The Florida Trail
Florida Trail statistics from my second FT thru hike! The first go around I was a bit preoccupied with simply hiking, and enjoying the world Florida backwoods has to offer. So I certainly wasn’t taking down numbers or counting things as I went, other than miles. Mostly thanks to my hiking partner Lotus, this time we actually paid more attention beyond just enjoying the scenery and motion! So here are a few numbers from our thru hike, and a bit of explanation behind them.
- Miles: 1,108 – We went southbound starting at Fort Pickens, on the Pensacola Beach. Went East around Orlando, and West around Lake Okeechobee. Ending our hike at the Big cypress Oasis Visitor Center, the official terminus. Other than going southbound this is the most typical route to take, while there are many alternatives. One could even increase the distance by 200 miles by starting or ending their hike in the Keys, at the southernmost point of Florida! I had done that in 2017; it’s mostly a road-walk, and very unofficial, and we did not feel a need to do that this time. We took these routes even though I had done them before because in part I feel they are the best ways to do it occasionally, but also I wanted to see them again for nostalgia, and to better help others with information.
- Jan 3 – March 10 – Part of the beauty in this trail is that you can hike it in roughly two months, over the winter. It’s not as big of a commitment as something like the Appalachian Trail, and you can do it while the rest of the country is covered in snow!
- 68 days – I feel our 68 day hike is a pretty average time it takes for someone to complete the trail. I’ve seen some take as long as three months, and the first time I did it in only 28 days. The two to three month range is common, and what should be planned for, though you can obviously do it faster if you are extremely motivated or slower if you wish as well! The hiking season here runs from December to March so that’s the time frame you’re working with.
- Zeros: 6 – Some of these zeros were for leisure, and few were because we felt we actually needed them physically, though mentally it was great to take a break! Early on we took a zero to help our bodies adjust to the constant exercise. Another zero early on to dodge out of a storm, as at the beginning of a long hike we were less interested in walking all day in heavy rain. Later on we took zeros to go to Billy Goat Day, an awesome Florida Trail hiker event. A zero to see Lotus’ friends in the Orlando area, and a zero towards the end around Melbourne to go see a movie with my friends. It was nice to take the time off, but it eats money which I was definitely feeling, and eats time which means by the end of our hike it was getting hotter very quickly.
- Avg miles between town: 61.5 – Many were shorter distances, and we were never very far from a town, or food. Some stretches were a bit longer carries, which is what leads to this number being higher than I would have imagined. Often times we were able to stop for food multiple times in a single day for instance.
- Avg miles per day: 16.3 – We started out slower, taking more days off, and more short days to try and find our legs and groove hiking. Towards the end it was extremely uncommon that we had a day under 20, and we had a handful of days near or over 30. The thing with Florida is you hike it in the winter when days are shortest, so getting miles is hard if you don’t want to wake up early, hike into the night, or do both.
- Avg miles per day w/o zeros: 17.8 – Overall not the biggest change, we stayed pretty consistent throughout the hike, and generally between zeros would do a bigger day to make up for the day off.
- Avg miles per day / first half: 15 – Starting slow to find our bearings! A smart idea, especially when hiking with someone else as more can go wrong.
- Avg miles per day / Second half: 17.8 – Picking up pace as the trail went on, this still included multiple zeros or neros.
- Days w/o seeing anyone: 3 – As states go Florida is pretty populated, and those populations are very dense. It’s amazing first of all that we even have this massive hiking trail that spans the whole state, and it’s amazing again we actually went quite a few days without seeing a single other person. This number doesn’t account for the days we had a single car whiz by us at some point, or days we maybe saw someone off in the distance.
- Days w/o cell service: 5 – Rejoice, you can stay in touch with your loved ones, if you wish. Though you may not use it, or need it, it’s nice to know that if something goes wrong you can phone a friend. The places we had no service or very little were Appalachicola NF and Ocala NF. Town Days
- Motels: 5 – The Florida Trail doesn’t really have hostels so it was motels all the way for us! Though in White Springs there is a very hiker friendly bed breakfast that we stayed at. Certainly the closest thing to a hostel out here.
- Showers: 10 – Surprisingly you can find showers fairly often, more often than we actually used. Various recreational areas have them, trail angels, motels, the 88 store has a nasty one, and even one of the trail shelters has a shower along the Suwannee River.
