An excellent overnight backpacking trip which is also a segment of the Florida Trail, the Wiregrass Trail gets you into the heart of an ecosystem that has vanished across most of the Southeast—the longleaf pine forest. These rolling clayhills are topped with stately longleaf pine and wiregrass, with views that go on and on as you look out beneath the pines. This primary habitat is occasionally broken up by depressions with titi swamps, fragrant in spring but a bit tricky to traverse. Once south of Hurricane Lake, the trail parallels the Blackwater River, offering a few spots to clamber down to white sand beaches, before rising back up into the hills to meet the Jackson Red Ground Trail.
Length: 17.3 miles
Lat-Long: 30.996750, -86.775850 (north end), 30.904967, -86.698900 (junction with Jackson Red Ground), 30.896467, -86.641867 (Karick Lake access)
Fees / Permits: state forest entrance fee
Good for: backpacking, birding, campgrounds, dogs, wildlife
Bug factor: low
Restroom: yes, at recreation areas
Although the Wiregrass Trail technically starts at the Alabama state line along with the Florida Trail, logistically it makes more sense to hike between Hurricane Lake and Karick Lake Recreation Areas, an overnight trip, unless you’re seeking to complete the full Florida Trail segment. It’s far safer to leave cars within the recreation areas (inform the camp host you’ll be backpacking) than outside of them.
For the southern trailhead, follow SR 189 north from US 90 to Karick Lake Recreation Area. Use the Jackson Red Ground Trail, which starts at Karick Lake, to connect to the Wiregrass Trail (5 mile connector). Alternatively, access the trail via North Hurricane Lake Recreation Area: follow SR 189 north to CR 28; turn west and follow signs to North Hurricane Lake.
Hiking south from the Alabama State Line, be sure to sign the trail register at the kiosk marking the junction of the Alabama Hiking Trail and the Florida Trail before you start hiking south along the Wiregrass Trail. The trail leads you through an undulating landscape beneath the pines. It drops down frequently to cross drainages through the pine flatwoods, most of which are crossed on bog bridges. After 1.2 miles, you cross Beaver Creek Rd, a paved road.
After the second crossing of Beaver Creek Rd at 4 miles, the trail begins to descend in a broad sweeping curve to Hurricane Lake. Through the pines, you can see the expanse of lake clearly. Climbing up to the entrance road for North Hurricane Lake Campground, the trail turns right to lead you into the campground, where there is a bathhouse with showers and potable water. Campsites are first-come, first-served for $10 and most overlook the lake.
Leaving the campground, the trail drops down to the levee that holds back the reservoir that is Hurricane Lake and crosses it, coming within sight of the campground at South Hurricane Lake before turning to parallel a forest road. You reach Kennedy Bridge and cross the Blackwater River there after 8.3 miles. The trail immediately turns to the right to parallel the river downstream for a stretch, although it winds through some very roughed-up titi swamps with bog bridges before ascending up a very tall hill.
At 10.5 miles, the trail rejoins the river at a very scenic overlook and follows it briefly, leading across a bridge over a tributary before turning away. You continue to gain elevation up through the next section, culminating in the high point of Blueberry Hill before the footpath drops downhill to cross Honey Creek, a water source.
After 12.8 miles, the Wiregrass Trail meets the Jackson Red Ground Trail at an intersection with a picnic bench. To stay on the Florida Trail, turn right and follow the Jackson Red Ground Trail. To complete the Wiregrass Trail, which terminates at Karick Lake, follow the blue blazes southeast another 4.5 miles through the pine flatwoods to complete the 17.3 mile trek.