If seeing wildlife living free in nature appeals to you, and if you haven’t yet been, get to the Circle B Bar Reserve near Orlando Florida. It’s 55 miles down I-4 towards Lakeland Florida from center town Orlando.
Circle B Bar Reserve is a former cattle ranch over 1200 acres in size that has been allowed to revert into a nature preserve, keeping the land and creatures within free from development – in an almost natural state – for visitors to enjoy.
There is plenty of no-charge parking, and no fee to enter the reserve.
There is a large, clean, excellent, staffed Welcome Center in which visitors can obtain any information desired about Circle B, pick up a map of the reserve, and use the public restrooms. Children can enjoy a play area complete with tree fort in the Center while adults are gathering information about the reserve. (In February 2022, some of the play area has been roped off.)
Around the Welcome Center are loads of picnic tables, some outdoor privies, and pavilions with tables for folks to enjoy a meal without being in full sun which can be important as after lunch on a clear day the Florida sun can beat down fiercely.
From the Welcome Center, paths lead to the various trails in Circle B, and eventually all trails will lead back to the Welome Center unless you wander off down the Longleaf Lane trail from Eagle Roost or from Wading Bird Way trails. Walkers on Longleaf Lane will leave the reserve if they walk far enough as this trail leads to the Fort Fraser Trail to the west.
What can be seen at Circle B Bar Reserve?
Different birds, animals and reptiles can be seen at various times of the day and year. This last trip to Circle B was made in February 2022. We arrived just after 11:00 a.m. on purpose, as the nights had been quite cool, and we knew that much of the wildlife we wanted to see preferred hot sunny days to cool ones. We wanted to arrive after the sun had warmed the reserve.
We always try to visit public areas during the week if possible, as the visitor numbers on weekdays are typically smaller than on weekends.
As we headed away from the Circle B Welcome Center on Shady Oak Trail we immediately saw our first wild creature shown in this first photo below:
You can see the trail in the foreground of this photo. We, knowing that these critters sometimes aren’t friendly and can run up to 25 mph, stayed well back on the other side of the path watching, as it snuffled along, furrowing the field like a living plow!
As we meandered along Shady Oak Trail we were in awe of the beauty of the majestic Live Oaks festooned in garlands of living cloth along much of this trail.
We passed by the Lake Trek Trail on the left. We opted to stay on Shady Oak, heading for the beginning of the Alligator Alley Trail which meanders along the shores of Lake Hancock, though both the Lake Trek Trail and Shady Oak, ending up at the beginning of Alligator Alley.
Walk softly, walk slowly, and you’ll enjoy much more wildlife than if in a hurry. Are there gators? You bet. Here’s a photo of one of the many we saw.
The gator shown above was not the first seen on this hike, but was the largest seen to that point as we walked along.
It’s not just the beauty of the wildlife, I feel the wetlands are wonderful in their own right. I absolutely loved seeing the Cypress trees in the photo below. It looks like they were on guard.
We arrive at the junction of Eagle Roost Trail, Marsh Rabbit Run and Heron Hideout Trail.
Alligator Alley Trail is just over a mile long, and at the end of it is a junction. When you get there, a left turn takes you onto the Eagle Roost Trail, a right turn take one onto the Heron Hideout Trail, and straight through gets you onto the Marsh Rabbit Run Trail. We took the left onto Eagle Roost trail this time, having turned right onto Marsh Rabbit Run last visit.
When you arrive there a weir, a water level indicator and some marsh is what you see across the junction and to the left. The water is teeming with life though this photo shows mostly spatterdock and low shrubs along the edge.
If you are heading out Eagle Roost Trail, you will see eagles, almost for certain. What you won’t find is shade! Wear a hat if it’s sunny and carry water. You’ll need it.
What are the flags around some of the trees on Eagle Roost Trail?
The Eagle Roost Trail is wide, gravel covered, and is clearly used for transit of park vehicles as well as walkers. Along this trail we often saw fields of small flags in the grass or scrub. The staff member at the Welcome Center told us they are there to alert the park staff that “something” is planted there, and needs monitoring, and perhaps watering.
I can understand the watering part of it. The area is open and quite dry, with the eagle nesting trees some distance south of the trail. We could see the eagles roosting, hear them screaming at each other, yet just couldn’t easily get as close as we would have liked as visitors are requested to stay on the trails. Folks seeking the sight of eagles can see them here, and elsewhere at Circle B.
QR code for info on Circle B eagles:
If you have an app on your phone with a QR code, here’s one to get more info on the eagles here at Circle B. This one seems to work OK from this photo. The original is on the Eagle Roost Trail.
Here’s an idea of eagle wingspan. My arms are about 6′ 3″ from finger tip to finger tip, and they just overlapped the edge on both sides:
By now in our walk the temperature was quite hot and being fully exposed to the sun, it seemed longer to traverse this trail than the .7 mile length would suggest it was. Nevertheless, we trekked on.
At the end of this trail there’s a bit of a left turn onto Longleaf Lane. Don’t head down Longleaf Lane unless you wish to wander out of the park, though, I suppose, there’s no reason why one wouldn’t walk a ways down and then trek back to the junction with Eagle Roost trail.
The end of Eagle Roost trail turns into Wading Bird Way Trail. Still, much walking to do to get back to the welcome center from this point.
A word to the wise; there are NO restroom facilities on any of the trails that we walked. WC’s are only found back at the welcome center.
Wading Bird Way Trail.
Wading Bird Way trail is pleasant to traverse any time, and even moreso on a hot day. It’s bordered by water on both sides for much of it’s length and a light, cool breeze off the water was welcome. Wading Bird Way trail wanders along what seems to be a dam, or water control berm.
Gators are close. These gators are wild. I was glad to be a 200+ pounder versus a “bite sized” small person as we threaded our way between gators on both sides as we walked this part of the trail.
The gator in the photo just above watched us closely as we wandered by but did not move a bit. Exciting, and so neat to see up close.
We’d been hiking now for more than two hours, and getting a bit weary. We were happy then to arrive at the junction of Windmill Whisper Trail, and to head east along that trail back towards the Welcome Center.
A hiker along Windmill Way will end up back on the roadway into the park. It’s still a ways to walk back to the welcome center from that junction. We opted instead to veer onto the .6 mile Treefrog Trail, which leads back to the Center through the woods, rather than walk along the road to get back.
As we walked the Tree Frog trail we both thought it was a very similar walk to some of the trails we enjoyed at Highlands Hammock State Park which is near Sebring Florida.
We arrived back at the Welcome Center after .6 miles of this pleasant and quiet trail.
Can one ride a bike at Circle B?
Yup, bicyclists are welcome. It is asked that they defer to the many folks walking the trails as they wheel along. A bike is a good way to see all the trails in one day though much might be missed as a cyclist speeds along on two wheels versus walking.
Pets are not welcome at Circle B Bar Reserve.
Picnics are welcome and the facilities around the Center invite folks to enjoy eating al fresco.
As it is with every park we’ve been to, it’s asked that you leave only a few footprints, and take nothing with you but photos.
Take a guided tour of Circle B?
Hope you enjoyed the page. Visit Circle B Bar Reserve if you can. I expect you will enjoy it. I’ll leave you with a photo of a very large gator we saw just a bit down Marsh Rabbit Run from the Winding Bird Trail. Cheers.