Down in Florida, nestled off the shore of Bay Lake, there's a resort that's all about camping and the outdoors. With pine tree-lined pathways and buildings that appear to be straight out of Frontierland, this resort connects you to nature while keeping you close to Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and more. Full of campers, RVs and cabins, this is a departure from your typical theme park hotel stay and one nature lovers should consider. This post is an in-depth look at the woodland wonders of staying at Fort Wilderness at Disney World.
Fort Wilderness Overview
Before we saddle up, know that there are two ways of staying at Ft. Wilderness. There are the on-site cabins or, if you're a tent-pitching/RV-camping kind of family, we have a post that covers Fort Wilderness camping. Much of what we cover here applies to any kind of Fort Wilderness stay. Don't froget — you can book the Fort Wilderness cabins or any of the Disney World Resort hotels with us at a discount!
One of the original Disney World resorts, Fort Wilderness opened in November 1971, just a month after Magic Kingdom. Fort Wilderness's rustic, woodland theme is on display everywhere — from the resort signage, to the ambient music, to the individual accent lights in your cabin. While the campground features modern amenities (Wi-Fi) and facilities, it feels very much as if you're in a far-away woodland campground secluded from the rest of Disney World. Sometimes you may even toadally froget you are just around the corner from one of the most popular theme parks in the world (until you see fireworks from your campsite, or hear the Electrical Water Pageant rolling by)! It's the feeling of immersion that you go to the Disney parks for.
Fort Wilderness has a laid-back vibe. Walking through the camping areas and seeing the packed pool, you realize that most people aren't rushing to spend their time in the parks. For many families, Fort Wilderness IS the vacation. Grandparents book campsites next to those of their children and grandchildren. Out of a seven-day visit, the family may do four days in the park, while the grandparents do two or three. Those non-park days are spent at the pool, horseback riding or just hanging out in the RV. There are even some folks who don't hop to the parks at all! Families spending time together at Fort Wilderness makes it a special kind of destination.
Taking Your Dog to Fort Wilderness
It's worth noting that Fort Wilderness is pet-friendly for those staying in the cabins, a hard-sided trailer or an RV. Just be sure to request a pet-friendly loop for an additional $5 per night when booking your campsite, or $50 per night in a cabin (to cover cleaning fees). Pets are not, however, allowed in pop-up trailers or tents (most likely to prevent some great escapes)! Dogs must be on a leash when outside, except for the Waggin' Trails Dog Park.
Out of the four pet-friendly hotels at Disney World, we highly recommend staying at Fort Wilderness if bringing your dog. This outdoor oasis is a perfect location with tons of walking areas and the dog park, plus many outdoor activities your dog can join you for. We saw so many guests with dogs on our recent stay with Hopper, our frog dog. Learn more about bringing a dog to Disney World in our guide!
Fort Wilderness Campground Layout
There are three main areas of Fort Wilderness — the Outpost, Meadow and Settlement.
The Outpost is your arrival center. Located just beyond the campground's main entrance, this is where check-in — for a cabin or campsite — takes place (all easily done from your own vehicle!). You'll also find the Trail Blaze Corral and Horseback Trail Ride spots here. The Outpost Depot is the bus station that connects you to the bus routes around Fort Wilderness and the rest of Disney World, excluding Magic Kingdom.
The Meadow is Fort Wilderness' recreation hub. Located halfway between The Outpost and the Settlement, this is where you'll find the Meadow Pool, tennis courts, bike barn, archery experience, segway tours and Daniel Boone's Wilderness Arcade. The Meadow Trading Post is your on-site convenience store. Food is available at the Meadow Snack Bar and the Chuck Wagon Fresh Fixin's Food Truck. This is also where you'll find the Chip 'n' Dale Sing-Along area.
At the Settlement, you'll find a mix of different amenities and activities. Starting with Pioneer Hall, you'll find Trail's End Restaurant, P & J's Southern Takeout, Crockett's Tavern and the Hoop-De-Doo Musical Revue. Tri-Circle-D Ranch is where you'll find the new horse barn. Shopping is found at the Settlement Trading Post. At the marina, you'll find fishing excursions and boat rentals, as well as boat transportation to Disney's Wilderness Lodge or Magic Kingdom.
