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Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area
When I was hiking in Hickory Hammock Wildlife Area, I came upon two men who also were hiking and they told me about Three Lakes Wildlife Area. They said there is very good hiking there with nice trees like you find at Hickory Hammock. So I decided to drive there and see it for myself. I drove there on Route 60 West towards Lake Wales, Florida and I kept track of the miles so I could turn right when I got to the entrance. Unfortunately, I did not see a sign coming from the east and I drove past the entrance road. I stopped at a gas station and asked someone if they could tell me how to get to the entrance. A man told me I had to drive east from there and cross the first bridge and the entrance would be on the left. He said if I crossed the second bridge, I will have gone too far. I did find the entrance road and there was a sign so I had no trouble. I don't think there is a sign going west so that is a problem. I hope they put one in!
Dirt Entrance Road
The dirt roads are a bit rough and I would highly recommend using a truck or other high clearance vehicle instead of a car. I drove my Toyota Prius and was very careful driving on the dirt roads. Some of the roads actually drive down in what could be water filled areas with rocks and gravel. I was fortunate that even though it was raining lightly, there was no real high water. A better way into this area is to take route 441 North from Yeehaw Junction (Florida Turnpike, Route 60 and Route 441) to route 523 and turn left. This will bring you to the Three Lakes WMA - Prairie Lakes Unit (Prairie Lakes Canoe Creek Rd). I was also fortunate that the gate was open coming from the south into the Prairie Lakes Unit. Had that gate been closed, which a sign had said it was earlier, I would have had to drive a long way back to Route 60.
My 2009 Toyota Prius
As you drive through, you'll see the Florida Trail, which I saw right at the beginning of the dirt road off of route 60. It heads north to the fence where I had to drive through to get to the Prairie Lakes Unit and takes you through some nice Oak trees over to a canal.
Fence Crossing on the Florida Trail
Nice Oak Trees
Canal by Parking Area and Florida Trail
As I was driving on the dirt road heading towards the east, I looked over to the right and saw a Doe and her Fawn. The Fawn was feeding and I just had to stop and get a look and a picture!
Doe and her Fawn
Close to the entrance there is a parking area where you can park and take the Florida Trail either out of this area or hike the loops here. I plan on coming back this fall and hiking at least one of the loops if not both.
Florida Trail Loop Parking Area
Florida Trail North Loop
After I hike these two loops I may hike the Sunset Ranch Interpretive Trail. It is just outside the entrance driving back towards route 441 on the right or you'll come to it first when approaching the primary entrance coming from route 441 on the left. It is 2 miles long and is open year round with lots of wildlife.
Sunset Ranch Interpretive Trail
The best time to come here is either in the Fall or Winter months. You can come in the Spring or Summer, just expect warmer temperatures, bugs and rain. You can drive through anytime of year just be ready for high water in the wet season and again, it's better to drive a truck or high clearance vehicle!
There may be a day use fee as well. I did not have to pay this since the area was just recently opened due to Covid-19.
North Loop Trail
I returned to Three Lakes Wildlife Area on election day 11/3/2020 because of the cooler weather and I had already voted! We have been getting a lot of rain lately so I ventured out on the trail before paying my $6 for the day use fee for a vehicle. I probably could have gotten away with paying just $3 because that is the fee per person and two men I ran into later told me that would be OK. It did not seem to be too wet so I paid the $6 and started hiking.
Beautiful Yellow Flowers
The trail was a little wet and muddy in places, but not too bad, until I reached a pond that had a bog bridge but it wasn't long enough to keep my feet dry!
Too Much Water to Keep My Feet Dry!
I had to keep to the sides to get past the water and the right side was best. I stepped on small bushes so not to sink too deep but my shoes got a little wet. That's OK compared to my shoes going completely under water! Once I got on the Bog Bridge I was high and dry.
When I got to the other end of the Bog Bridge, I was able to step down onto dry land! The sign there told me it was the "Pole Cypress Pond" and this leg of the loop is also part of the Florida Trail!
Pole Cypress Pond & Florida Trail
As I continued to hike, I came up on a fire tower. Since there is 63,000 acres here, with much of it trees, this is the best way to spot any smoke and fire.
Another thing you have to watch out for is spiders. They sometimes have webs crossing the trail so I use my trekking poles to clear them, if I see them in time! Some spiders are huge and located usually off the trail. I would not want to run into one of these!
When I started out, I was hiking in Pine Trees. Soon I came to beautiful Oak Trees! They are just wonderful to look at.
Nice Oak Trees!
Soon I come across evidence of wild hogs. They really tear up the ground!
Evidence of Wild Hogs!
One of the ways they control the population of hogs is with hunting. I don't hunt, but this is one way to keep them from getting too numerous. I see their diggings just about everywhere I hike in Florida! I checked their website calendar and they are not hunting today. Don't hike when they are hunting!
Hunting Tent Next to Trail
There is a closed section where they have a dam.
Dam by the Trail
There is a small wooden footbridge they built to allow you to cross the water just below the dam. I also decided to take lunch here as well since there are not a lot of good places to sit down and have a break. Turns out this would be my only break all day since I got here so late, just before noon and I wanted to do both loops before the sun sets! The South loop starts just on the other side of this bridge. My lunch was less than 20 minutes.
Small Wooden Footbridge
Water View from Lunch Spot
I crossed Boat Launch Road and if I had more time, I would have went down to the lake!
Boat Launch Road
Small Picnic Area with Grill
I had mentioned earlier two men I ran into on the trail, turns out they are the two men that told me about this place when I went hiking at Oak Hammock Wildlife Management Area, Rick and Steve. They asked me if I had seen anything and I said "just mosquitos". I should haved gotten their picture but it did not cross my mind. They belong to the Audibon Society and take pictures of the birds. I also should start getting some videos of the scenery. Later, I saw a Raccoon, some White Tail Deer, Wild Turkeys, a black snake that I just about stepped on! It scared me and I scared it by hitting the ground with my hiking poles. I think I got a glimpse of a Hawk flying away too. So, lots of wildlife in this place! I did not get their pictures because they ran away too fast!
Dry Pond Campsite
Another Water Crossing
Water Flowing Under the Path
Hiking Along the Flowing Water
Numerous Bridge Crossings!
Back on the North Trail as the sun is going down. The light is just awesome!
The Light is Amazing!
Crossing Water Here is Easy
Another Picnic Area By The Water
The trail here is a little overgrown and could use some trail maintenance. Hopefully now that the hiking season is here, some of that will get done. If you plan on hiking here, come early, especially in the fall since the days are short. I finished both trails but I took less than 20 minutes break and that is tough when you have a 5.7 and 5.5 mile trail to complete in one day. I strongly suggest starting in the early morning and taking your time. It's not a race! Three Lakes is a beautiful place with much wildlife and nice trees! I look forward to seeing more of this place!
A Little Overgrown
Flower Greeting Me at the End of my Hike!
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