Exploring the Black Bear Wilderness Area in Sanford, Florida
What happens when The Adventures of Mom meets Florida Hikes? A walk on the wild side, of course! The kids and I joined dear sister Sandy and her husband, John, earlier this week for a trip to Kennedy Space Center to celebrate my son’s birthday, but anyone who truly knows the Florida Hikes couple knows that time spent with the pair always includes the inevitable Florida hike. We were not disappointed.
Our sojourn took place at the nearby Black Bear Wilderness Area, where we struck out into the woods in hopes of seeing the wilder side of nature- or catching a glimpse of a black bear at a safe distance (okay, that was just MY wish).
Black Bear Wilderness Area comprises of 1,600 acres of wild and mainly marshy Florida. A new series of boardwalks had been recently installed over the muddy areas, and the path towards the St. John’s river followed a ridge between two canals filled with dank, thick swampy water.
We reached the St. John’s River in no time at all. The path, a 7.1 mile loop, heads out to the river and follows the St. John’s before heading back to the trailhead. Primate camping at the designated campsites (along the river) is allowed.
Though we did not see a black bear, ( not necessarily a bad thing) which places this on my daughter’s Fanning Springs no-see-um day (no manatees at Manatee Springs and no otters at Otter Springs), Sandy assured me that she and John saw bears last time she was there. However, we did see a hawk, a box turtle and an owl, so a wild walk was it.
Black Bear Wilderness Area trailhead is located off of Orange Boulevard on New York Street- follow New York Street to Michigan Avenue. Parking area straight ahead.
5298 Michigan Avenue, Sanford, FL
Things to Know Before You Go
1. As always: stay hydrated. Bring water.
2. Bring bug spray. Surrounded by water, swampy water at that, this is a no-brainer.
3. There are no toilet facilities here.
4. This park, open dawn to dusk is free.
5. If you DO see a bear- never run away or turn your back. Make a lot of noise- the Florida Game and Wildlife guys offer some handy advice on what to do if you come in contact with a bear in Florida. Check it out on their website here.