At Blackwater River State Forest, immerse yourself in the largest state forest in Florida: 190,000 acres surrounding the Blackwater River and its tributaries. Topped with longleaf pine and wiregrass, the undulating landscape seems to stretch on forever. With six campgrounds, seven recreation areas, and 12 trails to choose from, you won’t run out of things to do!
Lat-Lon: 30.854443, -86.875307
Fees: Some of the recreation areas charge a day use fee
Open: 24 hours
The park office is located in Munson at 11650 Munson Highway, Milton 32570
With so much space to explore, it’s tough to decide where to start. Campers and hikers will want to head for the recreation areas: Bear Lake, Krul, Sweetwater, Karick Lake (North and South), and Hurricane Lake (North and South). Campsites are first-come, first-served. Backpackers have more than 30 miles of the Florida Trail to hike, equestrians have their own dedicated trail system – the Coldwater Horse Trails – and paddlers can arrange shuttle services with several Milton-area outfitters for trips down Coldwater Creek, Juniper Creek, and the Blackwater River.
Blackwater River State Forest is a haven for botanical beauty, thanks to its healthy longleaf pine and wiregrass ecosystem. Looking for pitcher plants? Stop in at the visitor center in Milton and ask for a map of the pitcher plant bogs. A patchwork of hundreds of small bogs on seepage slopes and along the edges of creeks makes it possible to find pitcher plants throughout the forest. These carnivorous beauties bloom in April.
For a full immersion into the forest’s botanical wonders, hike the Juniper Creek Trail, a 7.5-mile segment of the Florida Trail paralleling this sand-bottomed creek from Red Rocks to Deaton Bridge / Blackwater River State Park. In early spring, you’ll be surrounded by mountain laurel blooms in white and pink. Atlantic white cedars, distinctive with their whorled bark, rise to incredible heights, and there are longleaf pines too broad to wrap your arms around.
Explore the park
- Bear Lake Trail - At Blackwater River State Forest, each of the recreation areas offers access to hiking, and popular Bear Lake is no exception. A 4-mile trail loops around this impounded reservoir, which flows into Sweetwater Creek.
- Coldwater Gardens - A private nature retreat north of Milton, Coldwater Gardens is a study in serenity, melding camping, gardening, and enjoyment of natural habitats along the Coldwater Creek basin.
- Florida Trail, Blackwater - 45.5 miles. Branching off the Eglin section east of Milton, the Blackwater section provides backpackers a place to immerse in the beauty of Blackwater River State Forest. Portions of three trails – Juniper Creek Trail, Jackson Red Ground Trail, and Wiregrass Trail – make up the Florida Trail, which reaches the Alabama border to connect with the larger Eastern Continental Trail. This is a blue-blazed side trail.
- Florida Trail, Juniper Creek - The Florida Trail along Juniper Creek (also known as the Juniper Creek Trail) is a gorgeous place to explore in springtime, when mountain laurel blooms in both pink and white and the dogwoods put on a show
- Florida Trail, Yellow River - For an acrobatic adventure on the Florida Trail, the 7.9-mile Yellow River section near Holt tosses both tricky swamp traverses and creative creek crossings your way.
- Following the Juniper Creek Trail - Day 3 of the Panhandle Trace Hike Yesterday, while being shuttled back to camp, we drove through an area that was still burning. The forest was black and charred, filled with thick smoke. As we drove past, we watched for small flames still brightly burning. Our first thought was why would the forest service do […]
- Hiking the Hills of Hutton - With our switcheroo on the previous day – skipping the burned zone of the Jackson Trail to walk the Juniper Creek Trail back to the campground – Day Four of the Panhandle Trace Hike had us headed northbound for the first time on this trek. Peggy had hikers going in all directions and for different […]
- In the Land of Tall Pines - Day Two of the Panhandle Trace Hike started off where we’d left the trail the day before, at Kennedy Bridge. After we dropped off our cars at the end point for the hike, McVay Road, Peggy, Helen, and other members of the Western Gate Chapter shuttled us to the starting point. We asked how long […]
- Jackson Red Ground Trail - Connecting Karick Lake Recreation Area with the Red Rocks area of Blackwater River State Forest, the Jackson Red Ground Trail is part of the Florida Trail near Milton
- Through Smoke and Fire on the Jackson Red Ground Trail - Day 3 of the Panhandle Trace Hike, McVay Road to Red Rock Road Trail Head Guest post by Gordy Hawkins, Suncoast Chapter FTA. Photos by Gail Baldwin. Enter into a world of black and white and the continuum of grays in-between. That is what it was like for me the day we walked a recently […]
- Wiregrass Trail - An excellent overnight backpacking trip which is also a segment of the Florida Trail, the Wiregrass Trail immerses you in longleaf pine forests northeast of Pensacola.