Highlands Hammock State Park

Happy New Year to Everyone!

The CurbCrushers got in one last camping trip for the year, with a three night jaunt down US-27 to Sebring, Florida and Highlands Hammock State Park. We had a good trip even though the park was quite full on Friday and Saturday. We were between two tent sites that both had multiple families, and because of the placement of fire rings, had a large campfire that seemed to be located right under our bedroom window until about midnight on Friday. This park has a pretty good selection of things to do, there are about a half-dozen trials, a CCC museum, an eight-mile bike trail, and a ranger led tram ride. We had been to Highlands Hammock about three years ago, the first year we had the fifth-wheel.
The hiking trails are fairly short. Most of them are loops off the main loop road that runs through the park. They are advertised as 20 – 30 minute walks, but we finished the trails in about 15 minutes. The Cypress Swamp trail was sort of depressing. The water is very low and the boardwalk goes over a lot of dry land. Three years ago we walked this same trail and spent most of our time walking over water.
On our previous trip we’d taken the tram tour, and we decided to do it again. There is a price, $4.00 for adults and $2.00 for kids. The tour covers the road that you can drive on in the park, and then gets on a dirt access road and runs along the South Canal. The only real wildlife that we saw were gators and some birds.
CurbCrusher did the bike trail on Sunday Morning. It took about 50 minutes riding fairly easy. Most of trail was packed dirt road, but there was probably about a quarter mile of the trip that was very loose sand. I ended up getting off the bike and pushing until the road firmed up again. Another part of the trail is on the park roadway, so that is easy.
The drive down and back was pleasant. US-27 is under construction in Lake Wales, Florida, and that means there are a couple of miles of driving alongside the jersy barriers. Other than that, and the stop and go nature of US-27 it is not a difficult drive and only takes about 2 hours from Orlando.

In thinking about my reviewing of parks, I realized that it mostly turns into a summary of what we did. I am going to try and organize my park reviews better. I’ll still do a summary of the weekend and what we did, but I’m going to add the following section to try and be consistent when talking about parks, and assign a letter grade to each area, and an overall ranking.

Campsites – Campsites are OK at this park. They are hard to figure out though. Each site has two poles at the front, and the poles share the number with the adjacent site. This would appear to make things easy, as you just draw a line back from the pole and figure out where your site is. That would be too simple. For example we were on site 79 and the poles where probably 30 feet apart. If you drew a line perpendicular the road and went back 40 feet that would have been great. But site 80’s fire pit was about 15 feet on the 79 side of the line when you drew a line like that. So maybe the site is pie shaped. Who knows. We saw a number of people arrive and try and figure out where their site was and then have to move when someone in an adjacent site showed up. When this campground is about half-full it is a great place to be, but when it is close to capacity, it can feel crowded. The water and electric hook-ups can either be at the rear of the site on the left where you’d expect them, or on the right side at the rear, or at the front on the right…. you get the idea. Make sure you have extension cords and hoses when you show up here. Overall I’d say that the campsites are average, so it gets a C.

Stuff To Do – There is enough to keep you busy for a weekend at this park. There are a number of trails to walk /hike and a long bike trail. This park was build in the 1930’s by the CCC, so there is a museum dedicated to the CCC and the building of the park. The volunteers in the museum are very eager to talk about the park’s construction and its history. There is a tram tour ($4.00 Adults, $2.00 Kids) that you buy tickets for at the Ranger Station. If the park is crowded and you want to go on the tour, you need to get your tickets early. Finally there is a restaurant , the Hammock Inn, that is located in the park. We didn’t eat there, but the ranger swore it was good. Overall, I’d give the Stuff to Do category a solid A.

Overall – Overall this park gets a solid B. But I imagine the real review question is this: “Would the CurbCrushers go to Highlands Hammock again?” The answer to that question is yes. We’ve even got a trip scheduled for Thanksgiving 2008 when its going to be crowded, but we think we’ve done better with site selection this time. The park is attractive, we met one couple that’s been coming there for the last week of December for 16 years, then the next day met two couples that said they’ve been at Highlands Hammock for the past 27 New Years.

Pictures from the trip are here.

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