In Tate’s Hell State Forest, the High Bluff Coastal Trail along US 98 near Carrabelle leads you over relict dunes covered with scrub plants like Florida rosemary and scrub mint, partially shaded by a canopy of sand pines.
Since this is a scrub habitat, expect some sand in your shoes. You’ll walk a linear trail to reach a small loop through taller pines, where a side trail leads to a catfaced pine with a metal turpentine cup still attached. Despite the high ridge, some parts of the trail might be mucky as you draw within sight of bayheads and cypress domes. There are several benches and a picnic table along the trail, providing an opportunity for you to sit and listen for woodpeckers.
Location: Carrabelle Beach
Length: Up to 5.6 miles
Lat-Long: 29.809317, -84.729067
Type: Linear and loop
Fees / Permits: none
Bug factor: low
Follow US 98 for 2.7 miles west of Carrabelle, the trailhead is on the right.
Showcasing the rare and unique coastal pine forests of the Gulf of Mexico, this hike leads you through a variety of habitats. Starting off from the parking area, follow the orange blazes through coastal scrub with a sand pine canopy. The trail turns right to enter a denser forest. You’ll reach the blue blazed loop at a trail junction.
Follow the orange blazes straight, to your left is a “Parking Area” sign. The understory is denser, with deer moss and reindeer lichen on the forest floor. At the next trail junction a blue-blazed side trail leads 0.1 mile to a catfaced pine with a metal cup used to collect sap for turpentining. There is a bench here. The trail forms a depression surrounded by gallberry, and the blazes turn blue as you curve north.
At 1.2 miles, turn right at a double blue blaze to complete the loop. As you enter a stand of tall sand pines, there is a picnic table in the shade. Beyond, it’s a walk through diminutive scrub with Chapman, myrtle, and scrub live oaks. Look for deer and bobcat tracks in the footpath. Pass through a stand of saw palmetto, and you’ll see the “Parking Area” sign. Turn left to return.
As you emerge from the dense forest on the return trip, it isn’t apparent which way the trail goes. Take the first soft right down the narrow path rather than follow the broader path ahead of you, which is a firebreak. The trail drops down into open scrub under pines, with no blazes to confirm. You can see cypress and titi ponds north of the trail before you reach the trailhead.
Since my visit, the trail has been extended 4 miles to reach a secondary trailhead along SR 65 to the west of the US 98 trailhead. As soon as I have a chance to scout it, I’ll add details!