When I arrived at the peak of pitcher plant blooming season at the Clear Creek Nature Trail (early April) and walked the boardwalk across the bog, I’d felt like I’d stepped into an 18th century painting of a fairyland.
Clear Creek is a crystal clear waterway with a sepia-toned bottom; fish float through it as if on wings. But the magic came from the pitcher plants. First clusters of them on hummocky islands, their blooms and trumpets reflected in the crystalline waters. Then armies of them swarming down the banks of this steep-sided ravine. Then constellations of them scattered throughout the bog grasses in every direction. I was mesmerized. Enchanted. I could stay there for days. I stayed there for hours, until sunset chased me back to my car.
Location: Whiting Naval Air Station, Milton
Length: 1.6 miles
Lat-Long: 30.710586, -87.032572
Type: Round trip with loop
Fees / Permits: None
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Bug factor: Moderate
There are restrooms, picnic tables and potable water at the trailhead. This is an interpretive trail with great information along the way to share with your young ones.
The Clear Creek Nature Trail is 6 miles north of Milton. Follow SR 87 north to SR 87A (Langley St). Turn right. Just as you get to the gate of Whiting Field NAS, turn left into the park. Follow the road to the very back of the park to find the trailhead.
The trail itself starts out with no foreshadowing of the wonders that lie ahead. It begins at a kiosk surrounded by a picnic area, and ambles off on a broad path into an upland forest, where numerous interpretive displays identify habitats, trees, and other flora. After a quarter mile, it drops down an obvious steep slope, winding its way down to an observation point above a storm drain into the creek.
At 0.6 mile, you reach the Clear Creek Bog loop sign. Turn left. In a few moments, you reach the boardwalk and the magical realm of Sarracenia leucophylla, the showy white-topped pitcher plant. After rounding an open stretch of crystalline water, the boardwalk follows the narrow passage of the stream up the valley, flanked by thousands of pitcher plants. At the end of the boardwalk, Florida anise shows bright red blooms in spring. The trail rises back above the creek to complete the loop; you can follow the loop as it is marked, or walk back along the boardwalk and stare some more at the beautiful sprays of these carnivorous beauties. No other trail in Florida is as enchanting as when these pitcher plants are in bloom, late March through mid April.
0.3 top of steep slope
0.6 jct loop trail, turn left
0.7 start of boardwalk
0.8 end of boardwalk
0.9 jct loop trail
1.5 return to trailhead