Hiking is a way to reset or recharge after weary and dreary days in the home or office. As a hiker, I love the outdoors, no traffic buzz, no computer screens, just you and nature. Birds chirping, water flowing; it looks like I have become too poetic, but you get the drift.
The Florida Panhandle is filled with nature trails that can be easily accessed. Here are the top picks of the most scenic hiking areas in Florida.
- Apalachicola National Forest
- St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
- Turkey Creek Nature Trail
- Torreya State Park
- Blackwater River State Forest
- Naval Live Oaks Reservation
- Lake Overstreet Trail
- Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail
- Krul Recreation Area
- Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park
So, grab your gear, and let's get outdoors!
Apalachicola National Forest: Accessing Florida's National Scenic Trail
One of the most famous scenic hikes in the Panhandle is in the Apalachicola National Forest. This forest is home to over 600,000 acres of wilderness, with more than 80 miles of trails to explore.
One of the most popular trails is the Florida National Scenic Trail, which runs through the forest for over 100 miles.
The Florida National trail starts at the Oasis Visitor Center, stretching to the forest's northern border. It intertwines within the forest and gets to the southern sections. This trail allows hikers to see a wide variety of wildlife, including deer, bears, and alligators.
However, watch out as the trail does get flooded during the rainy season, and it also gets overgrown with vegetation. This strenuous trail requires experienced hikers.
You'll enjoy stunning views of the forest of tall pine trees and moss-covered oaks, providing a picturesque backdrop.
A free permit is required for camping and overnight use in the forest. You can obtain permits at any ranger station throughout the forest.
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge: Wakulla River Trail
Another popular scenic hike in the Panhandle is the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge covers more than 68,000 acres and more than 20 miles of hiking trails.
Located in Wakulla county, the entrance to the park is accessible from the road, and long-time parking is allowed at the lodge. The hiking trail starts at a boardwalk not far from the kiosk at the lodge.
It is home to various wildlife and birds (perfect for bird watchers). The refuge also has several boardwalks that offer hikers both a boundary and local proximity views of the animals.
A permit is not typically required to hike in the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, and it's open year-round during daylight hours, and visitors are welcome to explore the trails on their own.
However, visitors should know specific regulations and guidelines when planning their hike. One of the most popular trails in the refuge is the Wakulla River Trail.
Turkey Creek Nature Trail
Turkey Creek Nature Trail is a 2.5-mile trail in Palm Bay, Florida. The trail is part of the Enchanted Forest Sanctuary and is a popular destination for nature enthusiasts (although ouija board lovers can come and explore too!)
It features diverse flora and fauna, including exotic birds, gopher tortoises, and manatees. The trail offers scenic views of Turkey Creek and its surrounding wetlands, and visitors can also learn more about the ecosystem and the area's history.
With its lush vegetation, serene waterways, and abundant wildlife, Turkey Creek Nature Trail is a beautiful educational destination for families and outdoor enthusiasts.
See what this advent hiker had to say about the Turkey Creek Trail in the video.
Torreya State Park
The Torreya State Park is another scenic Panhandle area covering over 2,000 acres.
The park carries the name of the Torreya tree, a rare and ancient conifer found only in the Florida Panhandle and Southern Georgia. The park is home to one of the world's most extensive remaining stands of Torreya trees, and visitors can take a guided hike to see these unique trees up close.
Several trails in the park are available, including the Torreya Challenge Trail, a strenuous hike with a challenging workout and beautiful views. Alternatively, if taking photos is your hobby, it refreshes your walk.
No permits are necessary, although a daily or annual park entrance fee is required to enter the park.
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Blackwater River State Forest
Although you won't find any black water, the Blackwater River State Forest is also an excellent spot for scenic hikes. The forest covers over 171,000 acres and offers more than 20 miles of hiking trails.
There are several trails to choose from with different lengths. For example, you could pick Sweetwater Creek and Juniper Creek, which is 13.5 kilometers long and can take experienced hikers two hours and 45 minutes to cover.
Alternatively, you could choose the Blackwater River trail, which is only 10 kilometers long and takes about two hours to complete.
Camp, swim, canoe, and fish in the nearby river. Experienced visitors can also explore the river's many creeks. You can rent canoes, kayaks, and tubes for river trips.
The forest also has many picnic areas, pavilions, playgrounds, and a disc golf course for a more fancy pastime.
A free permit is required for camping and overnight use in the forest. Parking usually costs about $4, and drivers are advised to call the park for overnight visits and late check-ins.
Naval Live Oaks Reservation
The Naval Live Oaks Reservation is among the many trails, hikes, or reservations in the panhandle basin of Florida. It's a park and nature reserve located in Gulf Breeze, Florida.
If you want to hike or bike, it is the place to go, with 40 miles of accessible trails. There's no shortage of picnic areas. The nature center there makes it a popular destination for outdoor recreation and environmental education.
Visitors can explore the area's natural beauty, observe wildlife, and learn about the history of the park and its role in the development of the U.S. Navy.
Lake Overstreet Trail
Lake Overstreet is a hiking trail. It is a popular hiking and nature trail located in Tallahassee, Florida.
It is a peaceful, serene trail that winds through the area's natural beauty, passing the picturesque Lake Overstreet. Nature lovers and bird watchers can come here to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
If you are looking for a relaxing walk in nature, Lake Overstreet Trail is a must-visit destination for anyone in the Tallahassee area.
Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail
Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail is a unique, historical, and scenic hiking trail.
However, visitors pass by the historic Bellamy Bridge, which was built in the early 1900s and is one of the oldest bridges in Florida. The trail starts in Jackson County from CR-162 and offers a glimpse into Florida's rich history.
Follow these hikers along this trail.
History buffs will have a field day on the Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail. However, trail enthusiasts have noted that the trail is underwater due to a recent hurricane.
Krul Lake State Recreation Area
The recreational area is located on a 6.5-acre artificial lake managed by the state government that provides recreational opportunities and facilities to the public, such as camping, boating, fishing, hiking, and picnicking.
It is the starting point of the Sweetwater hiking trail, which runs 1.3 miles to Bear Lake.
Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park
Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park is in Leon County, Tallahassee, Florida, USA. The park is 509 acres and offers various outdoor recreational activities—multiple trails, including a boardwalk leading through a wetland area.
Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park is an excellent example of harmonizing modern amenities with nature. This converted plantation's rich history makes you want to know more about its past.
Check this video to see what I mean.
Aside from hiking or trail walking, horseback riding is allowed, granting you a city permit for riding along designated roadways. Budding off-road cyclists can also ride along the 'red bug' trail.
This park is a park you can start any outdoor activity that you had postponed or a forgotten new year's resolution.
It is important to note that the rules and regulations for hiking in the Panhandle can change due to the most recent impact of COVID-19. So it is always best to check with the specific park or forest service for the most up-to-date information on permits and fees.
Please note that some trails may have specific rules and guidelines, like recycling, respecting wildlife, and staying on designated trails if you want to keep your area code the same!
Before starting your hike, read the signs or check the park website!