The Florida Trail along Juniper Creek (also known as the Juniper Creek Trail, Blackwater River State Forest) is a gorgeous place to explore in springtime, when mountain laurel blooms in both pink and white and the dogwoods put on a show.
There are seepage slope bogs where pitcher plants look pretty as well. This is a great hike between two cars, if you can coordinate with a friend. If not, the prettiest part is the northern part; park along Red Rocks Rd at the trail crossing and hike south to the shelter area. Don’t miss the blue blaze to the bluffs!
Length: 8.8 miles
Lat-Long: 30.704400, -86.883283 and 30.785217, -86.886750
Fees / Permits: None
Difficulty: 3 of 5
Bug factor: 2 of 5
Restroom: yes, at south end
A fee required if you park your car at Blackwater River State Park. Overnight parking must be arranged at the campground. Parking overnight at Red Rock Picnic Area is not recommended. The Trail may flood if the creek is high.
For the northern trailhead, follow SR 191 north from US 90 through Milton towards Munson to turnoff for Red Rock Picnic Area. You must hike 0.3 miles east from the picnic area along the road to reach the trail. For the southern trailhead at Deaton Bridge, drive north from US 90 (east of Milton) on Deaton Bridge Rd at Harold for 3.5 miles to the trailhead on the left just before the bridge, within Blackwater River State Park. The trail begins north of the bridge, past the restrooms on the north shore of the river.
Starting northbound, cross Deaton Bridge over the Blackwater River. Turn left to follow the blazes past the restrooms to reach the beginning of the Juniper Creek Trail, which dives into the floodplain forest. Puncheons cross most of the wet and muddy spots, but don’t be surprised if you need to wade a little. When the trail reaches higher ground, it turns to meet a forest road. You’ll follow it a short bit; watch for blazes re-entering the forest
Crossing Indian Ford Road, the blazes lead you down the road a little and to the right into the woods. The trail continues through hardwoods and a stretch of young cedars, with a pitcher plant bog on a steep open slope. You cross a footbridge over Alligator Creek at 3.6 miles.
For the next two miles, the trail parallels Juniper Creek along the bluffs, under the deep shade of the thick forest where mountain laurel co-exists with cedars, sparkleberry, and southern magnolia. It’s a magical place, with glimpses of the fast-moving stream and its scattered sand beaches through the trees, the trail undulating with the rugged terrain created by the ravines of feeder streams. Most of the streams are bridged, but you will drop down through several titi swamps, jumping from puncheon to puncheon to keep out of the mud. At 5.3 miles you pass the Football Field campsite, east of the trail on an old road. A sandbar along the creek provides a place for swimming and obtaining water.
At 6.4 miles, a panorama comes into view—an island in the creek where it rounds a sharp bend, a nice swimming hole and the location of the Bluffs Campsite. Follow the short blue blaze back to one of the few shelters you’ll find on the Florida Trail. As the trail leaves the creek, it back to a small three-sided shelter; camping is possible nearby. Leaving the creek, the trail rises up steadily through a longleaf pine forest. Watch for the blue blaze a mile later leading left to the Bluffs, where you stand more than 40 feet above the creek on eroding clay bluffs that provide a sweeping view.
After 8.8 miles, the Juniper Creek Trail ends at Red Rock Road. The official parking area is down the road to the left about a mile, on the other side of the bridge over the creek.
0.0 Deaton Bridge trailhead
2.7 Cross Indian Ford Rd
3.6 Cross Alligator Creek
5.3 Football Field campsite
6.4 Bluffs campsite and swimming hole
8.8 Red Rock Rd