FL, you have to get off the coasts and go inland. There are so many cool places in the central part of the state all along the peninsula. One of my favorites is Cross Creek and the MJ Rawlings home. We’ve frequently camped in Ocala NF, seen manatees in Homasassa, and the list goes on and on. Your post makes me want to get the popup out and head south. ~James

    • Pam says:

      Thanks! This certainly is the right time of year to visit Florida! I am glad you told me about the MJ Rawlings home. I read the book Cross Creek, and we’ve been meaning to visit. Perhaps over this Christmas break we can finally make it. And of course I want to go back and visit the manatees at Crystal River/Homasassa Springs, and also see Marineland again too along with St. Augustine. People are always shocked how relatively short a distance you have to go to get to the “real” Florida. And don’t forget Bok Tower!

  9. I love all these pictures! All the trees are eerily beautiful, I hope I can live somewhere like this at one point when I’m older.

    • Pam says:

      Trees are really incredible. I hope you live somewhere beautiful too. We didn’t travel until we finished college, so it is well worth the wait! There are so many interesting places and things to see! 🙂

  10. elisaruland says:

    No one does Florida like you do, Pam! I love the shot of the cypress tree reflection, and the caterpillar of course. All beautiful!

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