The newest trail system in Bay County has its Grand Opening tomorrow from 12-2 as Panama City Beach Conservation Park becomes a reality. Encompassing over 2,200 acres along the back bay, these former pine plantations of the St Joe Company are slowly undergoing hydrologic restoration to bring back the natural bayfront wet flatwoods, punctuated by cypress domes. Using the trail systems now in place, you can hike a loop of anywhere from 0.6 miles to 11 miles. The park map suggests 6 possible routes. I did a quick hike on the 1.8-mile green route – evening light wanes quick in the Central Time Zone – and saw mostly pine plantations with some patches of unusual wildflowers, plus two very nice boardwalks through cypress domes. I’ll share soon as the Hike-A-Week.
It is not easy to find this park, since there is no signage on US 98. Heading west from the intersection of SR 79 and US 98 in Panama City Beach, watch for the Museum of Man in the Sea on the right. There’s an open space past that, followed by a La Quinta Inn. Turn right immediately after the hotel onto Griffin Road. Follow it through Beach Commerce Park. It ends at the trailhead / restroom area. Dogs are welcome.
Trailhead GPS: N30.25924, W85.89709