Home » Florida » Discover Lake Louisa State Park A Magical Weekend Getaway

Are you looking for a magical weekend getaway? Look no further than Lake Louise State Park! Sometimes you miss the gems that are sitting in your own backyard. A mere 45 minute drive away, we discovered a slice of real Florida. Lake Louisa State Park sits just outside Orlando and is an untapped treasure. This 4,300 acre state park is a magical destination that offers a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure.

Lake Louise State Park offers a serene and enchanting escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Only a stone’s throw away from Disney. We felt like you were a world away in this park.

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Lake Louisa Boardwalk to the beach
Lake Louisa Boardwalk to the beach

Heading to Lake Louisa State Park for a Weekend Getaway

Lake Louisa State Park is conveniently within an hour’s drive from Orlando and Tampa. Whether you’re driving or renting a car, the park is easily accessible and well worth the journey.

From Orlando:

  1. Head west on Interstate 4 (I-4) toward Exit 272.
  2. Take Exit 272 for FL-50 W toward Clermont.
  3. Merge onto FL-50 W/W Colonial Dr and continue for about 16 miles.
  4. Turn right onto US-27 N and continue for approximately 8 miles.
  5. Turn left onto CR-561 N and follow the signs to Lake Louisa State Park.

From Tampa:

  1. Take I-275 N toward Ocala.
  2. Merge onto I-4 E via Exit 45B toward Orlando.
  3. Take Exit 41 for FL-570 E toward Lakeland/Winter Haven.
  4. Merge onto FL-570 E/Polk Pkwy and continue for about 20 miles.
  5. Take Exit 24 for US-27 S toward Haines City/Clermont.
  6. Merge onto US-27 S and continue for approximately 19 miles.
  7. Turn right onto CR-561 N and follow the signs to Lake Louisa State Park.
Lieutenant Dean Gilmore Memorial on the beach Lake Louisa
Lieutenant Dean Gilmore Memorial on the beach Lake Louisa

Lake Louisa State Park – Your Ultimate Guide

The park is open 8 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year. Once you arrive at the park, follow the signs to the main entrance and the ranger station, where you can obtain information about the park, check-in for camping (if applicable), and inquire about any guided activities or programs that might be available during your visit. Cost for a day pass is $5 per vehicle, or $2 pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, passengers in a vehicle with holder of Annual Individual Entrance Pass.

Keep in mind that Florida State Parks often offer annual passes or day-use passes that can provide cost-effective options if you plan to visit multiple state parks during the year. Additionally, some activities within the park, such as camping, horseback riding or guided tours, may have separate fees. You can reach the park by calling (352)394-3969. Lake Louisa State Park is at 7305 U.S. Hwy 27, Clermont, FL 34714.

White sand and small plants near pines   Scrub habitat of the Lake Wales Ridge in Lake Louisa state park
Scrub habitat of the Lake Wales Ridge in Lake Louisa state park

From Wilderness to Wonder: Exploring Lake Louisa State Park

Exploring Lake Louisa State Park is a fantastic way to connect with nature, unwind, and create lasting memories. Whether you’re an avid hiker, a water enthusiast, or simply seeking a peaceful retreat, this state park offers something for everyone and promises an unforgettable adventure.

Ridges of Longleaf Pine  in Lake Louisa State Park
Ridges of Longleaf Pine in Lake Louisa State Park

A Journey Through the History of Magical Lake Louisa

Lake Louisa State Park, in Lake County, Florida, has a rich history that dates back thousands of years. Around Lake Louisa, they have found Native American artifacts and archaeological sites.

Before European settlers arrived in the region, the area around Lake Louisa was inhabited by Native American tribes, including the Seminole and Timucua peoples. They relied on the abundant natural resources provided by the lake and its surroundings for food, water, and shelter. In 1823, Lake Louisa was declared a part of the Seminole reservation by the Treaty of Moultrie Creek. The Seminole did not settle the land.

Lake Louisa Boradwalk trail
Lake Louisa Pier

The lake was named Louisa in honor of Louise Hammond. The lake was named Louisa after Louise Hammond, who owned the surrounding land during the 19th century. Around 1910, the family built a homestead and began a thriving business, harvesting timber and exporting turpentine. They built a turpentine still, sawmill, shingle mill, a combination school and church, commissary, workers’ cabin and cooperage. A narrow-gauge railroad was used to bring the lumber to waiting steam barges at Hammonds Landing (now where the existing beach area is located).

Later, after the Hammonds died, the Bronson family settled the land. They mainly used it for citrus groves and cattle ranching. We could still see remnants of the orange groves within the park.

Pine Forsts Habitat in Lake Louisa
Pine Forest Habitat in Lake Louisa

The Story of Lake Louisa’s Transformation

In 1973, the state of Florida acquired the land around Lake Louisa and designated it as Lake Louisa State Park. The Florida Park Service now manages and preserves the park. The park protects a variety of ecosystems, such as the lakes, wetlands, and sandhills. It furnishes a habitat that is a wildlife haven while providing recreational opportunities.

