Lake Apopka North Shore Restoration Area

By | 07/11/2022

Arriving at the Lake Apopka Wildlife Bulldoze on a winter Sunday, we found it busy with birds and most bumper-to-bumper with birders and sightseers.

Past that measure lone, the Lake Apopka North Shore Restoration Area is a success story.

We grew up seeing the lake through its ugly phases – the die-off of fish, birds, and even alligators due to the chemicals seeping into it – then to run into this turnaround in our lifetimes is heartening.


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Location: Lake Apopka
Trailhead: 28.669070, -81.563106
Address: 2850 Animalism Rd, Apopka FL 32703
Fees: Free
Restrooms: portable toilets along Wildlife Drive, restrooms at certain trailheads
Land manager: St. Johns Water Management Commune
Phone: 407-620-8215

Open sunrise to sunset. The in a higher place address is for Lake Apopka Wild fauna Bulldoze, which is only open Fri-Sun and on federal holidays.

Bicycles welcome. Leashed dogs welcome, but be enlightened at that place are many alligators here. Equestrian access is express to sure posted areas, of which the Clay Island Loop is the well-nigh popular.

The Lake Apopka Loop Trail and all trailheads are open daily sunrise to sunset unless posted.

Lake Apopka North Shore


The master access to Lake Apopka North Shore is only south of Apopka off SR 437. From the junction of Cost 429 with Usa 441, follow SR 437 due south to Lust Rd. A small sign points w to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive archway.

At that place are five other access points around this conservation surface area, scattered across two counties. All of these are open daily. Please consult the map above for directions.


In one case rimmed with natural marshes on its northward shore, the state’south fourth largest lake was partially tuckered past an 1880s canal and 1940s muck farming.

Over a century, Lake Apopka became a cesspool due to poor farming practices and wastewater dumping. Past the 1980s, the one time-clear waters couldn’t support aquatic life.

Farms flushed pesticides and fertilizers direct into the lake. Cities dumped their sewage in the lake. Citrus processing plants dumped their wastewater.

There are nonetheless many farms north of Lake Apopka – it is a very productive area for vegetables and blueberries – but now at that place is a natural buffer of wetlands to filter the waters over again.

Clay Island muck farms
Farmland conversion to wetlands at Clay Island

The St. Johns H2o Direction Commune has been working on this try since 1987.

Formerly known as the Lake Apopka Restoration Expanse, these restored wetlands now provide recreational opportunities across two counties.

Car with bikes on Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive
Driving the Lake Levee on the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Birding at Lake Apopka North Shore

Wild fauna Drive

The reason why Lake Apopka Due north Shore, and the Lake Apopka Wild fauna Drive in item, gets so busy in winter is for the birds.

Binoculars assistance, but just on a ho-hum drive through this conservation expanse, you will run into more than migratory birds and wading birds than yous tin mayhap count.

Coots in Lake Apopka wetlands
Coots are plentiful in the open water marshes forth the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

The speed limit along Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is ten mph. In places it is very narrow and we did non appreciate people coming to a end in those spots. Pulloffs are provided sporadically.

Where pulloffs and parking areas exist, it’due south worth getting out of your car to walk closer to the wetland pools and look out over them. Side levees are open up for walking and cycling, and ofttimes offer better views.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive
Pulloffs make for places to stop and bird

About of the open water wetlands pools lie betwixt the entrance gate and the Historic Pump House, along the first quarter of Wildlife Drive.

The Historic Pump House is a must-stop. It’s where Wild animals Bulldoze and the Lake Apopka Loop Trail encounter. A shaded observation deck lets yous wait out on the lake itself.

Lake Apopka shelter
Covered shelter at the Historic Pump House

Once within the interior of the marsh maze on Wild fauna Drive, viewing is more express to the sides of the canals. The levees are wider, then there are spots where you can park and footstep out for a ameliorate view.

Jones Avenue STA

After exiting the Wild fauna Drive gate, park on the left to walk into the Jones Avenue STA. A prominent osprey nest sits higher up a series of wetland pools.

Osprey nest Jones Avenue STA
Osprey nest at Jones Avenue STA

N Shore Trailhead

For warblers and songbirds, caput for the Northward Shore trailhead and tackle the hiking loop that lies just north of McDonald Canal.

