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Highlands Hammock State Park: Sebring, Florida

Highlands Hammock is a place where wilderness and history are preserved. Visitors can walk the trails where the Florida panther and black bear quietly pass beneath the ancient, towering oaks of a magnificent hydric hammock. Deer, alligators and a variety of birds frequent the park. With its beautiful old-growth hammock and variety of habitats and wildlife species, this is Florida at its best.

To see these natural wonders, hike any of the nine trails, including an elevated boardwalk through a cypress swamp.

I rode the 3-mile bike loop a couple of times and the views were outstanding.

Highlands Hammock is one of Florida's oldest parks, opening to the public in 1931, and was established when local citizens came together to promote the hammock as a candidate for national park status. During the Great Depression, prior to World War II, the Civilian Conservation Corps developed additional park facilities and the beginnings of a botanical garden. Acquired by the state in 1935, it has grown over the years and now has 15 distinct natural communities in its more than 9,000 acres that include large tracts of pine flatwoods, hydric hammock, cypress swamp, and baygall. Several of the communities are designated as imperiled or of concern, such as the Florida scrub, scrubby flatwoods, and cutthroat seep. It is one of the highest ranking parks in Florida for endemic biodiversity. The park is known for its beautiful old-growth hammock and thousand year old oaks. Ferns and air plants are abundant. Black bear and the Florida panther tread softly through the hammock and may be glimpsed occasionally.

An elevated boardwalk with an historic catwalk traverses cypress swamp, and visitors may observe alligators, birds and other wildlife. Many visitors enjoy bicycling the scenic three mile loop drive or hiking the park's nine nature trails. Picnicking, bird-watching, and ranger-guided tours of the park are other popular activities. The tram tour, which is fully accessible, allows visitors the unique opportunity to view birds, alligators, turtles, deer and other wildlife relatively close-up, in areas of the park that are restricted to public access. Catch-and-release fishing and picnicking are available at the nearby Seven Lakes management unit.

Highlands Hammock provides a full-facility campground, as well as a youth / group tent campground. A recreation hall is available for rental, as are several picnic pavilions. A museum showcasing the history of the CCC is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Highlands Hammock is located on Hammock Road (County Road 634), four miles west of U.S. 27 in Sebring.


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