The Apalachicola National Forest is the largest National Forest in Florida, sweeping around the southern edge of Tallahassee as it protects more than 571,000 acres.
Home to the fabled Bradwell Bay Wilderness, the Apalachicola is also the place to see pitcher plants bloom en masse every spring, especially on the western edge of the forest near Sumatra and the Apalachee Savannas.
Fees: Day use (generally $3 per vehicle) and camping fees are charged at most of the popular recreation areas, including Silver Lake, Camel Lake, Porter Lake, Wright Lake, and Leon Sinks. An annual vehicle pass costs $40.
Ranger stations: 11152 NW SR 20, Bristol and 57 Taff Drive, Crawfordville. Usually open Mon-Fri 8-4.
Even if you never leave your car, a trip to the Apalachicola National Forest will convince you that it is worth visiting time and again. The scenic drives alone – especially along SR 65, SR 67, and the Big Bend Scenic Byway – mean immersion into longleaf pine forests and places of botanical beauty. More daring drivers try out the many clay and sand backroads that lead to places like Post Office Bay and Monkey Creek, while those of us who’d rather walk in the woods find that its challenging hiking trails have their payoffs, including one of Florida’s most remote sections of the statewide Florida Trail.
Trails and Recreation Areas
- Apalachee Savannas Scenic Byway- In the Apalachicola National Forest, the Apalachee Savannas Scenic Byway is a winding stretch of scenic road through expansive wet flatwoods and open pine savannas
- Camel Lake Loop- Circle a cypress lined pond in the Apalachicola National Forest at Camel Lake Recreation Area on the Camel Lake Loop, enjoying scenic views and a walk through the pine forest
- Florida Trail, Bradwell Bay- 12.3 miles. You're guaranteed to get wet on Florida's roughest, wildest day hike. Situated south of Tallahassee, the Bradwell Bay Wilderness is one of the most majestic and wild places in Northwest Florida.
- Florida Trail, Bradwell West to Porter Lake- 6.8 miles. A connective piece of the Florida Trail centered on the Langston House trailhead, this stretch of trail marries wet flatwoods with roadwalking as it crosses the Ochlockonee River.
- Florida Trail, Bristol Roadwalk- 11 miles. One of the narrowest high-speed highways that the Florida Trail follows, CR 12 into Bristol connects the Apalachicola National Forest with the Apalachicola River.
- Florida Trail, Camel Lake to Savannah- 5.3 miles. Wet feet are expected on this traverse of the pine savannas along the edges of Johnson Juniper Swamp in the Apalachicola National Forest, where careful inspection along the Florida Trail yields a bounty of carnivorous plants.
- Florida Trail, Jewel to Vilas- 14.3 miles. Delving deep into the swampy heart of the Apalachicola National Forest, this section spans some of the gnarliest titi and gum swamps you'll see outside of Bradwell Bay.
- Florida Trail, Porter Lake to Jewel- 4.6 miles. A deep immersion in pine flatwoods and titi swamps awaits along this segment of the Florida Trail, which uses many old forest roads to cross tributaries draining into the Ochlockonee River.
- Florida Trail, Sopchoppy- 8.9 miles. Slipping through pine flatwoods and sandhills to the east of Sopchoppy, the Florida Trail plays tag with a network of forest roads that criss-crosses the southern portion of the Apalachicola National Forest.
- Florida Trail, Sopchoppy River- 4 miles. Following the gentle curves of the Sopchoppy River as it carves itself deeply into the bedrock of the Apalachicola National Forest, the Sopchoppy River section of the Florida Trail is one of the most scenic segments of the trail statewide.
- Florida Trail, Vilas to Camel Lake- 10.3 miles. Broadening your perspective on Florida's largest national forest, the Florida Trail east of Camel Lake offers an ever-shifting focus from macro to landscape, showcasing one of the most habitat-diverse parts of the Apalachicola National Forest.
- Fort Gadsden- At Fort Gadsden, a gentle walk in the Apalachicola National Forest leads you through the well-interpreted historic site and a pine forest where wildflowers thrive.
- Leon Sinks Geological Area- In the Apalachicola National Forest just south of Tallahassee, Leon Sinks Geological Area offers a delightful introduction to the wonders of karst topography on its trails
- Silver Lake Trail- A popular recreation area in the Apalachicola National Forest west of Tallahassee, Silver Lake is looped by a nature trail that provides scenic views of the lake
- Trail of Lakes- By itself, the Trail of Lakes is a 3.9-mile blue blazed connector between two portions of the Florida Trail around Camel Lake, a soggy, boggy walk in the Apalachicola National Forest. You can use the Florida Trail to create this 9.5 mile loop
- Wright Lake Trail- At Wright Lake Recreation Area near Sumatra, a day hiking loop along the western edge of the Apalachicola National Forest features an unusual bridge and numerous pitcher plant bogs
- Do Not Feed the Bears (Feb 2018)- Bear bagging is the art of hanging your food properly out of reach of bears. If you're a Florida backpacker and haven't learned how, here's a short course. Securing your food from bears is required in the Ocala, Osceola, and Apalachicola National Forests.
- Summer in the Savannas (Jun 2014)- Summer is prime time for delicate orchids and carnivorous plants among the bogs of the Apalachicola National Forest, especially along the Apalachee Savannas Scenic Byway.
- The Weeks Act: a Century of Conservation (May 2011)- A follow-up to the conservation legacy of Teddy Roosevelt's administration, The Weeks Act was signed by William Howard Taft in March 1911. It authorized the Federal government - for the first time - to purchase private land to protect watersheds throughout the eastern United States.
- Forest Encyclopedia Network (Jan 2011)- The Forest Encyclopedia Network is a gateway to research papers explaining applied science on the Southern Appalachians and National Forests throughout our region.
- Walk in the woods at Leon Sinks (Feb 2010)- South of Tallahassee in the Apalachicola National Forest is one of Florida's most beautiful and intriguing trail systems showcasing the weird and wonderful world of karst topography
- Bear bagging a must in Florida’s National Forests (Dec 2009)- A federal order has been signed requiring the use of bear bags or bear canisters when backpacking the Florida Trail through the Ocala, Osceola, and Apalachicola National Forests.