Cabins and campsites are found in areas known as Loops. The Campsite Loops are numbered 100 to 2100, with the Cabins in loops 2200 to 2800. The Cabin Loops are located at the southern end of the campground (closer to the Outpost) while the Campsite Loops are closer to Meadow and Settlement.
Fort Wilderness Cabins
Fort Wilderness caters to a different kind of vacationer. The Fort Wilderness cabins are perfect for families who vacation for longer periods of time and don't mind a day or two outside of a theme park. (And don't froget — you can book a cabin at a discounted rate through us frogs.)
The cabins are fully furnished one-bedroom suites. Each one is decorated with woodland-themed lighting fixtures, wood panels along the walls, faux-wood chairs and framed pictures of wilderness-related Disney scenes and characters.
All of the resort's cabins are 504 square feet and sleep up to six adults and one child in a crib. Twenty-eight of the Fort Wilderness cabins are handicap-accessible. Each one has air conditioning and Wi-Fi. The one bedroom features a queen bed, a bunk bed (wahoo!), closet, dresser and HDTV. The bathroom features a bathtub/shower. There's a large HDTV in the living room, along with a dining table and sleeper sofa that converts to a double-size bed.
The cabin's top-notch feature is the fully equipped kitchen. We're not just talking about a fridge and microwave. Disney has stocked the kitchen with everything you'd need to whip up full family meals. Open all the cupboards (and we did) and you find saucepans, measuring cups, a skillet, a cutting board, six sets of flatware, mason jar mugs and more. Also — a dishwasher, toaster and COFFEE MAKER!
The downside to the Fort Wilderness cabins is the smaller bathroom. At most Disney hotels, the bathroom area features two sinks and a vanity that are separate from the toilet and shower/bath. In a cabin, it's all in one bathroom, minus one sink. That may not be a problem for a family of three or four, but it could be unpleasant for parties of six. One solution is the nearby Comfort Station which offers separate men's and women's restrooms and shower facilities. There is one Comfort Station in the cabin area, located by the Wilderness Swimmin' Pool. You'll use your MagicBand to access the Comfort Stations (including after-hours at communal areas such as the pool or restaurants). We found them to be pretty clean and well-maintained!
For outdoor dining and relaxation, your cabin features a spacious wood porch with a picnic table. There's a small charcoal grill located just down the steps from the porch.
And that’s everything for the Fort Wilderness cabins. For more information about the Fort Wilderness campsites, check out our Fort Wilderness camping guide!
Transportation at Fort Wilderness
Fort Wilderness is anything but compact. The forest and secluded environment can make navigating the resort tricky. At some Disney resorts, it's a short walk from your room to the dining area. At Fort Wilderness, the cabin areas are about a 30-minute walk to the Settlement.
Fort Wilderness isn't designed to be navigated by car. There is no parking available at the Settlement or Meadow area for full-sized vehicles. For those of you renting or driving your own car, there is space for one car at your cabin. The large parking lot at the Outpost is for checking in, and for guests who are not staying there but visiting recreation and dining activities. You'll use your car to get to things outside of Fort Wilderness, rather than around it. With that in mind, there are different ways to get around.
Inner Bus Loop
Three bus lines — Yellow, Orange and Purple — transport guests in different Loops to different points. The cabins feature three bus stops — one for loop 2200 to 2300, another for loop 2400 to 2600 and yet another for loop 2700 to 2800. All three lines begin and end at the Outpost and Settlement. The most common route for those in the cabins is Orange, which will transport you between the Outpost, Settlement and Meadow. The inner loop buses begin around 6:30 a.m. and end two hours after the last theme park closes. Expect 10 to 15 minutes in between each bus when you're waiting at your bus stop.
The most prominent mode of transportation at Fort Wilderness is the golf cart. Visitors either rent or bring their own golf carts to the campground. There is parking for golf carts at all of the key locations, including the pools, bus depot and the marina.
