The 20,009-acre Lake Apopka is in the headwaters of the Ocklawaha River and was targeted for cleanup under the Surface Water Improvement and Management Act of 1987. Major activities include marsh and floodplain restoration and the creation of a marsh flow-way system that filters Lake Apopka’s waters by circulating lake water through restored wetlands. In 1996, the Florida Legislature passed Chapter 96‑207, Florida Statutes, furthering its previous mandate to clean up the lake by providing funds to buy additional agricultural lands north of the lake. Restoration of these farmlands to functioning wetlands is expediting cleanup efforts.
The Lake Apopka Loop Trail covers more than 20 miles and provides hiking and biking opportunities across the property. Much of the Loop Trail is on the lake’s edge and is expected to circumnavigate Lake Apopka in the future. Currently, it is an out-and-back trail traversing the northern half of the lake. There are four trailheads for the Loop Trail with restrooms at the Green Mountain, North Shore/McDonald Canal boat ramp and Magnolia Park trailheads and port-a-lets at the historic pump house. No drinking water is provided along the trail.
The property also has a marked white trail suitable for hiking, biking and horseback riding (6-mile loop) on Clay Island, with four observation towers, including one overlooking the west shoreline of Lake Apopka.
The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive (open on weekends only) is a one-way, 11-mile drive meandering through the eastern portion of the property. It begins at Lust Road and ends on Jones Avenue in Orange County, Fla. The drive is open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays between sunrise and sunset. The speed limit is 10 mph and the maximum vehicle length is 25 feet. Vehicles pulling trailers are not allowed. Port-a-lets are provided at multiple locations. No drinking water is provided. Dogs are allowed but must be leashed at all times. Visitors are asked to follow directional signs. Stopping is limited to designated pull-outs provided along the length of the drive. A portion of the drive intersects with a multi-use trail (shown as the Lake Spur on the property map accessed at the top of this web page) and visitors are encouraged to carefully watch for hikers, bicycle riders and other users who share the road.
- Clay Island Trailhead — 22526 Carolyn Lane, Astatula FL 32703
- Green Mountain Scenic Overlook and Trailhead — 20700 County Road 455, Minneola, FL 34715
(Lake County park)
- North Shore Trailhead — 24600 County Road 448-A, Mount Dora, FL 32757
- Magnolia Park Trailhead — 2929 S. Binion Road, Apopka, FL 32703
(Orange County park)
- Wildlife drive entrance — 2850 Lust Road, Apopka, FL 32705
Please respect Florida’s wildlife and use caution while visiting district lands. These are wild animals. For your safety, do not approach or feed any wild animal. Lake Apopka North Shore offers extraordinary bird-watching opportunities. It is one of the top three birding areas for the entire state (includes Everglades National Park and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge). During the winter months, more than 150 species regularly use the property, from showy herons and egrets to numerous tiny warblers and flycatchers. The site set a one-day Christmas Bird Count record in 1998 when 174 species were recorded. This is the highest Florida Christmas Bird Count for any inland (versus coastal) location. The bird list (2014) continues to grow and includes 362 species. Other wildlife routinely seen include numerous American alligators, turtles, river otters, bobcats and coyotes.
Wildlife Drive schedule
The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is open between sunrise and sunset on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and the following federal holidays:
- New Year’s Day — Jan. 1
- Martin Luther King Jr. Day — Third Monday in January
- Presidents’ Day — Third Monday in February
- Memorial Day — Last Monday in May
- Independence Day — July 4
- Labor Day — First Monday in September
- Columbus Day — Second Monday in October
- Veterans Day — Nov. 11
- Thanksgiving Day — Fourth Thursday in November
- Christmas — Dec. 25
- Hiking, bicycling, horseback riding and wildlife viewing are allowed at Clay Island.
- Hiking and bicycling are also allowed along the Lake Apopka Loop Trail.
- Wildlife viewing and photography are allowed on the wildlife drive.
- Group tours for environmental education are available on the restoration project area by appointment.
- Boating and canoeing opportunities are available on Lake Apopka.