I have a small group of Jeepers looking for places to go Jeepin’ legally in Central Florida. I live approximately 35 minutes south of Orlando.
A: The first spot I would recommend is a Wildlife Management Area (WMA) called Green Swamp in Webster, Fla., about an hour southwest of Orlando. You’ll be running fire roads, which make WMAs ideal for beginners. When you are running WMA trails, you need to stay on the ones that are numbered or named. For larger groups, you will need to obtain a permit. Visit myfwc.com to get trail maps.
If there has been a heavy rain recently, there will be lots of mud holes and deep water. Be prepared for the trails to get more technical. If you want a totally different experience, you can do them at night.
While in a WMA, make note of the hunting seasons and zones. You are likely to get a big fine if you go off-trail. They may have trail cameras set up to spot license plates and unmarked vehicles that will pull you over. Don’t post any off-trail pictures or locations on social media. Better yet, just follow the rules and everyone will have a good time.
Nuts and Bolts
John Ryzowicz is an experienced mechanic and trail leader and the owner of Trinity Auto Worx in Odessa, Fla. He recommends three destinations for Jeepers in Central Florida:
• Green Swamp WMA / 28057 US Highway 471 33597
(863) 648-3200 / myfwc.com
• Hardrock Cycle Park / 6849 NW Gainesville Rd 34475
(352) 732-6697 / hardrockmx.com
• Lazy Springs Recreation Park / 9591 Florida 82 33930
(239) 206-9119 / lazysprings.com
More experienced drivers can head two hours northwest of Orlando to Hardrock Cycle Park in Ocala, Fla., a motocross park with an off-road area on the back side. They charge $25 a vehicle per day, plus $5 for any passenger, and you will have to sign a waiver. It’s an old lime mine where nature has its way, forming challenging lines and natural features.
You’ll be running the lime rock trails with large obstacles, steep hills and drop-offs. If you are looking for something hardcore, there are plenty of places here to get off-camber. It will definitely test your capability, and newer drivers can find a way around obstacles to meet the group on the other side.
This last one I haven’t yet been able to visit, but is definitely on my Jeepin’ bucket list. It’s a manmade park in Lehigh Acres, Fla., three hours southwest of Orlando, called Lazy Springs Recreation Park. This is a challenging park with massive mudholes, rock hills, and an obstacle course with concrete features and culverts. Most larger manmade obstacles have bypasses for beginners. There is a whole range of situations, from easy to hard. Be sure to check out the “Know Before You Go” page on their website. You will have to sign a waiver and they only take cash.
Wherever you decide to go off-road, it is very important to have an experienced trail leader who understands their responsibilities. If you are the leader of your group, you should know the capabilities of each driver and vehicle before heading out. I always tell newer drivers we won’t push them to do anything they are not comfortable with. Every Jeep that rolls in under its own power will, hopefully, roll out under its own power, and remember: “No Jeep left behind.”