Lake Louisa is the second largest lake in Florida after Lake Okeechobee and is the third lake in the Palatlakaha chain of lakes that are known for the water quality. Our campground was only about 15 minutes away from the State Park, so we were excited to check the lake and trails.
We made our way to the park around 10:00 AM, paid our $5 fee, and wound our way through the park to see the lake. The majority of the park is located south of the lake and encompasses several other small lakes, a campground, and many hiking trails, but there is boating and swimming access to Lake Louisa from a dock and small beach. After we saw the lake, we made our way south through the park toward the campground where the South Loop trail began. We had a little trouble locating the trailhead as it technically started on a gated service road. On our first pass by, we did not see the trail around the gate, but once we drove by again (which allowed us to stop and look at a pair of sandhill cranes for a second time), we saw where the trail started and were ready to go.
We had to park about 0.25-mile from the trailhead, so we were able to check out the campground and Hammond Lake. Once we got on the trail, it was very well marked, though if we had not had a map with us, it would have been difficult to navigate. Each leg of the trail is numbered, which means you need to know what connectors you need to follow to make the loop. Between the map and the markers, we had no issue navigating the trail.
The trail took us through several different ecosystems and types of trails. We started on a trail of sand that was several inches deep and felt like we were walking on the beach. It was rather uncomfortable to walk on, and we eventually followed Daisy’s lead and walked on the grass beside the trail. The sand eventually transitioned into a combination of grass and compact sand, which was much easier to navigate. The trail is frequented by horses, so it was well-maintained and very wide. We joked that we always hike together but never get to hike side-by-side, so it was a nice change.
Even though the temperature was only in the 70s, it got warm fast. There were very few areas of shade and there was only a rare breeze. About halfway through our hike, clouds started rolling in, which helped cool things down a little. I am not sure I would want to hike this in the middle of the summer.
About one-third of the way around the loop, we saw our first orange tree. The kudzu has done its best to strangle the orange and tangerine trees that are the lone survivors of an abandoned orchard, but these trees are apparently tenacious. It was incredible to walk along and see beautiful oranges and tangerines filling the trees. Once Little Bird woke up from her short nap, we showed her the trees and picked one of each. She loves oranges and immediately made the connection of what it was. The oranges were not quite ripe, but the tangerines were delicious. She happily snacked on a few wedges (once the copious large seeds were removed). It was such a lovely treat.
Not long after our snack, poor Daisy found herself in a briar bush and got a barb wedged in her paw. Whether we had also unknowingly walked through bush or if she transferred them to us as we held her and removed the barb from her paw, by the time it was all said and done, we were finding them all over ourselves (including continuing to find them when we got home).
Given that we were not sure how well Daisy would do after the briar incident and that we were starting to see even more dark clouds roll in, we decided to take a different trail back that shortened the hike by about 0.75 miles. The sweet dog is such a trooper and ended up trotting along her merry way as soon as the barb was removed, but we were still glad to get her back to the truck and thoroughly check her out.
Overall, the hike was a nice and easy 3 miles that we would highly recommend and would definitely do again if we find ourselves back near Orlando. We just scratched the surface on what Lake Louisa State Park has to offer, but we truly enjoyed our morning exploring the park and getting out on the trail.