6 Tips for Hiking Black Bear Wilderness Trail

Central Florida has a lot to offer when it comes to hiking trails. Many hikers will agree on the fact that the Orange Trail at Wekiva Springs is one of the most popular hiking trails in Central Florida. Others will point out that Black Bear Wilderness Area Loop Trail–which is located in Sanford, is one of the top local favorites.

So much so, that there had been a surge of hikers, resulting in parking issues with the previous lot. Currently, there is now a renovated parking lot with 80 spaces.

st john's river at the black bear wilderness area

However, if the parking is full, you are not allowed to park elsewhere, and parking right of way is prohibited. Therefore, plan your hikes during the week to avoid the weekend crowds.

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This trail closes at sunset, so please make sure you are out before that time or you will be locked in.

While there are many reasons why hikers love the Black Bear Wilderness Area, I believe that the views are the number one reason to hike this trail.

Two Ways to Enjoy Hiking at the Black Bear Wilderness Area

Regardless of this being a loop trail, you can divide it into two separate hikes. No matter which option you choose, you will start at the same trailhead.

Shortly after beginning your walk, you will reach a ‘fork’ or a ‘Y’ intersection at the boardwalk.

To hike the Black Bear Wilderness Area, I recommend you start counter-clockwise–and I’ll tell you why in a minute.

Meaning, you will take a right at the fork to continue your hike. Here are the two options on what to do next.

hiking through the boardwalks
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  • St John’s River Scenic Trailthis is a 1-mile hike that will take you to the boardwalk right along the St. John’s River. You can stop for pictures, enjoy the view, and then go back the same way you came.
  • The Loop Trail – If you want to complete the loop trail, just continue your hike alongside the St. John’s River. This loop is a 7.1-mile trail and there are no shortcuts, but you will find mile markers along the trail.
wildlife at black bear wilderness area

Things You Should Know Before Hiking the Black Bear Wilderness Loop Trail

Because I love this hiking trail in Sanford so much, I feel like there are some things I have to share. Here’s what you should know before heading out.

hiking trails in Central Florida

1. Start hiking counter-clockwise

Contrary to what others might say, the best way to hike this trail is counter-clockwise.

Why? Mainly because this hiking trail has uneven terrain with many roots along the trail, along with steep curves and elevation on the majority of the trail.

For this reason, It’s best to hike these parts of the trail while you are still energized.

Otherwise, you will reach the hardest parts feeling tired, and going down the rooted trail can cause you to trip and lose balance.

2. It’s not an easy hike

Due to its uneven terrain, this is a moderate-difficult trail. It can get quite challenging at times and by all means, you should be prepared.

Say YES! to hiking boots and NO to sneakers. Trekking poles are also recommended for Florida hiking trails such as this one and will come in handy.

rooted trail on black bear wilderness area

3. Are there bathrooms at the Black Bear Wilderness Trail?

After some renovations done on this trail, there are now portable bathrooms located right at the trailhead.

4. Black Bear Trail is a loop with no shortcuts

There are no shortcuts within the trail. The Black Bear Wilderness Loop Trail is a 7.1-mile hike and it can feel strenuous.

However, there is a primitive campsite just about halfway, with a shelter/picnic table. This is actually where I stop for snacks and a break.

hiking through the hammocks

5. The trail can get extremely slippery

Be extra careful if it rains, or when hiking this trail days after it has been raining.

Due to the nature of the muddy terrain, it can become extremely slippery and dangerous.

Additionally, there is a marsh on both sides of the trail. If you can avoid this trail on rainy days, even better!

Regardless, please check the weather and plan accordingly.

6. Scenic views of the Black Bear Wilderness Area are awe-striking!

Without a doubt, this is one of the most scenic hiking trails near Orlando. With 14 boardwalks along this trail, you have plenty of photo opportunities.

Bring your camera, soak in the views, and enjoy the beauty of the real Florida!

scenic views on black bear wilderness area

Plan your Trip

Fees: none

🗺 Grab your trail map

Hours: dusk until dawn, every day of the year

🐶 Pets on a leash are welcome!

Address: 5301 Michigan Ave, Sanford, FL 32771

📍Get directions


Yanitza Ninett
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Yanitza is an avid adventurer with 15+ years of hiking experience and outdoor travel. As a PADI-certified scuba diver, she's also passionate about ocean conservation. When she's not exploring the great outdoors, Yanitza obsesses over The Vampire Diaries and dreams of traveling to Mallorca, Spain.

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