Following the course of Econfina Creek, this protected segment of the Florida Trail provides a gorgeous weekend backpacking experience, particularly in springtime when the mountain laurel and azalea are in full fragrant bloom. The upper portion of the creek flows swiftly through steep-sided clay banks, with ravines and vegetation reminiscent of the Appalachian Mountains. As the creek slows down in its southern section, it is fed by several large springs and has cypress swamps along oxbows. The terrain ranges from rugged ravine crossings to rolling sandhills. Now that the old log bridges have been replaced, crossing the creek is much safer, but less adventuresome. There are numerous designated campsites, some with swimming holes, and you’ll find easy access to water in many places along the trail.
Length: 18.4 miles
Lat-Long: 30.548933, -85.43578 (Scott Road) and 30.428050, -85.609500 (SR 20)
Fees / Permits: none
Bug factor: moderate
From US 231 north of Fountain, follow Scott Road west for 2 miles (keep right at the fork); watch for the narrow trailhead access road on the left at a Water Management District sign. Follow the road back to the parking area. The southern terminus is 10 miles west of Fountain along SR 20, on north side of the highway past the entrance to Pitt Spring.
From the kiosk at the Scott Road Trailhead, walk through the gap in the fence and follow the trail through an open area undergoing restoration to sandhill habitat. The trail quickly leaves the forest road and heads downhill towards the treeline—watch for blazes. Slipping into the forest of hickory, oak, and magnolia, the trail continues across several puncheon bridges along a drainage, and you hear the sound of cascading water. At 1.1 miles, you reach Econfina Creek, with its high slippery clay banks and burbling, rushing water flowing across clay formations. Use its side channels to obtain water.
Bridges carry you across the narrow but steep ravines, many of which pour slender waterfalls into the creek. Winding along the creek, following its route, the trail is shaded by tall mountain laurel, sparkleberry, and blueberry bushes. At 1.6 miles, a small flat spot on a high bluff overlooking a horseshoe bend far below makes a nice campsite. Just past an intersection with a horse trail, the trail makes an abrupt right and heads sharply down the bluff to a crossing over the creek. Once you’re across, turn left at the top of the bluff, passing a junction with an old logging tramway.
At 2.6 miles, you can see a waterfall where Sweetwater Branch drops into Econfina Creek. A second fallen log provides a crossing back to the south side of the creek. The trail continues along the high bluffs under the mountain laurel, bringing you to yet another scenic overlook on a curve in the creek at 4.4 miles, with a small space to pitch a couple of tents. The trail comes to Alice Spring, crossing a bridge. Walking under a power line near Owen Wood Road, you continue along the creek in the shade of the river bluff forest, crossing many bridges over drainages (use them as water sources) before coming to The Bluffs, a scenic overlook and good campsite on the limestone bluffs above the river, at 8.8 miles.
The scenic views continue as you head for Devil’s Hole, a large designated campsite and swimming area in a sinkhole by the creek, accessible to car campers and busy on weekends. Just beyond Devil’s Hole, you encounter a haunting cypress swamp in an oxbow of the creek. At 9.4 miles, car campers also descend on the Shell Landing campsite on Econfina Creek each weekend, where you can jump in the creek for a swim. South of the campsite, the trail makes a right turn and follows Walsingham Bridge Road on a bridge across the creek, turning left to cross a fence near Walsingham Spring to reach a quiet campsite on a bluff overlooking the creek.
After 13 miles, the trail crosses Strickland Road. Look for catfaces on the pines as you walk through the forest. Rattlesnake Lake, at 15.1 miles, is a large prairie pond with a white sand beach inviting you to take a swim. Car campers can access this area too, and they bring their ATVs. If you want to camp here, stick to the woods. Just a little farther along the trail, the hike becomes strenuous over a short section where the water management district created moguls, attempting to deter ATVs from tearing up the footpath. Rising into sandhills with longleaf pine and scattered oak hammocks, the trail reaches Little Porter Pond at 16.2 miles, your last good camping spot and water source along this segment. Passing through a pine plantation, the trail emerges at the SR 20 trailhead.
0.0 Scott Road Trailhead
7.8 Bluffs campsite (water source)
8.8 Devil’s Hole campsite (water source)
10.3 Walsingham Spring (water source, camp on bluff)
15.1 Rattlesnake Lake camping area (water source)
16.2 Little Porter Pond campsite (water source)
18.4 SR 20 Trailhead