A Wild Escape Within Earshot of the Magic Kingdom


Looking for a wild escape near Walt Disney World? Look no further than Tibet-Butler Preserve, an oasis of nature within earshot of the train at Magic Kingdom.

Words and Photography by Sara Sheehy
Live Wildly Lead Adventurist

This county park is small but mighty, with free parking and no entrance fee, an excellent nature center for families, a viewing and butterfly garden with gopher tortoises and a Sulcata tortoise, rocking chairs for chilling on the porch, and easy hikes that take you through longleaf pine, around a bayhead swamp, and along the cypress-lined shores of Lake Tibet.

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Vera Carter Environmental Center

Make your first stop the Vera Carter Environmental Center, a well-curated and interactive interpretive center. When I visited, I was greeted at the front door by a tank with two baby alligators and slips of paper to vote on their names. I chose “Dill” and “Ally McGatorface,” but the options included Boswer, Irwin, Arnold, and Helga.

HIGHLIGHTS Tibet Butler Preserve Sara Sheehy Phone 3

Other exhibits include the frog life cycle, species of the wetlands, and a very neat display of the role of wildfire in Florida’s natural landscapes.

Check out the wraparound porch to see Darwin, the Preserve’s rare Sulcata tortoise. While not native to Florida, this unique-looking tortoise was a one-time pet who was given up once the owner realized how big he would get – and how long he would live. Now Darwin teaches kids about the Sahara Desert, vulnerable species, and choosing the right pet.


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Walk the Trails

Tibet-Butler has 3.6 miles of loops and spur trails, many of which are within reach of even the most casual hikers, with no elevation gain and lots to see. Take the Pine Circle Trail to Fallen Log Crossing and the Osprey Overlook for a view of Lake Tibet, then make a quick loop around Tarflower before returning to the nature center. In that short time, you’ll wander through the forest, wetlands, and the white-sand trails of Florida’s scrub.

The Palmetto Passage loop trail is recommended for experienced hikers only due to sporadic flooding and some wayfinding required.

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The Deets

Address: 8777 Winter Garden-Vineland Road, Orlando, FL
Fee: Free

No dogs or bikes

Trail Map
Park website

Copy of Blue Dandelion Photo Collage