From blazing red and orange sunrises over Lake Hancock to soaring bald eagles and rustic trails that slice through authentic swathes of Florida flora, Lakeland’s Circle B Bar Reserve is known as one of the best places to see wildlife in the state. Sure, you can walk the up to six miles of trails if you’d like – but you can also explore this slice of Florida nature by mountain bike. Just make sure to pay attention for the main attraction, alligators.
See an Alligator, or 10
If the state’s most popular reptile is on your must-see list, this is perhaps the best place to observe them in the wild. Comprised of nearly 1,300 acres, the park has numerous trails, with the most popular trail being, without a doubt, Alligator Alley Trail.
The trail runs along alligator-inhabited Lake Hancock, and the star attractions may be observed at a distance from shore or from a number of piers. Ranging in size from mere inches to nearly as long as your average hatchback car, the alligators are at home in the oak hammock, freshwater marsh, hardwood swamp and the lakeshore on the reserve.
With all the alligators around, it’s the perfect place to bring a camera – but don’t miss out on everything else around you. Circle B Bar Reserve, with a series of well-maintained marked trails of different lengths, provides countless opportunities for photographers and painters looking to capture the beauty of nature. The tremendous bird population includes a variety of wading birds, waterfowl, ospreys and bald eagles.
Nine hard-packed trails are great for hiking as well as gravel or mountain bikes. Trail maps and information are available from the knowledgeable volunteers that greet you at the front desk of the Discovery Center. These volunteers are excited to help and love to answer any questions you may have to ensure a special experience at the Circle B Bar Reserve.
A unique way to enjoy the beautiful reserve is to sign up for a tram tour. Circle B Bar Reserve staff and volunteers offer free guided tram tours a few times each month. You can experience the local ecosystems on wheels rather than foot.
Polk Nature Discovery Center
One of the greatest features of this reserve is the Polk Nature Discovery Center. This educational building is the perfect place to start your adventure before trekking into the woods and an even more perfect spot to regroup and use the restrooms in the air-conditioning post-hike. Here, you are filled with information on Central Florida’s ecosystem with interactive exhibits that are sure to stimulate young minds (and adult minds, too!)