One of Florida’s oldest state parks and notable for its Civilian Conservation Corps architecture, Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park offers a lesson in Florida topography.
Location: Keystone Heights
Fees: $4-5 per vehicle
Open: 8 AM until sunset daily
Leashed pets welcome
Set in an undulating sandhill landscape with lakes formed inside ancient sinkholes, the park centers around an incredible ravine dripping with ferns, from which the sand-bottomed Gold Head Branch is born.
Nature trails let you climb down into the deep ravine and follow the stream’s course to Little Lake Johnson, where you can grab a canoe and paddle across the expanse. Nearly four miles of the Florida Trail also pass through the park, with a primitive campsite along the way.
The main reason people come here is for family camping. There are two large campgrounds tucked into the woods, plus a variety of lakefront cabins, some classic ones from the CCC era and others modern and fully wheelchair accessible. Fish, swim, and paddle across the lake on a summer’s day to keep cool.
Explore the park
- Florida Hikes podcast: Florida Trail, Gold Head - Episode 004: Florida Trail at Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park (18:59) This podcast is a little different. I’ve had it in mind for months, since I received a stereo digital recorder for Christmas and immediately took it out hiking with me on New Years’ Day. The tough part was editing down the sound […]
- Florida Trail, Gold Head Branch - Following the high ground above Devil's Washbasin and Gold Head Ravine, the Florida Trail works its way across Gold Head Branch State Park on a scenic 3.5 mile route
- Mike, mist, and the Cherry Cabin - On Tuesday evening after work, I took a trek up to Keystone Heights to meet up with my buddy Mike DeWitt, whose sole purpose in life these days is to hike the Florida Trail, absorb the essence of Florida, and blend it all into a blog and features for the Tampa Tribune. I’m envious of […]
- Ridge and Ravine Trails - A beauty spot with extreme elevation changes, the ravine at Gold Head Branch State Park is best explored along the Ridge and Ravine Trails that guide you into and around the bottom of the ravine
- Video: Hiking the FT at Gold Head - As promised (albeit a little late), here’s a walk-through of the Florida Trail at Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park. I did this with my friend Phyllis around New Years’ Day. We camped out and were rained on the night before; the forests were rather wet (where they weren’t smoking after a recent burn). […]