Circle B Bar Reserve

This must be the best kept nature secret in Florida and to top it all, its FREE!

If you enjoy walking nature trails and ever find yourself in Florida, this place should not be missed. About 50 miles from Orlando near Lakeland in Polk County, you will find the Circle B Bar Reserve.

On arrival, visit the Nature Discovery Centre to learn about the local area and about the wildlife which can be found at the reserve.  Just outside the centre, pick up one of the Trail maps. Choose which trails interest you and then hit them!

We didn’t do all of the trail, but we did do:

Shady Oak

Alligator Alley

Eagle Roast

Heron Hideout

Marsh Rabbit Run

Wading Bird Way (1/2)

At the very least, I would recommend Alligator Alley and Heron Hideout. We visited after two very unseasonably cold days and as a result, the reserve was teeming with wildlife.

Shady Oak Trail

This trail is a lovely stroll between the oaks, which are laden with Spanish moss commonly found in Florida. We didn’t see any wildlife here, but it was an enjoyable tranquil walk with great scenery.

Alligator Alley Trail

This is when things started to warm up. This path runs between Lake Hancock on the left and a swamp on the right.

The banks of Lake Hancock had birds lined up looking for food and we observed mostly Ibis, Great Herons and Anhinga along here. We watched an Anhinga catch his lunch, which was actually too big for him to eat. He tussled with it for some time before he accidentally dropped it back into the lake. He jumped straight in after it but we couldn’t see where he resurfaced, so we aren’t sure if he managed to find it again!

I took this video but unfortunately I missed the bit where he dropped his lunch; It would have been a great You Tube moment!

On the other side of the path there was a swamp. The swamp was abundant with smaller birds flying in and out of the foliage and the occasional alligator watching us keenly.

This ones head was around 30cms long at a guess; clearly i didn’t use a measuring stick 🙂

Further along Alligator Alley, we found an Eagles nest and this Herons nest. If you look closely you can see one of the adult herons standing in the nest.

Herons Hideout

This trail is a short walk back to the car park or can be used to connect up to Marsh Rabbit Run. We found a  number of water birds here, including Herons, Egrets and some Whistling Ducks.

Limpkins like the one above, can be found all around the reserve. They make the strangest of sounds which is similar to that of a a crying baby! They like to eat snails, so you will often find large empty snail shells littered around the reserve.

Marsh Rabbit Run

Marsh Rabbit run follows beside Banana Creek Marsh and is where we saw even more birds including this Great Egret.

I was amazed that every where I looked, I could see another bird going about its daily business. I don’t think I have ever seen such a high concentration of wildlife in one place. This trail was partially shaded, which was a relief because the Florida sun had become strong by mid afternoon.

We had heard that there were some baby alligators to be found and we eventually came across 4 like this one. They were approximately 25cms long, so small, that many people weren’t noticing these cute little fellas!

Wading Bird Way

As we turned into Wading Bird way, we were lucky to spot this Osprey in a tree in-front of us. He had just caught his dinner, which you can just see between his feet. He stayed long enough to kindly allow me to take a couple of shots, before he flew away to enjoy his feast.

Wading bird way is a trail which runs between two lakes.

We had heard that a very large alligator measuring approximately 12 feet lives here.  We looked out across the lake and spotted a large alligator head, which then submerged and a trail of bubbles started to move in our direction. At this point, we thought it was a good time to continue walking! I have since seen this YouTube footage and he is scarily huge!

Eagle Roost

This was our last trail of the day and the area surrounding the trail was baron and we weren’t close enough to the waters edge to see anymore birds.

However, as we approached within a respectful and lawful distance of this protected gopher tortoise hole, this guy kindly let me take a quick photo of his butt before he disappeared at speed indoors!

We returned to the car park and I was excited to see this Armadillo foraging for food. Isn’t he cute?

Driving out of the reserve, we saw a family of Wild Boar making lots of noise as they moved around looking for food. This is the first time I have seen Wild Boar in the wild and it was quite a sight!

I have been visiting Florida on and off since 2000 and I can’t believe I have only just come across this amazing place. I had a thoroughly enjoyable day at Circle B Bar Reserve and would definitely recommend a visit to anyone who enjoys wildlife and nature.

