Looking for a relaxing RV getaway in central Florida? Featuring thick forests, a diverse wildlife population, and plenty of family-friendly activities, Highlands Hammock State Park has so much to offer. Recognized as one of Florida’s oldest state parks, Highlands Hammock State Park was established in 1931 thanks to the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), who at one point also used the park as their headquarters.
Highlands Hammock State Park is a diverse wilderness that displays the best of nature that central Florida has to offer. White-tailed deer, black bear, otters, alligator, and panthers call the park home, and the park is a natural wonder of unique ecosystems like an old-growth hammock, swamp, and open meadows. A prime park feature is a boardwalk, elevated above the cypress swamp, allowing hikers and walkers a path above the prolific wildlife. Here you’ll find many trees that are over a thousand years old, including an oak with a girth of over 36 feet! There are nine hiking trails for guests to explore, including many that are open to equestrians. Want to go on a relaxing tour? There is also a tram trail for those wanting to leisurely take in the park views, which is also one of the best ways to spot an alligator.
Staying the night at the park offers guests opportunities to see the starry night sky and hear the abundance of wildlife all around. The park has over 100 RV-friendly sites equipped with electric and water hookups, tent-only sites, a horse campground, and a group camping area! Whenever you decided to visit Highlands Hammock State Park, you are guaranteed to have some fun. The peak season runs from March until November.
You won’t have trouble finding Highlands Hammock State Park in your car or rental RV as it is just four miles west of Sebring on State Road 634. The park roads are paved, well-maintained, and wide. They lead to all main areas of the park and major trailheads. You’ll be able to get from the Visitors Center to your campsite with ease in an oversized RV. The speed limit is the only thing to mind as there are no other restrictions on RVs inside the park.
If you need to pick up any supplies before your trip to the park there are plenty of places that you can visit, including Sebring (around seven miles away), Avon Park (around 13 miles away), and Zolfo Springs (around 18 miles away). The closest major city to the park is Tampa, which is around 86 miles to the west.
There are many places to park the RV while you are visiting. There are plenty of spaces near the Visitor Center and Ranger Station. The main trailheads have two to four RV parking spots. You’ll also find some parking near the Tram Station and Equestrian Trailer Loop. If you are camping overnight, you’ll have ample room for parking at your campsite.
Highlands Hammock State Park has one main campground that is known for being a very comfortable place for you to call home. There are 116 pet-friendly campsites at Highlands Hammock State Park that are available for RVs and tents. There are electric and water hookups at all of the campsites, and you can expect to find fairly level sites upon your arrival.
The campground does get busy during peak season, and there isn't a whole lot of space between sites. If you value privacy, you may be disappointed by the lack of vegetation within the campsite. On the plus side, the campsite is often frequented by wildlife such as raccoons, deer, and armadillos.
Campground amenities include clean restrooms with showers, a dump station, a playground, and fire rings. During the peak camping season, guests may stay at a site for up to 14 days (with extensions allowed with permission from the Park Manager). Reservations can be made online and will be necessary during the peak season, especially if you are visiting on a weekend or holiday.
While Highlands Hammock State Park doesn't have any sites only available strictly on a first-come, first-served basis, all sites within the park (besides the equestrian campground) can be taken on the day of arrival if they have not been reserved in advance. This is more common during the off-peak season during the wintertime since the campground is usually very popular during the summer months. Since this is the only campground within the park, it would make sense to book a reservation, so you don't miss out.
If you are visiting Highlands Hammock State Park with a group, there are two areas that are available for you to use. Both sites are located in the Primitive Wilderness Area and can accommodate groups of up to 25 people. There are no facilities or amenities available, such as water collection points, electrical hookups, or showers. Both sites are equipped with a picnic table and a campfire circle, along with a good old-fashioned outhouse that is powered via solar.
Both of the campgrounds need to be reserved in advance, and they can be booked up to 60 days in advance for youth groups or 30 days in advance if you aren't tied to a specific organization. This camping option isn't available online, so you will have to contact the park if you wish to stay here.
Scattered throughout the main camping area are 23 sites only open to tent campers. Nine of the 23 tent sites are equipped with 30-amp electrical hookups for some extra luxury, and up to eight people can stay at a site at any given time. All tent sites come equipped with a picnic table and are pet-friendly. Since you are within the main campground, you will easily be able to make use of the campground amenities that include showers, restrooms, and a playground. All of the tent sites are available to be reserved prior to your arrival, and it is recommended that you book a reservation in order to secure your site.
If you plan on bringing your horse to Highlands Hammock State Park, you will be very pleased to know that there is an equestrian-friendly camping area. Located to the west of the main campground, the horse camp has four sites available and can only be used by those who are bringing their horse in a trailer to the park.
There aren't too many facilities within the horse camp, so be prepared for a primitive camping experience with no electric, water, or sewer hookups. There are also no restrooms or shower facilities, so if you would like to use them you will have to travel around a quarter of a mile to the main campground.
Want to stay at the horse camp? You will have to contact the park ahead of your trip to ensure that a site will be available and that the horse camp will be open.
Hiking is one of the most popular activities at the park thanks to the nine different trails to choose from. The most traveled trail is the boardwalk through the swamp, but there are plenty of other hikes ranging in length and difficulty. For an easy stroll try the Young Hammock Trail; it is a half-mile of scenic wonder and wildlife. You’ll find natural beauty and interpretive signs that cover the history of the area. More experienced hikers will enjoy the Altvater Trail, which starts at the campground and loops around the park. The trails are pet-friendly but dogs must be kept on a leash.
Fancy going for a bike ride during your visit? There is a three-mile bike loop within Highlands Hammock State Park that is very lush and shady, which makes it a popular place to do some peddling. You’ll be taken past cypress and oak as well as bright flowers and creeping vines during your ride, and there are many birds and butterflies to see. The trail is relatively flat with a few twists, turns, and hills, so it is suitable for all skill levels. If you didn't bring a bike to the park, you could also rent one from the park concession.
Most of the hiking trails at Highlands Hammock State Park are also open to equestrians so that you can sail above the swamp and through the forest on horseback. Riding on a horse is one of the most serene ways to experience the park, and it is rare for there to be any traffic on the trail. There are several areas designated for horse trailer parking, as well as a few hitching posts, so if you need to take a rest, you can tie up your horse without any issues.
Highlands Hammock State Park is an excellent place for birding. The hammock and forest of the Highlands are home to many songbirds, including warblers and robins. Herons and egrets are known to make their nests around the swamp, and you might be able to see raptors and eagles that hunt across the park. The park is also a stop on the flight path of many migratory birds like the bobolink, cedar waxwing, and purple martin.
Geocaching is a popular pastime throughout Florida state parks and the rest of the country. This high-tech scavenger hunt uses GPS rather than a map with an x to locate buried treasure. It is an excellent way to get off the beaten path, learn about geography, and have an interactive adventure for people of all ages. There are several geocaches stashed around the park, so if you are looking for a fun activity that you can do with your kids you should give geocaching a go.
Highlands Hammock State Park is one of the first eight parks built by the Civilian Conservations Corps and is home to the fantastic Civilian Conservation Corps Museum. Learn about the men who built this park by hand and the “New Deal” era of President Roosevelt. The museum features interactive exhibits and an educational film where you can hear from former members of the CCC. Children will also have the chance to learn about the park and Civilian Conservation Corps thanks to the “CCC History Detective” Scavenger Hunt.