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Want to get far from the crowd without going far from Lakeland? Visit the Lakeland Highlands Scrub. One recent morning I hiked for more than an hour and saw only two other people. I did, however, see birds, butterflies, saw palmetto, longleaf and slash pines, live oaks, wiregrass and goldenrod.
Located at the end of Lakeland Highlands Rd., south of Crews Lake Rd., the 551-acre site contains one of the largest undeveloped scrub communities on the Lakeland Ridge.
From the parking area, which has a portable toilet and four covered picnic tables, you can hike the 0.6 mile Shady Oak Trail or the 2.2 mile Scrub/Flatwoods Trail.
Rising more than 230 feet above sea level, the site provides a home for rare plant species and wildlife such as gopher tortoises, indigo snakes, foxes, and Florida scrub-jays.
According to a sign at the entrance, the white sands along the Scrub/Flatwoods trail are beach sands deposited long before the ocean waters receded to their present coastal locations.
The Polk County Board of County Commissioners’ Environmental Lands Program and the Florida Communities Trust Preservation 2000 Program purchased the site in 2001 to protect important water, wildlife and wilderness resources.
The Lakeland Highlands Scrub is open 5:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. Standard Time and 5:00 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. Daylight Savings Time. Equestrian access is by special permit only. For more information call the Environmental Lands Program at (863) 534-7377.
Additional photos of the Lakeland Highlands Scrub
All photos credit: Tom Hagerty