Various Orlando companies offer cart rentals, or you may rent them directly from Fort Wilderness. Know that Disney allows golf cart rentals one year in advance of your cabin reservation. Unreserved carts may be available for rental on a first-come, first-served basis. Same-day golf cart rentals are typically very limited or unavailable during busier times (especially on the weekends) so we highly recommend booking ahead of time.
Having a golf cart here feels like being part of a special club. People are proud of their custom carts. Many people add decorations or accessories to theirs. It is very common to develop "cart envy" after seeing the rows of carts and cheerful families cruising around. On our most recent trip, Tow-Mater was the big hit!
With many paved and lit pathways and bike racks, bringing your own bike can be a great way to get around. Know that you can rent bikes from the bike shop near the Meadows Trading Post, but it's only daily rentals. You'll need to return your bikes before the barn closes.
Your major mode of transportation within the theme parks is also an option at Fort Wilderness. During our stay, we walked from our cabin in the 2400 Loop to the Settlement in about 25 minutes along well-lit and paved walkways. Step-count-wise, it was about a mile. While that may not be practical for those with infants or stroller-age children, walking may be fine for families with teens or couples without kids. (After a day full of churros, Dole Whips and Mickey pretzels, we usually welcome a few extra steps — but we toadally understand that the opposite is true for many families!)
Transportation Around Disney World
Like many Disney World Resorts, buses are your main way to reach the theme parks. At Fort Wilderness, the Outpost Depot is your hub for theme park destinations — EPCOT, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom and Disney Springs. Reaching the Outpost Depot requires you to take an internal bus line — Orange if you're staying at the cabins. You exit at the Depot, then board the bus for your theme park. Theme park buses begin about one hour before park opening and run up to two hours after the park closes.
For Magic Kingdom, you'll take a 15-minute journey aboard a green flag boat that departs from the marina. Beginning one hour before the park opens and ending two hours after closing, two boats run this route. During peak times, you may also find an overflow bus available near the Settlement to take you to Magic Kingdom (we encountered this at Christmas and spring break, for example).
Other direct destinations from Fort Wilderness are Disney's Wilderness Lodge and the Contemporary (not currently available). By boat, you'll board a blue flag boat. You can also catch a bus at the Outpost Depot.
Depending on your family, the Inner Loop bus to theme park bus system can be a nuisance or not an issue. There is lots of waiting, loading, riding, unloading, waiting again and such until you arrive at your destination. For guests with wheelchairs, ECVs and baby strollers, this can be a stressful way to vacation. If it doesn't apply to you, and immediacy isn't your style, then busing around is a convenient way to travel. Remember, on-site guests get free theme park parking (which may be worth it if you've got tadpoles or lots of gear!).
Amenities, Recreation and Shopping at Fort Wilderness
Fort Wilderness offers a boatload of recreation offerings, perfect for enjoying the outdoors!
If swimmin' is your thing, Fort Wilderness has you covered. The main pool area is The Meadow Pool. Catering to family-friendly lounging, this large pool features a barrel-themed water slide, hot tub and a splash pad for the littler tadpoles, along with lounge chairs and tables with umbrellas. This is the only pool that features a snack bar ... including some frozen moonshine concoctions for you, older froggies!
The Meadow Pool offers seasonal poolside activities such as crafts, trivia, hula hoop and water balloon games. In addition to these free activities, there are also some paid options, including sand art and Mickey tie-dye. Every day at 3 p.m., kids trade in their water shoes for dancing shoes for the Swimmin' Hole Jamboree. This pool party gets kids — and willing adults — playing games and dancing.
The Wilderness Swimmin' Pool, a leisure pool with a hot tub (but no slide), is located near Cabin Loop 2500. It also features a hot tub and is generally much quieter. There is a laundry facility and vending machines here, as well. The laundry machines in both the loops and at the Wilderness area can text your phone when your laundry is done. Usually, we hop in the pool to pass the time while the laundry does its thing! There is also ample room to fold.
One of the best activities at Fort Wilderness is visiting Tri-Circle-D Ranch, home to all of the working horses of Disney World (including Cinderella's ponies!). You can tour the stables for free as well as book pony rides, horseback trail rides or carriage rides for an additional cost.
