Located nearly dead center in the middle of Florida, and equidistant between Fort Pierce and Bradenton is Highlands Hammock State Park. This lush & alluring park has a lot to offer the hiker, the biker, the kayaker, & the boater. However, there’s no better way to describe the campground inside the park but old and worn. Nonetheless, Highlands Hammock is a very popular campground for tent campers, RVers, & everything in between. Here is our Highlands Hammock State Park campground review.
Google Maps Warning
Google Maps and perhaps other direction apps want to bring you in from the west on County Road 634. If you go this way the road becomes a very bumpy dirt road once you enter the state park. It’s Ok for a car but perhaps not for a trailer or RV and everything you have inside it. Instead, come in from the west on route 66 and then go north on County Road 635 that will lead you into the front entrance of the park and the Ranger Station.
Highlands Hammock Campsites
One of the oldest state park campgrounds in the Florida State Park system, these sites were designed for a time void of 30-foot RV’s. Most of these sites are either narrow, short, or both. And, with few exceptions, there is no vegetation or other type of barrier between them. You better hope for nice and respectful neighbors, which we had.
Most of the campsites have slopes and stumps. Many campers had to get creative in how they angled their trailer or RV into their site to get a level spot. The hookups are shared between sites which means you may have to run your water hose and electrical line a long way in 50% of the sites. And very strangely the fire rings are placed in the middle of a lot of the sites. That’s fine for tent camping but not necessary for a larger trailer or RV.
All the bathroom and shower facilities are in need of modernization with the exception of one that we saw. Faucets dripped and didn’t completely shut off. While using the men’s room the toilet paper dispenser fell off the wall into my lap.
The campground consists of 138 sites that are accessed from 8 different roads once inside the campground. There are ample bathrooms, dumpsters, and the dumping station is conveniently located on the way out of the campground.
We had site #71 which was next to the very nice campground host. We did have ample room for our pop up camper and awning, our privacy tent, and a screen tent because the site was long. But it definitely was narrow. Our neighbor’s trailer was not more than 25 feet from us.
The Best Campsites at Highlands Hammock State Park Campgrounds
We walked the campground as we usually do and made a list of some campsites that we felt are the best in Highlands Hammock. If you camp there try to book one of these campsites. # 18, 23, 25, 35, 44, 45, 63, 107, 110, 116, and 120. These sites will give you the most space. They are also the most level and have the best shade.
The Best of Highlands Hammock State Park
Highlands Hammock has the best campground store that we’ve seen so far. You can purchase almost everything you need including snacks, some other food items, paper plates, firewood, ice, card and board games, and camping accessories like chairs, solar lights, and more. This store gets high marks for sure.
Given its location in the center of the state, and not a huge population around it (Sebring about 10,000 people), we expected to see more wildlife while biking and hiking. There was the occasional woodpecker in the trees. But we didn’t even see a turtle until we hiked the Wild Orange Trail...
We heard a commotion in the dense trees about 30 feet from the trail. It was definitely more than a squirrel or 2. My wife, Shirley turned at just the right angle to see a small cat, perhaps a Bobcat, chase after a small Black Bear. I didn’t see it from my angle, but the noise got my heart pounding pretty good too.
Even though the wildlife along the trails isn’t that abundant we do recommend pepper spray and perhaps an air horn because of that one encounter. We learned from our hiking experience to bring walking sticks as well for snakes especially in the warmer weather.
The main attraction at Highlands Hammock is biking and hiking. You can ride your bike out of the campground to Hammock Road which will lead you to a 3-mile paved loop. Off of this loop are most of the hiking trails (more on hiking next). In addition, there is a long unpaved bike trail that takes you out past the Wilderness Camping sites. You can use almost any type of hybrid bike on this bike trail. This trail loops around and back into the campground. However, there is a turn off that will lead you west and back to the 3-mile loop described above.
Biking Outside the Park
If you want to venture outside the park on your bikes you can. There is a bike lane that turns into a bike path along Hammock Road that will lead you the estimated 6 miles to Lakeview Drive on the shore of Lake Jackson. From there you can ride around about half of the lake before turning back. Or you can ride your bike all the way around if you bike on Highway 17. We did not check if there is a bike lane on Highway 17.
The Best Hiking We've Experienced Camping in Florida
On the 3-mile loop you’ll find entrances to the following hiking trails (no bikes allowed):
Big Oak Trail
Wild Orange Trail
Richard Lieber Memorial Trail
Young Hammock Trail
Cypress Swamp Trail*
Ancient Hammock Trail
Fern Garden Trail
We hiked each of these. They range in length from about ¼ mil to a little over ½ mile with the exception of the Big Oak Trail which is a little less than 1,000 feet.
Our favorite trail is the Cypress Swamp Trail. The beauty and tranquility of this trail are amazing. If you are going to hike one trail while at Highlands Hammock, do this one. Note that on a few of these trails there are boardwalks that will allow you to walk over the swamp. These boardwalks have just one railing and are only 4 boards wide, an estimated 3 feet. Most adults and children will not have a problem but if someone is handicapped or has poor balance it may be an issue.
Kayaking and Boating
There is no kayaking or boating inside Highlands Hammock State Park. However, Lake Jackson has boat and kayak launch locations off Lakeview Drive. It’s a massive and beautiful lake lined with large homes on the shore.
Highlands Hammock State Park Campground Review
Would we drive 2 hours back to Highlands Hammock from our home in Largo? Highlands Hammock does have the best hiking we’ve experienced in a state park, and the best campground store. But we have state and county campgrounds like Hillsborough State Park, Myakka River State Park, and Fort De Soto Park (Pinellas County) that offer better campsites, more wildlife viewing, and nearly as many hiking, biking and kayaking opportunities. These campgrounds are all within an hour with Fort De Soto very close to us. If friends wanted to camp there we would certainly join them but Highlands Hammock is not at the top of our list. We hope you enjoyed our Highlands Hammock State Park campground review!