ResortsWalt Disney World (FL)

Run The World: Wilderness Trails

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In a previous post, I shared some of the maps and routes around the various resort and theme park areas where you can safely get in your morning jog (or evening run, or really any variation in between).

Follow the footsteps!
Follow the footsteps!

Based on comments and interactions, I’m back with some new posts that not only feature tips about running these routes, but some visual aids to help convey just what a run at Walt Disney World really looks like, starting with one of my absolute favorite places to run: the Wilderness Trails.

Tucked along the waterfront area of Bay Lake, the Wilderness Trails are mixed terrain paths that connect Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. Designated for both pedestrians (walking, jogging, running) and cyclists, they provide a welcome diversion to the hustle and bustle of a Walt Disney World vacation, and truly transport guests to – you guessed it – a feeling of being surrounded by the beauty of the wilderness.

There are several “start points” from which you may begin your trail adventure, and are are follows:

  • Wilderness Lodge: Take the walkway to the left as you exit the main lobby / valet area. A winding sidewalk will take you toward a sign that proclaims “WHOA” – that’s how you’ll know you went the right way!
  • Villas at Wilderness Lodge: Take the sidewalk that winds down past the Villas at the Wilderness Lodge toward the bike rental building – the path is packed gravel/sand and connects directly to the nature trail.
  • Fort Wilderness: Cross the street adjacent to the Tri Circle D Farm, it is marked as the beginning of the trail.

Wilderness Lodge Jogging MapTaking a look at the map (pictured), the dotted line denotes the paved trail, and the “unmarked” path that snakes along the side of the lake (starts directly right of the marker at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge) is the nature trail. You may create different paths/variations based on how long of a distance you are planning to cover.

Much of the course is at least partially shaded, which is a welcome part of running the paths. I walked the path one afternoon (around 3 PM) to take these photographs and ran them the next morning (around 8 AM); I was met with a quiet reception – each time I probably saw about 2-3 runners/walkers and about 4-5 cyclists.

Other important notes: 

  • There are no water fountains along the route, but on the Fort Wilderness side there are some near the trading post. I carried my own bottle of water and filled it there on one of my loops over.
  • You may choose to run both the nature trail and the paved trail, or just the paved – the path gives you that option. Don’t wear your best shoes if you’re planning to “off road.”

So without further ado, let’s get to the heart of this post: the pictures of the gorgeous running path from the Wilderness Lodge all the way to Fort Wilderness!

Start here!

Nature Train Sign

Starting from the Wilderness Lodge, take the paved trail toward the “WHOA” sign (as mentioned above). You’ll travel about .25 of a mile before you have the option of turning left onto the “NATURE TRAIL” that loops closer to the lake. Whether you continue straight or take the left turn, you will return to the same paved path en route to Fort Wilderness.

Once you are on the Nature Trail, the path is fairly straightforward. There are minimal options for veering off the course; however, if you turn left (back toward Wilderness Lodge) at the first opportunity presented, you’ll be right back to the optional starting point of the bike rental building, which makes about a half mile loop if you are looking to do a very short jog.

Back on the trail, your left turn will set you on a course toward Fort Wilderness. The sun peaks through the canopy of leaves just enough to keep it bright and sunny, but shades you just enough to feel comfortable. If you are a bird watcher, you can hear many different melodic tunes, and you might even catch a glimpse of a family of deer or wild turkeys!

Packed dirt, shady trees.

Traversing the path, you’ll notice how close you are to the shores of Bay Lake and her attractions. I recommend skipping the iPod on this run, because the sounds that fill the path are truly incredible: you can pick up the steam whistle from the ferryboats, the ambient sounds of nature, and even, if you listen hard enough, the clanging of the trolleys on Main Street, U.S.A. It’s almost a surreal experience to hear this joyous cacophony.

Another tip: One of the best parts about this adventure into nature is that even though you feel miles away from civilization, you’re not far from the comforts of home, either. I was able to use my GPS mapping application on my phone with no problem – in fact, the signal strength on this path was a lot better than what I get back home in my suburban neighborhood! Go figure! 🙂

Contemporary Resort in the Distance
Worlds away…


As you continue on your path, you may encounter moments where you feel you’re going the wrong way or lost – have no fear! I am the most map-reading-challenged person, and I found that as long as I stayed on the marked path, I was fine. I know, I know… Robert Frost would not approve, but if you get lost easily, too, stay on the path more often traveled. And when you see signs that clearly state Cast Member access only, it’s a good idea to follow that rule.

Follow the rules!
Follow the rules!





Path crossing







Before long, the nature trail will intersect back with the paved one – but not before crossing a street. Be sure to exercise caution here (there may be fast moving maintenance vehicles) and make it safely to the other side of the street. From here, it is a straight shot to Fort Wilderness, on a wide paved multi-use path.

Paved Exercise Path
The path to Fort Wilderness
Tri-Circle-D Farm
Tri-Circle-D Farm

It might not be every day that your running path ends (or begins) at a farm full of hidden Mickeys and adorable ponies, but this one certainly does! Once you’ve reached this point, you are welcome to explore the settlement area, campgrounds, or head back on the path – whatever suits your fancy. Or if that one-way route wore you out, you may walk toward the bus depot for a ride back – or the boat landing for a launch back over the water….the possibilities are endless!

I hope you enjoyed this “wild” adventure – I look forward to sharing more pictorial running routes with you in the future! In fact, if you have a special request, please leave a comment and share. I’d love to take you all along on my next “‘Run ’round the world!”

Have you ever run this route? What points or tips would you add for someone interested in doing this on their next vacation?

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8 thoughts on “Run The World: Wilderness Trails

  • My wife and I walked this trail thoroughly while on a recent vacation. Our first time out was too close to dusk and we got caught out there with no light, and dealing with swarms of gnats. Leaving from WL, we were not sure at the time how close to FW we were so we joked that perhaps we would panic in the dark and wind up like the people on “Naked and Afraid.” Having said all that, we both though it was a great trail. We loved being close to Bay Lake. We encountered a family of seemingly tame deer. We definitely will be using that trail again.

    • Haha! It would be kind of freaky to be out there in the dark – at least you had each other! 🙂

  • This is easily my favorite set of WDW resorts at which to walk or run. One downside is that the trail between resorts is not lit, so it does not work well if you like to get up early to minimize the Florida heat.

    At Fort Wilderness, there also is a nice, lightly traveled path (with some street crossings) to get from the parking lot all the way down to the lake (about 1 mile, I believe). And you can run around the campsite loops if you want to explore. Overall, it’s very easy to add distance to a run at Fort Wilderness, and it’s a lot more interesting than running around hotel buildings and parking lots.

    • David – good tip about time of day! I know that I am usually an early riser, but after noticing that it wasn’t lit, waited until around 8 AM to take my jaunt.


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