North Shore Trailhead Lake Apopka Loop Trail sign
At the North Shore Trailhead of the Lake Apopka Loop Trail

To the west of the parking area is a pocket-size waterfront park, McDonald Culvert Gunkhole Ramp Park. Wading birds lurk forth the edges of the canal, equally exercise alligators.

McDonald Canal
McDonald Canal at McDonald Culvert Boat Ramp Park

Clay Island

The Dirt Isle trailhead provides admission to more large wetland cells where birds like glossy ibis and tricolor heron browse in the shallows.

Although it is mainly a cycling and equestrian surface area, we found it one of the more than productive spots for bird photography while on human foot.

Songbird on sign
Birds are everywhere on the Clay Island Loop

Biking at Lake Apopka North Shore

Cyclists are welcome to ride Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive when it is open. Machine traffic moves slowly. However, the primary way to explore Lake Apopka North Shore is by bike.

Stretching more than 17 miles across two counties, the Lake Apopka Loop Trail is open up daily, unlike Wildlife Drive.

Because of its length and location, it is extremely remote. Almost the unabridged route, which is primarily packed limestone, is in total sun. Information technology is open sunrise to sunset.

Magnolia Park
Magnolia Park terminus

The eastern terminus is Magnolia Park in Apopka. The western terminus is the Dark-green Mountain trailhead north of Ferndale. Both have restrooms and h2o.

At that place are intermediate trailheads at Clay Island and North Shore trailhead. Within a half mile of the Northward Shore trailhead, McDonald Canal Boat Ramp Park has a water fountain and vault toilet. Clay Island has no facilities.

Clay Island trailhead
Clay Island trailhead archway

A handful of shelters are provided to requite yous a identify to have a break out of the sun. The shelter adjoining the Historic Pump House offers non just a suspension but nearby access to a portable toilet.

Expect windy conditions forth segments of the trail, specially where information technology is right atop the levee adjacent to Lake Apopka. A mile of the levee trail is shared with drivers on Wildlife Bulldoze on weekends.

Cyclists along Lake Apopka Loop Trail levee
Cyclists along Lake Apopka Loop Trail shared levee with Wildlife Drive

Hiking at Lake Apopka North Shore

Wildlife Bulldoze

Hikers share access to the Lake Apopka Loop Trail, but the distance is more suited to trail runners than hikers.

When Lake Apopka Wild fauna Bulldoze is open, information technology’south worth parking at the Celebrated Pump House and walking e to make a counterclockwise loop using the lakeshore to Conrad Rd to Lust Rd, almost a iii.5-mile walk.

Lake Apopka Loop Trail
Levee headed east from the Historic Pump House

Nosotros also saw people parking at the corner of McDonald Canal Rd and Lake Level Canal Rd to walk the Lake Level Levee out to the Limpkin Point kiosk on Lake Apopka, a 2-mile round-trip.

Whatsoever gated road off Wildlife Drive that isn’t posted is fair game for hiking. Be sure to park well off Wildlife Bulldoze and to leave before sunset. Consult the map for potential routes.

Lake Apopka birding
Stopping along a Wildlife Bulldoze levee for a birding walk

Jones Avenue STA

At the exit of Wild fauna Bulldoze onto Jones Avenue, the Jones Artery Stormwater Treatment Area provides a identify for birding along an open pond and a homo-made wetland.

Park in the pocket-sized lot just outside the Wildlife Drive gate. The levees and the 0.8-mile nature trail can be accessed any twenty-four hour period because of its location. The grass may be tall if not mowed recently.

Marshes at Jones Avenue STA Lake Apopka North Shore
Marshes at Jones Avenue STA

N Shore Trailhead

From the North Shore trailhead, which is open daily, the Duda Connector leads out to the Lake Apopka Loop Trail. It’s one mile to the Duda Kiosk to join the master route.

Or follow the archway road across the McDonald Canal to access a 2.6-mile loop trail in an upland area that is deeply shaded by ancient live oaks.

Hiking trail
Cherry-red Loop near North Shore trailhead

Clay Isle Trailhead

At Clay Island trailhead, the white-blazed 7.2 mile Clay Island Loop is popular with equestrians, just you can hike it along the levees and canals likewise. Information technology offers three different ascertainment towers.

Since there are many crossover levees, it is possible to brand a shorter loop. Some of these are even blazed. But similar Jones Avenue, if they haven’t been mowed, you end up wading through deep grass.