Lieutenant Dean Gilmore disappeared in a mysterious plane crash in Lake Louisa, and his P-51 Mustang airplane remains in Lake Louisa. The wreck was discovered in 2001. When a severe drought decreased the lake water levels, resulting in tourists being able to see the wreck. The crash took place in 1944. Lieutenant Gilmore was a veteran of World War II who flew 91 reconnaissance missions. His last known whereabouts were while he trained amateur pilots on a training flight. As of today, there are no indications as to what caused the crash. After the accident, they discovered his body in the lake inside a partially opened parachute.

The Palatlakaha Chain of Lakes information sign

The Palatlakaha Chain of Lakes: A Scenic Gem

The Palatlakaha Chain of Lakes, also known as the Clermont Chain of Lakes, is a series of interconnected lakes. The main lakes within the Palatlakaha Chain of Lakes include:

  1. Lake Minnehaha: One of the larger lakes in the chain, Lake Minnehaha offers opportunities for boating, fishing, and water sports. The lake’s shoreline is dotted with beautiful homes and parks, providing a serene and picturesque setting.
  2. Lake Minneola: Adjacent to Lake Minnehaha, Lake Minneola is known for its clear waters and sandy beaches. It is a popular spot for swimming, fishing, and picnicking. The scenic Lake Minneola Trail runs along the lake’s shore, providing a great path for walking, running, or cycling.
  3. Lake Susan: This lake is connected to Lake Minnehaha and is a popular spot for fishing and birdwatching. Its calm waters attract kayakers and canoeists looking for a peaceful paddling experience.
  4. Lake Louisa: While not technically part of the Palatlakaha Chain, Lake Louisa is located nearby and is often included in the same area. It is the largest lake in the Clermont Chain of Lakes and offers a variety of recreational activities, including boating, fishing, hiking, and camping at Lake Louisa State Park.
Lake Louisa Beach Swimming Area
Lake Louisa Beach Swimming Area

Exploring the Stillness of Lake Louisa Waterways

At the heart of the park, you’ll find the three stunning lakes: Lake Louisa, Hammond Lake, and Dixie Lake. These bodies of water create an atmosphere of tranquility and beauty, perfect for various water-based activities.

Swimming: The only beach is located on Lake Louisa. Enjoy a refreshing dip in the clear waters of Lake Louisa. The sandy beach is perfect for sunbathing and picnicking. There is a new playground for the kids next to the beach. Nature trails are a great way to enjoy the natural surroundings, and to spot wildlife. The main swim area at Hammond Landing has a changing area, restrooms, picnic tables, but no lifeguards. Swim at Your Own Risk.

Plaground area on the shore of Lake Louisa
Plaground area on the shore of Lake Louisa

Kayaking and Canoeing: Kayaking and Canoeing: Rent a kayak or canoe from the park canteen station or bring your own and paddle through the calm waters of the three picturesque lakes—Lake Louisa, Hammond Lake, and Dixie Lake. Keep an eye out for turtles, birds, and other wildlife along the shorelines.a kayak or canoe and explore the peaceful lakes where you might encounter turtles, wading birds, and even the occasional alligator.

Fishing: This state park is a paradise for anglers. Lake Louisa and the other natural lakes within the park provide opportunities for fishing. Cast your line and try to catch bass, catfish, sunfish, and more. Be sure to have a Florida fishing license before casting your line.

Lake Louisa: Hiking amidst Nature’s Beauty

There are over 20 miles of scenic hiking trails within the park, varying in length and difficulty. Lake Louisa State Park boasts a variety of well-marked hiking trails that wind through oak forests, pine groves, and wetlands. Some trails offer spectacular views of the lakes. The varied ecosystems contain 11 distinct natural plant communities, making these trails perfect for birdwatching and wildlife spotting. For biking enthusiasts, there are dedicated biking trails that provide a fun and challenging ride amidst the park’s natural beauty.

Lake Louisa Nature Trail
Lake Louisa Nature Trail
  • Lake Louisa Nature Trail (#21, 23-29, 31-35): a 6.5 mile out-and-back trail that begins near the Lake Louisa beach area. The trail starts in shade with foot bridges passing over Big Creek. The trail eventually leaves the woods rising over the sandy foothills of the Lake Wales Ridge. Not a lot of shade on the rest of this trail.
  • Comptons Loop: This 2.9 mile loop trail passes through pine Flatwoods, and a small section follows low-lying Big Creek. It provides views of Dude Lake and Hook Lake if you combine the 2.8-mile loop.
  • Sandhill Loop Trail (Dixie Lake) (#36): This short 3-mile loop trail takes you through sandhill terrain, known for its unique vegetation and wildlife. It’s an informative trail with interpretive signs describing the surrounding ecosystem. Our dog Sage loved this trail (plenty of shade)
  • Hammond Lake South Loop Trail: This 2.6 mile loop trail encircles Hammond Lake and is known for its abundant wildlife, including alligators and turtles. It’s a peaceful and gentle path, perfect for all skill levels. Not much shade.
  • It’s essential to be prepared for hiking, wear appropriate footwear, and bring water, sunscreen, insect repellent, and a trail map.
Horses at the Horse Back riding Trails Lake Louisa

Experiencing the Thrill of Horseback Riding

Looking for something fun to do with the kids? Bring your own horse or join a guided horseback riding tous that takes you on the scenic trails. The Lake Louisa Hitching Post trail rides allow you to explore the park from a different perspective.

