Even more lost (perhaps for good?) in Animal Kingdom

Usually we tend to be a little smarmy around here at the Parkeology offices.  We lace our posts with humor, sarcasm and even (though often unintentionally) some wit.  You know, we’re cool like that.
On occasion we might become obsessed with something as we recently saw with Franco-American week  month (stay tune for Shane’s upcoming report on Didi Conn). When that happens we like to take a deeper look into things, revisit them and explore them more than ever.
Coming soon to Parkeology.com
Such is the case with our previous post about being lost in Animal Kingdom.  The overwhelming response to that post brought our servers to their knees, crushed by the traffic flow (of course we are cranking this baby out on a Commodore Vic-20, but still).
Not to be outdone, I can post random Star Trek references as well.
We decided to take a recent field trip back to the far depths of Animal Kingdom in order to update the post with a few photos and what we found was shocking!  Not as shocking as this but still pretty sad.
It looks like the party may be over as Disney has recently planted foliage blocking both sides of the path.  Additionally they have thinned out some of the plants and foliage from the path making it much less hidden in parts than it once was.  It looks like Disney is trying to eliminate the carefully designed secret hideaway.  First they added character greetings along the path off the main path, now they are covering the hidden path altogether.  Judging from the relative small size of most of the new plantings these were recently made changes.  I wonder if our previous report may have urged them along?
The falls up close and personal, a view Disney does NOT want you to see.
Seeing a piece of the park slip away is never fun but we caught this one just in the nick of time allowing us to venture back with camera in hand to document the most secret public part of a Disney park ever created before it is lost for good.
Put on your Parkeology pith helmet and lets take a little adventure.  We are starting off in Africa and headed over to Asia, as we start down the main thoroughfare we notice a path branching off to the left.  This once was a seldom used secondary route, then became a horrid smoking area and is currently a character greeting zone.
It’s OK to come here, but only if you like foam heads, nicotine or adventure!
It’s no longer “secret” and in fact is in constant use by costumed characters being led around by polo and khaki clad handlers but some people are still too lazy to check it out.  Start heading down this path though and you will come to the real secret.  We have outlined the secret trail in red because we are just that thoughtful.  By the way, these shots were just taken a couple days ago (mid June 2010), it will be interesting to watch how it changes.
It looks pretty obvious in these photos but the entrance
to the path is hard to see and now obscured by new plants which soon
will cover it completely.
Hang a right once you get to this light and you can barely see a clearing.  It feels as if you are doing something wrong and frankly you may be at this point… but it was once intended to be open to all AK guests.
 Looking back we can see not only the smaller grass like
plantings but also a large palm blocking the way.
Don’t give up now… keep pressing forward.  The ground is now dirt and some mulch, the path is overgrown and yet some of the plants to the side the shield you from the paved pathway have been cut back leaving you vulnerable feeling at times.
The REAL Adventureland!
This looks nothing like a Six Flags park, the Magic Kingdom or even the rest of Animal Kingdom.  It actually looks and feels quite a bit like a jungle.
The path continues along veering close to some back stage 
areas, though a berm and fence keep you from getting too 
far a field.
It is right about now that you start to question if this was REALLY meant to be open to the public at all.  I mean there is no pavement, no railings, no signs of any type and not another soul around.
Full stream ahead! (get it… it’s a pun. I told you that the wit was unintentional)
Then you finally get that confirmation that this is in fact a designed guest zone… the “stones” crossing the streams are there for you to use. But we are also VERY close to that character greeting zone now and those walkie talkie wielding character wrangling supervisors probably don’t know that Joe Rohde says it’s OK for you to be back here.
Go for it.
On the other hand if the idea was to make you feel as though you were exploring for real then these guys succeeded in spectacular fashion… you will feel a certain rush of Indy like excitement as you try to be as quiet as possible, crunching twigs and leaves underfoot, and avoiding detection.
No doubt that those were made for walking on.
We are getting near the end, though you could run around even off the path… maybe pitch a tent?  Your playing by your own rules now big guy!
Looking back we leave the stream behind. 
Now you have to make your exit… do it quickly, stumbling out of the woods and tripping over a stroller just is not that cool looking.
More new plants up ahead… I should of brought some weed killer
to off set these new developments.
Again, Disney has blocked our path… newly installed plants try to hide what is one of the true secrets of the resort.
You think a stinking plant’s going to stop us?
And we are back out in the sun and on our way to Asia.  Think of this as the all time most inconvenient yet wonderful way to by-pass having to run into some characters (does anyone REALLY like those guys anyway?  come on.)
As the years pass those new plants will grow in, soon the path will be lost to time and people will doubt it ever was really there… but parkeologists around the world will continue to seek out hidden gems like this and keep them alive.  Speaking of hidden gems… this would be a PERFECT spot for this.

Comments (27)

  1. When we were opening Animal Kingdom, I remember Joe Rhode bragging about this path and how the park was to be an adventure-no directional signs-guests were supposed to just find their way around the park. Yeah, that didn’t last. Guests complained about paths to nowhere and the lack of signage. Signs soon went up.

  2. Oh crap I spelled my name wrong should be Starr* whoops! 😛

  3. Just visited Animal Kingdom for the first time in two years today and still had this in the back of my mind, I noticed that the charge for greeting is now gone and it is once again just a trail. I looked at least a hundred times on the trail trying to find this but I’ve never been on the trail and was unable to find the enterance (if anyone saw me they probably thought I was crazy considering the large amount of times I walked up and down the old off trail looking for it) if you get a chance head back there and tell me if you manage to walk (and maybe even identify) where the trail used to be, maybe you’ll have better luck than me.