You could call Fort Wilderness its own mini theme park because of its unique woodland-themed activities. While most other Disney World resorts limit recreation to pools, everyone in the family can find something fun at The Fort. The resort offers a variety of recreation offerings, including segway tours, fishing excursions, boat rentals, archery, woodwork, crafts, games and more. You'll also hoppen upon tennis, volleyball and basketball courts, plus playgrounds for the tadpoles.
Fort Wilderness also has incredible evening entertainment, including one of our favorite shows on property, the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue! Enjoy dinner and a hilarious display of skits, singing, dancing and more. Other fun outdoor activities include Chip 'n' Dale's Campfire Sing-A-Long and Movie Under the Stars. For an extra magical experience, you can view both the Magic Kingdom fireworks and the Electrical Water Pageant.
Check out our activities guide to Fort Wilderness for more details!
Fort Wilderness Shopping
Everything from hair gel to groceries to Disney souvenirs can be gained at Meadow Trading Post and Settlement Trading Post. Part convenience, part Disney gift shop, these two posts are great for forgotten items or emergency supplies, such as pints of mint ice cream.
If you're staying at one of the cabins, groceries can come to you! The Meadow Trading Post offers a convenient delivery service. By filling out and sending or faxing in an order form three days before your arrival date, you can arrive home to a fully-stocked fridge and kitchen. Sure enough, upon check-in, we arrived to see all of our items on the kitchen counter and beverages cooling in the fridge.
Benefits of Staying On-Site at Disney World
While you're camping out at Fort Wilderness — or staying at any Disney World Resort hotel — you get access to some great perks, including the Early Theme Park Entry benefit. Early Theme Park Entry gives Disney Resort hotel guests access to all four Disney theme parks 30 minutes before they open to the public, every day of their stay. (On those extra early mornings, you may want to drive yourself, since parking at the theme parks is free with your stay, or spring for a rideshare service.)
Staying at a Disney resort will also give guests a slightly earlier booking window to select their individual Lightning Lane selections at 7 a.m. (which can mean a big frog leg up if you're hoping to get on in-demand rides, such as TRON Lightcycle / Run or Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance!). Have more questions about Genie+ service? We've got answers. Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests also get to book Advance Dining Reservations, or ADRs, 60 days in advance of check-in for their entire length of stay.
Dining at Fort Wilderness
Fixin' to rustle up some grub? Fort Wilderness has refreshing spots for down-home cookin' and tasty vittles.
Trail's End Restaurant
The only casual-service restaurant at Ft. Wilderness, Trail's End serves up all-you-care-to-eat family-style for breakfast, brunch and dinner that more than satisfies your stomach and wallet. Both adults and kids will find something to enjoy. Family-style means platters of each item are brought out for the whole table and you may request more of anything.
Prepare for a breakfast feast beyond comparison. Savour Mickey waffles, pastries, scrambled eggs, biscuits and sausage, gravy, yogurt and breakfast hash — need I say more? Well, it gets even better with dinner! Enjoy smoked meats, roasted potatoes, corn on the cob, cornbread, dessert and more.
With your belly full, you're more than pleased for the check. As of this writing, it costs $32 for an adult at dinner, and $18 for tadpoles. Breaking that out into an appetizer — dinner — dessert scenario, the price of Trail's End buffet can't be beaten. The food is high quality, and the service is top-notch. It's a dining destination that folks from other resorts are eager to hop to! Advanced reservations are highly recommended. Note that Trail's End is typically closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays — you'll find food trucks by the Settlement during the evening as an alternative.
P & J's Southern Takeout
When you're hungry for fast fixins', this is a quick-service winner. The counter is attached to Trail's End Restaurant and serves many of the same items in a faster fashion. For lunch, we had barbecued pulled pork and fries. On our breakfast visit, we had the Mickey Waffles, which are the same kind as served in Trail's End. Another day, we grabbed some Uncrustables for Tad and Lily for a quick picnic near the playground. P & J's offers Mobile Order, making it an easy option to grab and go before catching the boat to Magic Kingdom!