Don’t forget your binoculars and camera to capture the beauty of the flora and fauna. Lake Louisa State Park is a haven for wildlife, making it an excellent spot for observing native animals and birds. Keep an eye out for deer, foxes, armadillos, and a variety of bird species, including bald eagles and ospreys. The afternoon we rode, we spotted deer and a red-tailed hawk.

The park has equestrian camping sites available with a  2-stall covered shelter in the backcountry. Camp includes fire rings, water hookups, picnic tables, pavilion, grills and a composting toilet.

Lake Hammond Picnic Area Lake Louisa State park
Lake Hammond Picnic Area Lake Louisa State park

Exploring the Natural Wonders of Lake Louisa State Park

Finally, take some time to simply relax and enjoy the serenity of the park. Whether you’re sitting by the lake, reading a book under the shade of a tree, or having a leisurely picnic, Lake Louisa State Park provides a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

The park offers designated picnic areas with tables and grills, making it ideal for enjoying a peaceful meal amidst the serene surroundings. At the sunset parking area end your day, watching the sunset behind the ridge. A perfect photo opportunity. As the sun sets and darkness falls, the lack of light pollution in the park creates a perfect setting for stargazing. Lay out a blanket, look up, and be mesmerized by the night sky’s brilliance.

Camping at Lake Louisa State Park
Camping at Lake Louisa State Park

Accommodations: Lake Louisa State Park for Your Nature Getaway

For an immersive experience, consider camping at one of the park’s 60 scenic campsites (regular, primitive, equestrian, group, or glamping). The park provides both tent and RV camping facilities, allowing visitors to choose the accommodation that suits their preferences. The campground is well-maintained and offers amenities such as restrooms, showers, and picnic tables. We stayed in the “C” loop. The gravel pad sites are level with plantings providing some privacy. We loved everything about this campground.

Eco-Tents at Lake Louisa State Park
Off-Grid Eco-Tents

Alternatively, if you prefer more comfort, there are cabins and glamping tents to choose from. They rent two types of glamping tents-Luxury or Off-Grid Eco-Tents. The luxury 200 sq ft bell tent includes air-conditioning.

20 fully equipped and comfortable cabins, all with enclosed porches overlooking the lake. They accommodate guests in two-bedroom cabins with two baths, a kitchen (with appliances), and living and dining areas. Each cabin has central heat and air conditioning, dishes, pots and pans, silverware, linens, towels, picnic tables, as well as rocking chairs on the porch. Besides food and personal items, such as soap or shampoo, there is nothing else you need to bring. Reservations may be made up to 11 months in advance. Book online or call 800-326-3521 (8 a.m. to 8 p.m.).

Lake Louisa State Park is a favored destination, especially during peak seasons. To secure your spot, make camping reservations well in advance through the Florida State Parks reservation system. This ensures you have a designated camping site and avoids disappointment upon arrival.

Tips for Your Weekend Getaway to Lake Louisa State Park

  1. Bring Sun Protection: Florida can get quite hot and sunny, so don’t forget sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses.
  2. Bring Bug Spray insect repellent, as mosquitoes can be quite common in Florida’s natural areas, especially near water bodies.
  3. Stay Hydrated: Carry plenty of water, especially if you plan to explore the park on foot or by bike. There is a water bottle refill at the ranger station.
  4. Respect Wildlife: Admire the animals from a safe distance and avoid feeding them to maintain their natural behaviors.
  5. Make Reservations: If you plan to take part in guided activities, consider making reservations in advance, through the Concession Services.
  6. Arrive Early: If possible, try to arrive early at the park, especially on weekends and holidays. Early arrival increases your chances of getting a preferred parking spot and allows you to explore the park before it gets too crowded.
Cypress Trees along the Shoreline of Lake Louisa

Final Thoughts: Lake Louise State Park A Weekend Getaway

This diamond in the rough is a quick weekend getaway for travelers looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Whether you seek to connect with nature, engage in outdoor activities, or simply unwind amidst scenic landscapes, this enchanting park has something special in store for you. So, pack your bags, embrace the magic, and set off on a memorable weekend getaway to Lake Louisa State Park.

So, pack your sense of wonder and embark on an enchanting journey to Lake Louisa State Park. You’ll discover a world of magic waiting to be explored.