    • It’s still there Derek, I saw it this summer.

      However I must say it is totally overgrown and hidden. It may be lost for good. However you can still trek back there as far as I am concerned.

  4. And perhaps even after you are told not to?

    I’ll be back there until the electric fence goes up.

  5. I have walked the secret path for many many years. I went back there in Feb of 2013 and was a little disappointed but its still there somewhat. Some of the overgrowth had actually been cut down at the entrance, and we saw the double creek crossing and waterfall, all doing fine. The exit to the path however was fairly overgrown. My stance is pretty simple, I am going to keep going back there and crossing the creeks with my kids until I’m told not to. 🙂

    • Tell me how to get in! Ill be back!

  6. @Derek:

    Parkeologists don’t care about little things liek character greeting areas… just walk on back there like you own the place.

    Sadly though the trail is virtually gone, intentionally obliterated by Disney.

  7. Ahh this post brings me back November of 2010 when I was looking online for what I called at the time Disney secrets (you know hidden Mickeys and such) but instead I stumbled upon a mentioning of a hidden trail in AK on a strange site called Parkeology and then the Parkeologist inside of me was born. I’ve been to AK twice since that fateful day and both times had stared at the trail wandering how I’d ever get to it with that horrible character greeting there. I still wait and wait for that day to come, hopping that it does before the trail’s gone forever.

  8. Thank you sir, an honorable goal to reach that academy of achievement.
    Guess I should give Shane a break since I did get the gist of the outline, although no one else in a later group did.

  9. Nice going Philphoggs!

    I hope you got a rush dodging “the man” and balzing a trail for yourself.

    Serioously it is funny how totally ignorant the folks runing the place are to what they have and why it was there in the first place. I am glad you foudn it and had some fun… your first step to Parkeology fame and fortune.

    As for Jafar… well I still think Shane had too much cold medicine or somehting that day.

  10. The short and sweet unofficial path is still there, but not according to any cast member you may encounter. The first attempt was refused by a meet and greet sentry who judged the path as non-existent. Nevertheless, a later try found the unkempt path a Parkologist dream, waterfall and stepping stones still firmly in place. On that hot busy day it was a good spot to sit and relax apart from the pack. The calm was broke by the crack of a custodian’s radio, so preemptively I hiked over and asked him of the path. This good natured gesture was met with the look of astonished admonishment. Now with a mid managers blaring walkie talkie heading our way, I moved on and left charge of the trail to the totally uniformed.
    There was also an investigation into the hidden Jaffar mentioned on another post, and it’s agreed that in person it has the right look. Not as exciting as the hidden path, so along with the cast members I continue to deny the existence of Jaffar’s effigy.

  11. I don’t know… I have stumbled around back there pretty extensively and I have never seen a secondary entrance… but who knows?

    The thing is as far as I can tell it is not “officially” off limits. I mean there is no keep out signs… right? I still go back there… no stinking plants are going to stop me! Of course when I get arrested Shane will be the first one I call to come bail me out.

  12. @Brandis, I have seen custodial personnel up in that woods as recently as last year. It looks kind of odd to see them up in the trees, so you might be right that there’s a CM entrance back there somewhere.

  13. I also remember this path from early when the park opened. A friend who worked as a Safari driver told me about it. I also think there was a CM only entrance somewhere back there, because one time I walked through near the area where it’s really close to the backstage, 2 CMs walked down the small hill.

    Too bad it has been closed for good. Though I had thought that it had been gone for years.

  14. Ah yes Linda… those photos are back from a time that I doubt operations even knew the trail existed but WDI made it nice looking and just hidden enough to feel special.

    Now it’s just hidden enough to make you feel like a criminal if you go back here… maybe that makes it better, I don’t know.

  15. Great find on those pictures, Linda! It shows just how much of a real trail this was supposed to be (it’s very overgrown now). The first pic is the stepping stones across the water. Not sure of the exact location of the second pic.

  16. A little late, I suppose, seeming this is from June. However, I have recently been going though many different websites to locate where EXATLY this is on the map, so next time I go to AK I can find it with few problems. It seems finding the exit is eaisier than finding the entrence.. but that may be more difficult to follow farther on the trail? Anyway, in my research, I have found two pictures of how the trail looked originally in 1998. Enjoy!



    Im not really sure where these are located in relation to your pictures, but maybe you can figure it out. By the way, these pictures are from an AK information site that hasn’t been updated since 2001.

  17. Thanks Parkeology!

  18. I’ve walked it many times — it’s really nifty to take part in something at WDW that you don’t feel like everyone else is aware of. Of course they want to keep people off of it, though — there are no merchandising opportunities on the entire path!

  19. i heard about this and have been scouring the interwebz for resources. thanks for the pics. i will soon don my indy hat and set off for the adventure. i’ll save it for my last day just in case i get kicked out lol.

  20. To this day I do not know what Disney’s official stance on it is. It CLEARLY was created for guests to use but it now seems equally clear that the operations side of things does not want you back there. Nonetheless I say go for it, it is one of the coolest spots in any Disney park anywhere.

  21. I found that path and ALMOST walked on it, but then a character attendee showed up. I’m still hoping to walk on the trail at some point.

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