Bordered by the tangled floodplain forests of the Yellow River to the north, this 14.3-mile segment of the Florida Trail traverses high, dry sandhills topped with longleaf pine forest and planted pine, dropping in elevation as the trail descends towards the East Bay River. For most of its length, it’s never far from SR 87, starting (at the northern trailhead) on the western side and crossing to the eastern side of the highway to immerse you in hardwood forests along creeks that feed into the East Bay River.
Location: East Bay
Length: 14.3 miles
Lat-Long: 30.551267, -86.902100 (Buck Pond) and 30.441617, -86.866750 (East Bay)
Fees / Permits: Eglin recreation permit required
Bug factor: moderate
There are designated campsites at Buck Pond and Dean Creek. Designated campsites must be used when hiking in Eglin Air Force Base. No dogs are permitted. Carry your permit with you at all times. Hikers must check in and check out at trailhead kiosks.
Do not touch anything that appears to be ordinance (missiles, grenades, and bombs). If you see any on or near the trail, please report them as soon as you can to Security Forces at 850-882-2502.
Before your visit, call call 850-882-0007 to ensure the base is open: FPCON DELTA status means the base is closed to public access.
From I-10 exit 31, follow SR 87 south 6.1 miles to the northern trailhead, just south of the Yellow River on the right before the turnoff for Buck Pond. Parking is possible at Buck Pond. The southern trailhead is at Holley at the East Bay River.
Sign in at the Yellow River Bridge trail kiosk and take the bottom portion of the self-registration card with you. The trail rises up into sandhills topped with longleaf pine to circle around Buck Pond, where there is a designated campsite that is shared with car campers. Obtain water from the pond before heading south.
You parallel SR 87 less than a mile to its west, walking through shady oak hammocks and open pine forest along the sandhills while crossing numerous unmarked range roads. Sandhill wireweed and lupine add dashes of color to the wiregrass understory. At 6.1 miles, you cross Weaver Creek, a possible water source, before reaching Powerline Road.
Continuing through the sandhills, the trail crosses FL 87 and jogs to the east, following the southwestern edge of the reservation along Dean Creek, where you’ll encounter some low stretches of titi swamp. Stop at Dean Creek for water.
At 11.2 miles, the Dean Campsite provides benches around a fire ring. Rising back out of the creek’s floodplain, the trail crosses River Road at before looping around a residential area on range roads, turning west onto RR 255 (Nelda Road). When you reach the kiosk at River Road, turn left. Follow River Road south to its intersection with SR 87. Cross SR 87 to reach the East Bay Trailhead, a large parking area along the East River.
0.0 Yellow River Bridge Trailhead
2.4 Buck Pond
6.1 Weaver Creek (water source)
9.1 SR 87 crossing
10.8 Dean Creek (water source)
11.2 Dean Campsite
12.4 Kiosk at River Road
14.3 East Bay Trailhead