98.3 miles (Crestview, DeFuniak Springs, & Destin-Fort Walton). Preserved as Choctawhatchee National Forest in 1909, the same time the Ocala National Forest was created, 640 square miles of woodlands stretching west from US 331 to East Bay near Pensacola has been Eglin Air Force Base since it was transferred to military control during World War II. Although one of the top bomb testing sites in the United States, Eglin AFB has continued to protect the old-growth forests and their inhabitants – including one of the largest red-cockaded woodpecker populations remaining in the Southeast – as well as provide opportunities for recreation. The Florida Trail traverses deeply folded terrain carved by creeks as it stays close to the outer edge of this military reservation’s borders along one of the most challenging and satisfying sections of the trail for backpackers. Leaving Eglin for a roadwalk through the city of Crestview, the trail then dips into the newly extended Yellow River Ravines section, a rugged traverse through steepheads and bayheads on the north side of the river. The final section in the military reservation is through sandhills and steepheads near East Bay.
- All hikers must have a permit in advance of arriving at Eglin Air Force Base. Eglin now has a FREE permit for thru-hikers. Day hikers and section hikers not continuing at least 50 miles beyond Eglin must obtain the standard $20 annual Outdoor Recreation permit. See the sidebar for how to obtain your permit.
- Before your hike, call 850-882-0007 or check the Public Access Map online to ensure the base is open: FPCON DELTA status means the base is closed to public access.
- Spring turkey hunting season will open soon. See the full schedule of hunting dates. You must wear an orange vest or shirt during hunting seasons.
- The bridge at Alaqua Creek has been removed. High water at the ford at Alaqua Creeks can be deadly. If you are hiking northbound, a rule of thumb: if water is more than ankle deep at Blount Creek, the Alaqua Creek ford is already dangerous. See the FTA Notice to Hikers for details on the closure.
- Yellow River trailhead on SR 87 is closed while a road widening project is going on.
FT symbols indicate trailheads and access points. Click on symbols for details and directions.
Florida Trail, US 331
4 miles. Paralleling US 331 from Owls Head north to Eglin Portal, the Florida Trail is just inside the eastern boundary of Eglin Air Force Base for the first two miles before popping out to US 331 to become a roadwalk along the southbound lanes to the Eglin Portal trailhead.
13 miles. With a unique beech-magnolia forest at its east end and long stretches of sandhills and Choctawhatchee pine forest punctuated by deep ravines and floodplains, this is one of the more scenic sections of the Florida Trail. While the bridge over Alaqua Creek is being replaced, it’s best to take this as two day hikes from either end: see Alaqua East and Alaqua West.
14.1 miles. Starting at the Alaqua trailhead, the Florida Trail goes into the upland sandhills and pine flatwoods along the northern edge of Eglin Air Force Base. While it still dips into drainages like Bullhide Creek and Live Oak Branch, the trail shows noticeable elevation changes through this section.
14 miles. Between the Old SR 285 trailhead and the Pearl trailhead, the Florida Trail in Eglin traverses bottomlands between dozens of swiftly flowing tannic creeks. This is a segment that can easily flood, although bridges and bog boardwalks help you through the wettest and swiftest crossings. As the name suggests, the trail tunnels through titi swamps along the route.
Florida Trail, Crestview roadwalk
21.1 miles. One of the longer roadwalks on the Florida Trail, the walk up busy SR 85 into Crestview at least has sidewalks to follow once you’re within sight of Interstate 10, as well as many services along the route. The roadwalk – which includes SR 85, US 90, and Log Lake Road – was finally shortened in 2016 after an extension to the Yellow River Ravines section opened.
7.9 miles. For an acrobatic adventure on the Florida Trail, the 7.9-mile Yellow River section tosses both tricky swamp traverses and creative creek crossings your way. Spanning Blackwater River State Forest south of Holt and Harold, this is one of the newest sections of the Florida Trail. No Eglin Permit is required.
Florida Trail, Yellow River Ravines
3.2 miles. From Deer Lake Junction west, the Yellow River Ravines section is a rugged hike through bayheads and hardwood forest, with the occasional pine plantation intruding. No Eglin Permit is required. A 6.5 mile connecting roadwalk leads through a rural residential area and south along SR 87 to cross the Yellow River using the highway bridge.
13.8 miles. Also known as the Weaver Creek section, the westernmost section of the trail in Eglin Air Force Base parallels SR 87 south of the Yellow River and west of East Bay. Largely traversing rolling sandhills, it yields to lush steephead ravines in several places, particularly after it crosses to the east side of SR 87.
8.8 miles. A future extension of the Florida Trail awaiting the bridging of the Yellow River, the Cimmaron Trail is a challenging 17.6 mile round-trip through bottomland habitats out to the river. Water crossings must be forded. Do not attempt to ford or swim the Yellow River: the trail ends at the river.
45.5 miles. It began as the first section of the Florida Trail in the Panhandle, but shifted to being a side trail when the Fort Pickens terminus was dedicated in 1994. The Blackwater section is still a fabulous area to backpack and creates a crucial connection to Alabama for Eastern Continental Trail hikers.
- Ensure you obtain your Eglin permit and arrange for overnight camping permits in advance of reaching this section. An Eglin permit is not required to hike at Yellow River Ravines, but it is required for use of the Cimmaron Trail.
- Day hiking? See the FTA Choctawhatchee Chapter suggested day hikes for Eglin.
- Expect to get your feet wet in this section, especially in the Titi section of Eglin, nearest Pearl trailhead.
- Resupply and a potential hotel stay is available north of the trail along SR 285 & I-10 at the Loves Truck Stop complex.
- Take advantage of Crestview for a hotel stay and resupply, since you will walk past dozens of hotels on the route. The budget options are the ones along US 90 west of downtown.