~ Only 23 miles from Walt Disney World , this beautiful park is the largest in the Orange County park system and is adjacent to the even larger Split Oak Preserve, an inviting wildlife sanctuary where you can hike for hours and not see a soul.
Moss Park Campground (Orange County)
12901 Moss Park Road
Orlando, FL 32832
Scenic Rating: 8 out of 10
Family Rating: 8 out of 10
Sites: 54 sites for RV, tents or trailers
Hookups: Water and electric; Dump station
Price: $13.50 to $23 (Multi-family sites higher)
Reservations: Reservations up to 45 days in advance; must be made in person.
Pets: No. Alcohol: No.
The Moss Park campground is located all the way to the rear of the 1551-acre park, in a pine wood/live oak forest heavily populated by wildlife, and the sites are hard shell rock with water and electric. A dump station is located at the exit.
The park is framed by two lakes, each with a boat ramp, so watersports should be high on your list of activities. Lake Mary Jane, on the east side, also has a sandy beach where the kids have plenty of room to play.
I visited this park in October 2010 on a sweep through Central Florida to find the best natural Florida campgrounds near Disney World and other Orlando-area attractions. This campground fills the bill in spades. And it’s best feature, aside from its scenic, natural environment, may be its proximity to the Central Florida Greenway, which will whisk you to the entrance to the Magic Kingdom in 20 minutes.
The price is certainly right. Orange County residents pay $18 per night for a site ($13.50 for seniors). Non-residents pay $23 ($17.50 for seniors). Inquire about multi-family sites.
The biggest drawback is that you have to make reservations in person. No phone calls. And that could complicate your plans if you don’t live nearby. But if you go during the week, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to nail a nice campsite. And all of the campsites are spacious and comfortable.
The in-person registration policy gives Orange County residents the upper hand on weekends and during holiday periods, and it was intended that way. The park, after all, is managed by Orange County for its citizens, and they take advantage of it when the kids are not in school.
For out-of-county residents, give the park office a call at (407) 254-6840 and ask about your chances of getting a site a day or two before you intend to arrive. The staff is very friendly, and they will give you good guidance. And if you are shut out when you arrive, you can always mosey down the road to Disney’s Fort Wilderness or another area campground. There are dozens in the area.
The park’s vast expanse and miles of trails lend themselves to orienteering, and you can pick up your orienteering guide at the park office. Moss Park has the state’s only permanent orienteering course, a recreational activity (and competitive sport) that involves finding your way through unfamiliar terrain with the aid of a topographical map. It’s hiking, folks, and a fun way to explore.
Bicycles are not permitted on the trails through the 2000-acre Split Oak Preserve, but there are ample park roads, all hard-packed shell rock, that are available for riding.
The preserve is managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to preserve natural habitats for plants and wildlife, especially the endangered gopher tortoise and Florida sandhill crane. Like many such preserves in the state, the park and forest are natural way stations and nesting areas for migrating birds. You can obtain a downloadable seasonal birding list online at the link listed below.
I encountered all manner of wildlife in just one evening, including two pairs of Florida sandhill cranes who paid me a visit at my campsite. And throughout the campground, small herds of deer emerged from the preserve to grazed for an evening meal. I was warned about raccoons but saw none.
My camping experience had mixed results. While I enjoyed the serenity of the park and its unbelievably scenic environment, I was awakened in the middle of the night by a couple of yahoos playing army in the woods behind my tent. They accidentally set the woods behind my tent on fire, and I had to call the park ranger and the fire department, making my stay uncomfortable.
However, the ranger and firefighters responded promptly and handled the situation smoothly. All campers are provided with the head ranger’s cell phone number to call at any time, day or night, and the ranger’s home is located in the park, near the campground.
Despite my bad experience, I highly recommend this park for its aesthetic beauty and recreation opportunities, as well its proximity to Disney. I believe the incident I encountered was an aberration and should not count against my rating of this campground.