Exploring Apalachicola National Forest
Protecting more than 571,000 acres of vast interior swamps, pine flatwoods, and a portion of the Woodville Karst Plain, the Apalachicola National Forest is a massive place, and a soggy place. Tributaries born in swampy bays and bogs drain towards the Sopchoppy, Ochlockonee, and Apalachicola Rivers.
This is a wild place, a major destination for anglers and hunters, with many landings and hunt camps used during spring and fall hunting seasons. While a handful of very scenic paved roads cross the forest, most roads here are dirt, heavily rutted and often full of deep mud holes.
A handful of recreation areas hug natural lakes and river shorelines. Campers are welcome at Camel Lake Recreation Area, Wright Lake Recreation Area, and Porter Lake Recreation Area. However, check ahead to see if the recreation area you plan to visit is open. Hurricane Michael did a great deal of damage to the forest in October 2018 and some sites, especially hunt camps and landings, remain closed.
Land Manager: USDA Forest Service
Fees: Day use ($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. Your National Parks / National Federal Lands Pass is honored at all of these locations for day use fees.
Apalachicola Ranger District, 11152 NW SR 20, Bristol. Phone: 850-643-2282
Wakulla Ranger District, 57 Taff Drive, Crawfordville. Phone: 850-926-3561
Both ranger stations are typically open Mon-Fri 8-4
Home to the fabled Bradwell Bay Wilderness, a stand of virgin cypress and white pine, the Apalachicola National Forest is also one of the best places in the eastern Panhandle to see pitcher plants and other carnivorous plants in its bogs.
The top areas for viewing pitcher plant blooms in March and April are along the western edge of the forest near Sumatra and the Apalachee Savannas. Here are some of our photos from that area.
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 is prime time for delicate orchids and carnivorous plants among the bogs of the Apalachicola National Forest, especially along the Apalachee Savannas Scenic Byway.
Even if you never leave your car to explore the trails, a trip through 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.
Florida Trail, Apalachicola
With more than 80 miles of backpacking across the Apalachicola National Forest, this Florida Trail segment is one of the wettest and wildest in the state.
Download forest map (PDF) Official Website