The smallest of Florida’s national forests, the Osceola National Forest carries the weight of history hidden in its dense stands of longleaf pine.
Nearby: Jacksonville, Lake City, Live Oak, White Springs
Fees: Day use fees are charged at Olustee Beach and Ocean Pond Recreation Areas. Additional camping fee at Ocean Pond. Camping is permitted at West Tower and Cobb Hunt Camp for free for up to two weeks at a time.
Ranger station: 24874 US 90, Olustee, FL 32072. Phone 386-752-2577. Usually open Mon-Fri 8-4.
This is Florida’s youngest National Forest, protecting, in part, the Pinhook Swamp, which connects to the Okefenokee Swamp. It is always wet in the Osceola National Forest, so come prepared to get your boots wet along most portions of the Florida Trail.
At Olustee, Union and Confederate forces met in Florida’s largest battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Olustee. The hallowed ground of the battlefield was protected soon after, with the national forest established in 1931. Backpack the Florida Trail or amble down one of several nature trails to discover clues from turpentine and logging history deep in the woods. Forest roads are open for bicycling. Ocean Pond is one of the region’s most popular campgrounds because of its beautiful setting.
Explore the forest
- Fanny Bay Trail - Starting at the westbound Sanderson rest area along I-10, the Fanny Bay Trail leads you through pine flatwoods into a cypress swamp with ancient cypresses
- Florida Trail, Nice Wander Loop - In the Osceola National Forest, this short loop adjacent to Olustee Battlefield is one of the easiest places in the state to see red-cockaded woodpeckers
- Florida Trail, Northeast Florida - 123 miles. The sweep of trail past Palatka towards Lake Butler involves some private timberlands and a string of public lands connected by short roadwalks, including Rice Creek Conservation Area, Etoniah State Forest, Gold Head Branch State Park, and Camp Blanding. The Palatka-Lake Butler Trail provides a connector, and the Osceola National Forest is at the northern end of this section.
- Mount Carrie Wayside - The short, easily accessed Mount Carrie Wayside in Osceola National Forest showcases an old growth longleaf pine forest with a population of red-cockaded woodpeckers.
- Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park - At Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park, more than 10,000 Confederate and Union soldiers met and fought amid the longleaf pines in the largest battle on Florida soil. Like Gettysburg, Olustee has its own ghosts.
- Olustee Battlefield Trail - The hike through Olustee Battlefield is short, but its historical significance is great. More than 2,000 men died in this forest on February 20, 1864, when Confederate and Union forces met and fought the bloodiest battle on Florida soil.
- Trampled Track Trail - An interpretive walk with extensive details on timbering history, the Trampled Track Trail leads to a waterfront view on Ocean Pond.