Located in Trail's End Restaurant, this lounge performs double duty as a sit-down bar or walk-up window, Crockett's Tavern serves beer, wine, mixed drinks and snacks. I sipped on a Strawberry Lightnin' in a rocking chair nearby as we waited for our dinner reservation.
Meadow Snack Bar
Serving up salads, sandwiches, beer, wine and other munchies, this snack bar is located just outside of the Meadow Pool. We recommend Meadow's Loaded Chips — fresh chips with pulled pork, cheese sauce and jalapeños. Go ahead. It's vacation.
Chuck Wagon Fresh Fixin's Food Truck
Found at Pioneer Hall or next to Chip 'n' Dale's Sing-Along, this truck serves burgers, salads, beer and soda. The food is fine, BUT OMG THE DESIGN. Cleverly disguised as an old RV, it's adorned with classic RV staples — the map of the U.S. showing where the RV has traveled — and the old-school Walt Disney World stickers on the back. This throwback truck is a perfect example of Disney theming done right. You'll find classic picnic snacks here, but more importantly, there's a s'mores kit so that you can roast marshmallows while enjoying the Sing-Along. Aw, yeah.
What to Consider Before Staying at Fort Wilderness
For families who enjoy the great outdoors, Fort Wilderness is the perfect place to stay. With an abundance of activities, this is a great spot for folks that have visited Disney World numerous times and are in search of something different.
If your visit will primarily consist of long park days, we recommend staying somewhere else. The Fort Wilderness transportation system can eat up a good amount of travel time. Even reaching things such as dining and swimming will take time. You won't get the full Fort Wilderness experience unless you take a day or two to enjoy the various activities available on property. Here is our full comparison of all Disney World hotels.
Hopping back to the cabin kitchen for a bit — having a fully-stocked, ready-to-use kitchen can save you a TON of money on your vacation food bill. With one stop at a grocery store, you can fill your kitchen with food for the week. Cabin-prepared meals or sandwiches can keep costs down. For families who enjoy downtime while staying on property, the convenience of the kitchen, as well as the comfort of a spacious living room can make staying at a cabin at Fort Wilderness at Disney World a solid choice.
Best Loops to Stay In
One of the questions we're asked about most is — "What Are the Best Loops To Stay In"? The answer depends on what your individual needs are. What do you want to be closest to? Another thing to realize is the closer you are to places, the noisier it can be. It's peaceful at night, but daytime swimmers can interrupt naptime if you're too close.
For the cabins, the only thing you're truly close to is the Wilderness Pool. Everything else is a bus ride or a walk (though if you have a golf cart, you are fairly close to the Outpost). With all of that out of the way, here are the closest loops to various Fort Wilderness points of interest.
- Meadow - 600, 1000, 1300, 1500
- Settlement - 100, 200, 400, 700
- Wilderness Pool - 2500, 2600
- Dog Park - 300
For campers, where to stay can be a little more complicated, as you'll need to take pad sizes (and your rig's size, number of slides and awning side into account). We've got the full scoop on the types of campsites and their sizes in our full camping post.
Getting Festive at the Fort
As if there isn't enough to do at the Fort already, holidays at Fort Wilderness are truly a sight to behold. Many guests hop over to the Fort to go "looping" and take a peek at all of the creative ways that campers decorate their campsites, from lights, to inflatables, to chalk drawings. You can find decorations around the loops year-round (really, we've seen inflatables in June!), but Halloween and Christmas are especially festive. Fort Wilderness sprinkles some seasonal activities into the mix during these times, too, including pumpkin carving contests, sleigh rides, trick-or-treating, golf cart parades and more. For New Year's Eve, the Fort held a huge beach party with a DJ, special games and even some special guests in their tuxedos.
That said, Fort Wilderness tends to book up far in advance, so be sure to hop to it if you're wanting to visit during one of these popular times! Room-only reservations can be booked up to 499 days in advance (and they often do book up to a year or more in advance).
Have a question about Fort Wilderness or want to tell us what you love about it? Drop us a line in the comments below! Planning a trip to Walt Disney World? We've got a ton of helpful information — including an interactive trip planning timeline — inside our Orlando vacation planning guide.
Related: Camping at Fort Wilderness
Related: The Best Disney World Hotels for Families