One of the closest wilderness hiking destinations to Orlando is the Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area in east Orange County, near the town of Christmas, about 30 miles from downtown Orlando. The Toso spans about 30,700 acres of pristine Florida pine and scrub land.
There are numerous hiking options in Toso. Perhaps the most traveled is the section of the Florida National Scenic Trail that runs through the WMA. Much of the trail is tree shrouded, providing a shaded canopy to make hiking comfortable, even in the Florida heat. There is a backcountry camping area along the trail. Checking in at the park office is recommended before setting off on an overnight hike and camping trip.
Toso WMA is a popular hunting destination, with various game seasons running from September to March. Hikers should wear bright colors during the hunting months. You can check the game season calendar at the Toso website.
Fishing along the St. Johns River covers approximately 19 miles of shoreline on the river within the park boundaries. In addition there are two man made lakes and a number of meandering creeks in the park. There aren’t any boat launches in Toso but there are places to put in with a canoe or kayak.
There is a youth camping area that is popular with scouting groups. There are shelters and even a compostable toilet.
Toso is also a good birder destination, with bird watching locations along the Great Florida Birding Trail. The best season is October to March. Eagles, osprey, kestrels, and owls are routinely spotted within the park. As the best birding period coincides with hunting seasons, wear brightly colored clothing.
Mountain bikers will find lots of trail options within the park. All of the roads are unpaved and offer a good surface for bikes, but not recommended for road bikes with skinny tires. There are a number of rougher backcountry trails that are shared with hikers.
Horseback riding is popular in the park, during non-hunting seasons. There are horse trails and a horse camp where you can park trailers.
Wildflowers can be found throughout the park. Ferns blanket the hammock floor. Bromeliads and orchids are found on tree trunks. The types of wildflowers change with the seasons, but Toso is a popular destination with the Florida Native Plant Society. Remember, it is illegal to pick or cut wildflowers in the park.
There is primitive camping at several locations in Toso. There is a group camp area, an equestrian campground, and two campsites along the Florida National Scenic Trail. You have to pack in everything you’re going to need, including water. Pack out everything when you’re done, leave no trace. Reservations are required at the WMA office, or call 407-568-5893.