28 thoughts on “Circle B Bar Reserve

  1. This looks so cool and exactly like something I’d LOVE to do! I’m such a huge animal lover and I love spotting animals in the wild. I can’t believe how much you saw!! Ospreys and armadillos and alligators! Such an abundance of wildlife there…. seriously what a hidden gem. Fantasics photos too!

  2. I do think this is Florida’s best kept secret you know – and it’s free?? Awesome! I love the look of the shady oak trail and I cannot believe how much wildlife you saw, that’s amazing, I love the armidillo, I have never seen one and would love to (ever since I saw an advert for a Dime Bar years ago, do you remember?). Check out the size of the alligator that had been spotted as well, what a biggie! #feetdotrave

  3. How fun the Circle B Reserve in Florida. There is so much to do there and I will definitely need to check this place out. I must admit the trail along the Alligator Alley has me a bit scared since I do know that alligators love to warm themselves in the sun 🙂 I pinned this for later use. Great photos and thanks for sharing 🙂 #feetdotravel

  4. Only knowing that that alligator can be around, it would have made me afraid of my own shadow :)) It looks like a great place to see wildlife! So glad you shared this secret with us! I would love to go and visit it someday! Great pictures!

  5. Wow, what a fantastic place! Definitely saved on my list of places I’d like to visit when I go to Florida this May. Maybe I’ll be lucky and spot that gigantic ‘gator (holy cow that was big..!)
    Maria @

  6. Stunning! I haven’t made it over to florida yet but this is not at all what I expected it to be like! Beautiful nature and amazing that’s is free to visit!

  7. Wow, this place is amazing. I cannot believe how much wild life you saw here – I would love to see one armidillo but I would freak out if I saw one alligator. My heart will stop for sure if I saw that monster from the video – such a huge creature. Fantastic photos, the ones with the birds are my favorites.

  8. So so cool and so many amazing hikes. I am a bit apprehensive about all the alligators just hanging out so close to the trails but I would go with the flow – gotta have a bit of adventure once in a while! Thanks for sharing – going straight onto my Florida list!

  9. I’m from Florida so I agree this is a wonderful spot to see the real Florida. Alligators are just part of the landscape there, just pay attention and no worries. Your beautiful photos really caught the real wildlife life there in their natural habitat.

  10. OMG that gator video is just so scary!! You saw some amazing wildlife, looks like you had a great adventure 🙂

  11. What an amazing place! I would love to have a walk along those trails though not too sure about the one near the huge alligator 😱

  12. Circle B Bar Reserve looks like a great place to experience Florida’s wildlife. I’m amazed how much you got to see there, from baby gators to an Armadillo. Your photos of them are fantastic, especially the gator’s heard emerging from the water like that. Pinned for future reference if I ever head to Florida.

  13. I saw that youtube and decided I’d never walk down any path called Alligator Alley 🙂 What a great place- and its all free!

  14. Oh my goodness you saw so much different wildlife! The picture of the bird with the fish is great, you should submit it to natgeo. You must be really light on your feet for the animals not to be startled by you!

  15. Now this is music to my ears and eyes! Loved reading about this reserve and all the hikes! Does this bird eating its lunch have a hole in their head lol? :O How long would it take to do all the trails? All the wildlife encounters seem amazing!

  16. This looks like a fantastic place for hiking! I already commented on your Twitter video of the armadillo, but I have to say again that he’s incredibly adorable. So many wildlife – this would be heaven for us. How is this place free??

  17. Wow, that’s quite a day of wildlife watching! Our record for spotting wildlife is dismal. Maybe we’ve been in the wrong places, as Circle B Bar clearly is the place to be! 😉 Thanks for sharing all of your great photos!

  18. Wow what a cool hike! The trees were absolutely gorgeous and the trail seemed peaceful and clean. I cannot believe how many animals you came across. I would have been so scared had I seen some alligators – and you saw four! Very nice pictures and post.

  19. I absolutely LOVE your photos! They really brought the reserve to life (sometimes a little too much lol those alligators creeped me out a bit lol). Sounds like you had a great day, thanks for sharing!

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