- Laundry: 7 – Laundry was mostly done at trail angels homes, though there are a few laundromats around towns, and at a few motels we were able to. A lot of the towns you pass through on trail are so small basically the only thing there is a gas station.
- Resupply: 18 – The vast majority of this was gas stations, convenience stores, and the very occasional Walmart or super market. If you’re willing to hitch a ride (which isn’t so easy on the FT) or rely on trail angels to get to bigger towns you could get better food. Truly there are so many gas stations on trail, or places you could send a package that’s just my preferred way. Stay on trail and make due.
- Resupply boxes: 3 – If I were to do it again I’d *almost* entirely send boxes. We sent boxes to the JR Aucilla store, 88 Store, and River Ranch.
- Feet wet: 11 – Everyone’s biggest fear when heading to Florida: the swamps, and wetlands. This year was a dry year, and we only got our feet wet 11 times. Nearly all of those times, the wet section was so short lived I took off my shoes and socks and just walked it barefoot. I only actually got my shoes wet once or twice the entire trail. You may hike in a dry year as well! 2017 when I hiked last it was also a dry year, so really they are quite common these days.
- Blisters: 1 – This was very early on in our hike, within the first 3 days I got a blister on the side of my foot. My shoe was rubbing funny, and with a little leukotape over the hot spot that problem was handled nicely, and never came back.
- Shoes: 2 – I went through two pairs of shoes this hike, swapping them out at the 88 store which is roughly 650 miles into our hike. Lotus waited a little bit longer to exchange shoes but she also went through two pairs. I think the southern half of the trail can be harder on the feet and on footwear so that’s why we did what we did, swapping where we did.
- Socks: 6 – I exchanged socks more frequently, just because when a sock gets a hole I can pretty much guarantee I’ll get a blister there. Fortunately I was able to buy the socks I liked at Walmart’s along the way, and in one of the boxes I had sent.
In general we didn’t have much in the way of foot issues, Lotus in the beginning had some pain, which was expected given learning how to walk on totally flat ground, unvaried like many trails. I had a little blister, and we cruised comfortably most days. The northbound hike is a much harsher beginning, so we were glad to have gone southbound and have the plush beach walks, and the wilderness of Eglin to ease into. Many a hiker quits the FT in the first 200 miles NOBO.
- Day hikers: 20 – Most day hikers we saw south of the Orlando area along the Little Big Econ River.
- Section hikers: 15 – Most section hikers we saw in Ocala NF, or the Suwannee River, though there were two in St Marks NWR.
- Thru hikers: 39 – Nearly every thru hiker we saw was around the halfway point. There were many more we didn’t directly cross paths with, just by how town stops worked. Them still hiking, and us resupplying elsewhere. We imagined there were more than 70 people thru hiking this year. Almost all of them going northbound.
The vast majority of our hike we saw no one, no other hikers, the occasional hunter, and of course when we were on a road or in town is when we saw life. The southbound journey is one of solitude.
- Coyote: 1
- Deer: 34
- Raccoons: 6
- Armadillos: 12
- Snakes: 7
- Alligators: 118
- Bald eagles: 7
- Turkeys: 16
- Pigs: 16
- Otters: 3
- Turtles: 13
- Owl: 1
These numbers account only for the animals we directly saw with our eyes, and specifically these are only my numbers of the ones I saw. Sometimes we could hear armadillo, knew it was armadillo, but didn’t count it as a sighting. Same goes for owls, heard many, but only saw one.
All of the alligators we saw were over the course of two days. 35 of them in St Marks NWR and the rest along the canals south of Lake Okeechobee. None of these alligators were a threat to us, none were in the trail, and we never really felt concerned by them.
Similarly for the snakes, most of those were non-venomous, and got out of our way long before we were even close to them. In Big Cypress however we did come across two water moccasins that were very near each other, directly in the trail, and not planning on moving. Still, compare this to in 2017 I didn’t see a single snake non-venomous or otherwise my entire thru hike.
Thanks to Lotus for the idea of keeping track, and for helping me with some of these things I personally wasn’t paying attention to! Without her this likely wouldn’t exist.
For anyone planning a Florida Trail thru hike, I hope you go for it! It’s a great trail, and it’s only getting better as the years go by.