Clay Island Flow-way Tower
Approaching the Flow-Way Tower

Light-green Mountain Trailhead

Anchoring the western finish of Lake Apopka North Shore, the Green Mount trailhead is quite the surprise and delight for hikers. First, they score with a h2o-bottle filling station and restrooms.

When you’re on the Apopka side of the lake, y’all discover what looks like a ridge forth the far shore. At Green Mount, i of the high points in the Florida Peninsula, yous discover out what that means.

Green Mountain Tower overlook above Lake Apopka floodplain
Dark-green Mount Tower overlook higher up Lake Apopka floodplain

An amazing view for Central Florida. And switchbacks! Not one, not two, only a whole hillside of long, languid switchbacks optimized for bike travel only a delight for hikers as well.

The highlight here is the Greenish Mountain Belfry and its overlook across the Lake Apopka floodplain, with the lake sparkling in the far distance.

Green Mountain Florida
Visitors look over the Lake Apopka floodplain

The Dark-green Mountain connector stretches 1.7 miles downwardly the bluffs and across the floodplain to meet the Clay Isle Loop, or a iii.4-mile round-trip. With switchbacks!

Florida switchbacks
Get some practise: hike these switchbacks!

Camping ground at Lake Apopka N Shore

While at that place is no camping along Lake Apopka itself, the eastern terminus of the Lake Apopka Loop Trail is anchored by Magnolia Park in Apopka.

This Orange County park features a campground set in the deep shade of an oak hammock inside walking altitude of the lake, with 18 campsites bachelor for tents and campers. In that location is too a group campsite.

Campground Magnolia Park
Magnolia Park Campground

Parks & Trails

More data on the parks and trails within Lake Apopka North Shore

Car with bikes on Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

A dedicated driving route through vast wetlands along the Lake Apopka Northward Shore, Lake Apopka Wildlife Bulldoze is one of Florida’s best birding locations

Cyclists along Lake Apopka Loop Trail levee

Discover the wild heart of Central Florida on a ride along the Lake Apopka Loop Trail, an arc spanning ii counties along the lake’southward north shore

Lake Apopka at Magnolia Park

On forested bluffs above Lake Apopka, Magnolia Park anchors the eastern terminus of the Lake Apopka Loop Trail nigh a campground under ancient live oaks

Marshes at Jones Avenue STA Lake Apopka North Shore

With both wetlands and open up water that concenter birds, Jones Avenue Stormwater Park filters runoff from the neighboring community while providing wild animals habitat

Lake Apopka North Shore trailhead

The northernmost admission betoken to the Lake Apopka Loop Trail, the North Shore Trailhead sits between uplands and wetlands divided by the McDonald Canal

McDonald Canal

Providing paddlers and boaters access to the Apopka-Beauclair Canal, the McDonald Canal Boat Ramp is a placidity spot for a picnic lunch and birding terminate

Flowway observation tower Clay Island Lake Apopka

Look plenty of birds in the marshes where farms are being restored to wetlands along a segment of the Lake Apopka Loop Trail with its own series of cantankerous trails

Green Mountain Tower overlook above Lake Apopka floodplain

At the Green Mount Breathtaking Overlook and Trailhead, the highest elevations in Central Florida provide a sweeping panorama of Lake Apopka and Florida’s longest prepare of trail switchbacks

Trail Map

Explore More!


Meet our photos of Lake Apopka North Shore

Nearby Adventures

More worth exploring while you’re in this area.

Shady trail at Trimble Park

A one.3-mile nature trail at Trimble Park near Mountain Dora offers a family-friendly outdoor adventure beneath ancient oaks and cypresses along the shorelines of two lakes

Ferns in a marsh

Protecting more than 128 acres forth Lake Apopka, Oakland Nature Preserve offers an accessible boardwalk through marshes to the lake and uplands trails to explore

Ferndale Preserve

On Lake Apopka’s western shore, Ferndale Preserve offers amazing panoramas of Florida’s quaternary largest lake, along with serious acme changes on its iv miles of multi-apply trails

Kelly Loop Trail at Rock Springs

Tubing down Rock Springs Run is why most folks show up at Kelly Park, simply the Kelly Loop Trail is a prissy dry way to meet the waterway and wildlife.

Trail Map (PDF) Official Website