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Polk County

Located at the northernmost portion of the study area, Polk County is one of the fastest growing areas in Florida and is home to 17 municipalities including Auburndale, Bartow (County Seat), Haines City, Lakeland, Lake Wales, and Winter Haven. The county includes a wide variety of destinations from its downtowns and historic sites to state parks and scenic highways. Polk County currently boasts a robust network of existing trails, including a segment of the General James A. Van Fleet State Trail, with additional plans in place for further expansion and the connection between trail systems throughout the county and the region.

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


Trails are an established priority in Polk County as there are nearly 110 miles of existing multi-use trails, including the Chain of Lakes Trail, Lake-To-Lake Bikeway Route, TECO Auburndale Trail, Fort Fraser Trail, and the General James A. Van Fleet State Trail. The Polk TPO’s Momentum 2045 Long Range Transportation Plan also identifies an additional 275 miles of proposed multi-use trails. This existing and planned trail network in Polk County provides a strong foundation from which to develop a regional trail system heading south to Collier County.

Polk County has a number of existing assets that could be leveraged in association with a regional trail, such as its state, county, and municipal parks; more than 40 Florida Heritage Trail sites that are part of 9 Florida Heritage Trails; 13 Great Florida Birding Trail sites; The Ridge Scenic Byway; and Polk County’s own Heritage Trail which includes locations of National Register of Historic Places (NHRP) sites and districts, notable architecture, cemeteries, churches, schools, museums, historic markers, historic homes, vintage hotels, and museums.

Example Destinations in Polk County


Polk County has established itself as a major destination for visitors to the region. According to the Central Florida Visitors & Convention and Visitors Bureau (Visit Central Florida), Polk County attracts more than 5 million visitors who spend more than $1.5 billion every year. Much of this economic activity can be attributed to spending by residents and visitors on outdoor recreation activities. The following summarizes the annual spending by residents and tourists in Polk 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
$1.8B in Polk County

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