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Highlands County

Highlands County, located in Florida’s Heartland, has been referred to as “lake country” because of its more than 100 lakes surrounding the towns of Sebring, Avon Park, and Lake Placid. A combination of natural areas and opportunities make Highlands County a desired location for outdoor recreation activities. Conservation lands in the county include Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuge, Lake June-in-Winter Scrub State Park, Highlands Hammock State Park, and Hickory Hammock Wildlife Management Area. Local activity offerings include shops, restaurants, paddling, swimming, boating, golfing, hiking, and the Sebring International Raceway.

Highlands county map showing trail towns, potential trail towns, and state parks.
Legend for county maps.


Highlands County currently includes an approximately 18-mile segment of existing paved multi-use trail that is part of a larger Lake Placid Loop Trail in the southern part of the county. The Lake Placid Loop Trail and the proposed Heartland Trail corridor extending south from the Polk County line are intended to be part of a larger network identified by the Office of Greenways and Trails and the SUN Trails program. The Florida Cracker Trail segment of the Heartland Trail Corridor extends east to
connect to Okeechobee County and the Florida National Scenic Trail. A regional multi-use trail could also provide connectivity to unpaved trails located within Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuge and Highlands Hammock State Park.
Highlands County is home to 7 Great Florida Birding Trail sites and 18 Florida Heritage Trail Sites within the Black Heritage, World War II Heritage, and other heritage trails. Notably, Highlands Hammock State Park, one of eight Florida parks built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) under President Roosevelt’s New Deal, is home to Florida’s CCC Museum. Avon Park, Lake Placid, and Sebring’s local art, dining, small-town character, and connections to natural areas provide attractive destinations for development of a regional trail network.


Example Destinations in Highlands County


Residents and tourists to Highlands County spend an estimated $61 million annually on outdoor recreation, putting it 3rd among study area counties but first among the four Heartland counties. This is likely due to the diverse range of recreational activities and amenities the county offers. From biking, hiking, and wildlife viewing to paddling, boating, and camping, Highlands County offers many assets that support visitor spending on outdoor recreation and trails. The following summarizes the annual spending by residents and tourists in Highlands County for these activities typically associated with a multi-use trail, based on the 2019 Statewide Conservation Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP).

The Total Outdoor Recreation Spending is
$61M in Highlands County

Graphic showing Highlands county demographics.
Graphic showing resident and visitor spending for fitness walking, biking, hiking, and wildlife viewing for Highlands County.