77.6 miles (Tallahassee). Heading away from the coastal fringe and into the heart of Florida’s largest National Forest, the Apalachicola section of the Florida Trail traverses some of the wettest, wildest swamp forest found outside of the Big Cypress Swamp. The legendary Bradwell Bay, a swamp basin in the heart of the Apalachicola National Forest, protects a stand of virgin pine forest. Traversing it when wet, which is often, is one of the most difficult feats on the Florida Trail. Known for its botanical beauty, particularly for its pitcher plant bogs and terrestrial orchids, the Apalachicola is often soggy underfoot, with its many titi swamps and wet pine flatwoods. By contrast, beautiful views await on the river bluffs of the Sopchoppy and Ochlockonee Rivers. Best hiked in spring, when the flowers are at their peak, it is a challenging hiking destination.
- Exercise caution due to heavy rains that have flooded many backcountry areas throughout Florida this summer.
FT symbols indicate trailheads and access points. Click on symbols for details and directions.
8.9 miles. Slipping through pine flatwoods and sandhills to the east of Sopchoppy, this segment of the Florida Trail plays tag with a network of forest roads that criss-crosses the southern portion of the National Forest.
4.1 miles. One of the most beautiful segments of the Florida Trail in the region, this undulating ribbon of trail between the Oak Park Bridge and FR 329 follows the sinuous path of the deeply tannic Sopchoppy River, offering views from the river bluffs.
12.3 miles. It’s a wet and wild swamp tromp on this ever-so-deep wilderness walk, with more than 7 miles of sloshing through dark tannic waters in the heart of an ancient swamp forest. Go with a friend!
Florida Trail, Bradwell West to Porter Lake
6.8 miles. In this connective stretch of the Florida Trail, Bradwell Bay connects to the drier uplands near Smith Creek by way of pine flatwoods between the two. A brief roadwalk leads to a pretty stretch of footpath around a steephead and along the bluffs of the Ochlockonee River.
Florida Trail, Porter Lake to Jewel
4.5 miles. A deep immersion in pine flatwoods and titi swamps awaits along this segment of the Florida Trail, between the use of old forest roads to cross tributaries draining into the Ochlockonee River.
Florida Trail, Jewel to Vilas
14.2 miles. One of the more remote segments of trail in the Apalachicola National Forest, the segment west of Jewel follows Indian Creek before heading towards another vast swampy bay at Sapling Head. In Vilas, you’ll spy the remains of an old timbering town along the railroad.
Florida Trail, Vilas to Camel Lake
10.3 miles. Entering the pine savannas of the western Apalachicola National Forest means boardwalk crossings through titi swamps and opportunities to wade past pitcher plant bogs, with a smattering of sandhills and scrub in higher elevations.
Florida Trail, Savannas
5.2 miles. Traversing pine savannas at both the beginning and the end of this hike – with the high, dry sandhills of Memery Island in the middle of a swamp crossing – you’ll enjoy colorful wildflowers and shadowy swamps.
Florida Trail, Bristol
11.2 miles. A roadwalk from the northwesternmost corner of the Apalachicola National Forest through the small community of Bristol, with hiker services, leads you to the end of the Eastern Time Zone as you cross the Apalachicola River on a pedestrian walkway along the SR 20 bridge.
9.5 miles. A loop trail that utilizes Camel Lake Recreation Area as its pivot point, the 3.9-mile Trail of Lakes blue-blaze connects with two segments of the Florida Trail in and out of the recreation area (described above and below) to showcase lily-dotted ponds in the pine flatwoods.
- Resupply in Medart, Panacea, or Sopchoppy before you head north into the Apalachicola National Forest, and in Bristol if you are heading south. There are no facilities except campsites anywhere near the trail through this section.
- The Apalachicola is an exceptionally wet area. Expect wading through puddles and titi swamps along with occasional fords.
- Bradwell Bay is one of the most challenging pieces of the Florida Trail, even though it can be done in a day hike. High water levels and a muddy bottom with deep holes means slow going. In times of high water, Bradwell Island campsite is flooded.