Hiking and Birding
Gator Creek Reserve is in North Lakeland. Because of it’s close proximity to the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve, the Reserve is enjoyed by birders. Almost all of the birds found in the Green Swamp can also be found at Gator Creek. This includes summer tanager and Carolina chickadee.
Hikers and runners may also see various snakes and alligators.
Polk County and the Florida Communities Trust jointly acquired this 2,700-acre Environmental Land site for the purpose of protecting important water, wildlife and wilderness resources. Gator Creek Reserve falls within the Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern, a designation protecting a resource of major statewide significance. Ecologically important for its valuable water resources, the Green Swamp is the headwaters for several major river systems, including Ocklawaha, Withlacoochee, Hillsborough and Peace Rivers.
Gator Creek Reserve has approximately seven miles of well-established trails, including one paved trail, that pass through shaded pine, cypress and oak forest and across creeks and wet areas.
With the diversity of plants and matrix of habitats found in the Green Swamp, Gator Creek is an excellent site for observing butterfly species that you may not commonly see in other parts of Polk County
Cypress Loop Trail — (0.6 miles, Easy, Paved, Some Shade)
This paved trail gives you a chance to see a cypress dome up close. The trail opens up next to a pine flatwoods habitat.
Piney Wood Trail — (2.1 miles, Easy, Shade)
This trail meanders through a shaded forest of pines, opening alongside a cypress dome on the northwest side of the reserve, then passing through mesic pine flatwoods before connecting back to the parking area. This trail can be wet during the rainy season.
Tortoise Trail — (0.23 miles, Easy, Shade)
This shortcut trail divides Piney Wood Loop in half.
Gator Creek Loop Trail — (0.76 miles, Easy, Some Shade)
This trail crosses the Gator Creek Canal and a couple of tributaries. Enjoy a leisurely stroll under the shade of large pines and cypress trees.