Running Routes: Running at Wilderness Lodge

I couldn’t wait to hit the trails on our last Disney vacation. We were staying at Wilderness Lodge as a part of our multiple resort vacation and I had never run at this resort before. We had vacationed here back in 2014, but I was four months pregnant at the time. And although I did run through my pregnancies, running in the September Florida heat and walking around the parks didn’t seem like a wise decision. I knew from staying here before that Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground are connected by a trail. Many guests rent bikes and bike this trail as something to do on a non-park day. I couldn’t wait to get on this trail and see it for myself.

The morning I was planning on running at Wilderness Lodge was our final day at this resort. The day we were moving to Boardwalk. So I wanted to get it in early so we could spend the day at our new resort. I then planned to leave even earlier because we ended up squeezing in a free meal at Chef Mickey’s that morning. So I was up at 5:30am, sneakers laced and ready for the trail that I’d been anticipation for three years.

For some context, I have run at Walt Disney World for the last 10 years. The only vacation I didn’t run at least a couple miles was the vacation while I was pregnant with Lincoln. Most of these runs have been done in the predawn light. I’ve run at Saratoga Springs, Crescent Lake Resorts, Grand Floridian, Bay Lake Tower, and Animal Kingdom Lodge: Kidani Village. So I had some expectations of what this trail would be like. All the other routes I’ve run have been lit. This trail my friends is not. It is also fairly close to the Bay Lake, which is known to be crocodile infested. At this early morning hour there were no buses running and the path was not lit. For the first time ever, when running on Walt Disney World property, I was scared. I had brought my phone along with me so I used the flashlight on that to light my path. When I reach Fort Wilderness Lodge the path was lit. The paths in and among Wilderness Lodge is also lit. The trail that connects the two resorts is not. Needless to say I would strongly recommend running with someone if you are planning on fitting in your run in the early morning hours. If that’s not possible, save it for daylight. If neither of those are possible then stick to the paths that run throughout the resort itself. Which doesn’t give you many miles but still keeps you off the treadmill and safe.

Other than the lighting issue, this trail is great. It’s separate from the road. There’s a variety of terrain, from wood chips, to concrete to sidewalk. We were staying at Boulder Ridge, the DVC Lodge at Wilderness Lodge, so I left from here. I ran to Fort Wilderness, following the path that is outlined on the New Balance Running Trail sign. I followed this route as best I could. We had been here a few days before for dinner at Trail’s End Restaurant so I had a bit of my bearings but still had to be very mindful not to get lost. There’s minimal signage on this trail. There’s a sign as you’re exiting Wilderness Lodge and as you are entering Fort Wilderness. That’s about it.

What I did love about running here is I wasn’t repeating myself. When running at Grand Floridian, Beach Club Resort and Animal Kingdom Lodge, you need to be very creative with your route to get in any kind of mileage. Here, I was able to leave our building, run to and around a part of Fort Wilderness, and run back. The route was 6k. (Not the 2.5 miles that’s shown on the sign).

Other than the fear that came with running on that non-lit path, I was very happy with my run. When you’re running through Fort Wilderness there’s a lot to look at. There’s the beach and the water, there’s the tents and the playgrounds. The trail takes you right through Trip-Circle Ranch, the resort’s petting zoo and horse barn. I also came across a few guests walking their dogs. It was really enjoyable. If I hadn’t been running so early I never would have even noticed that the connecting path was not lit. So, if you’re run during daylight you’ll be fine and have a very enjoyable experience.

A word to the wise, try to familiarize yourself with the map before you leave. Or ask the front desk for a trail map to bring along with you. This should help you when navigating Fort Wilderness because it is a very large resort, and it is very woodsy. So it can all look the same. Most importantly, tell your family where you are planning on going and when you should return so if something happens they know where to look for you.

Happy Running Friends.