If you think Florida doesn’t have steep trails, think again! The Ravine Trail will teach you otherwise, as it clings to the slopes of a large and lengthy steephead ravine.
There are two great reasons to hike the Ravine Trail. First, it’s steep. It follows the topographic contours nicely. You’ll have to put on the brakes on quite a few of the hills.
Second, it’s informative. This is the Bear Creek Educational Forest, after all. Along the trail is an arboretum of native plants and trees found in the bluff and ravine habitats of Northwest Florida. Look for identification markers as you hike.
To reach the loop portion of this hike, you follow the Living Forest Trail. It’s an accessible interpretive trail which we also describe separately, as it’s the easiest hike at the Bear Creek Tract. But steep!
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Length: 0.8 mile round-trip
Trailhead: 30.477157, -84.625806
Address: 8125 Pat Thomas Pkwy, Quincy, FL 32351
Fees: $2 per person day use fee
Restroom: at the educational center
Land manager: Florida Forestry Service
Open sunrise to sunset. Be sure to exit before the gate closes.
Leashed dogs welcome unless otherwise posted. No bicycles allowed.
Although the trail is paved, it has steep grades and some rough spots in places. Self-propelled wheelchair users should use caution.
From Interstate 10 exit 181, Quincy, drive south 4.5 miles on SR 267 to the entrance of the Bear Creek Tract on the left.
From Tallahassee via SR 20, pass the Bloxham Cutoff near the Jackson Bluff Dam and continue to where SR 267 heads north. Turn right and drive north 7.5 miles, passing through Wetumpka, to the Bear Creek Educational Forest entrance on the right.
From the parking area, walk up to the the Bear Creek Environmental Center, where there is a demonstration garden and restrooms out front.
Look for the sign for the start of the Terry L. Rhodes Trail System on the far side of the building. The first 0.4 mile of the hike is along the paved Living Forest Trail.
Living Forest Trail
An accessible trail at the Bear Creek Tract, this short but educational trail offers “talking trees” for a unique learning experience in a Florida forest.
At the observation deck, follow the signs and blue blazes to start the Ravine Trail. It turns right to follow the shoreline of the reservoir.
The pond below is a simple impoundment, a natural creek in a steephead ravine blocked off at one end to create a small lake.
Water lilies drift across the surface and tall Southern magnolia are reflected in the water.
You are walking through a magnolia-beech forest. American beech is a major component of this bluff forest, obvious from its ribbed leaves.
Interpretive markers assist in helping you identify enormous trees like the swamp chestnut oak as well as smaller ones like the musclewood.
The trail drops close to the water’s edge. Look across the water. The hill on the far side is even steeper.
While it seems unlikely because of this terrain, alligators are present in this creek. White-tailed deer dash through the open understory, up the steep hill.
After 0.6 mile, the trail starts up a very steep slope past the remains of a former bridge which once bridged the creek.
At the intersection with a side trail, stay with the blue blazes. Up and up and up you go, into a laurel oak forest.
As the trail crosses a bridge and starts to round the ravine, the dropoffs are rather steep, the distance down to the bottom quite noticeable.
Stand still and you can hear water trickling down the sides of the steephead below you, forming a clear sand-bottomed stream at the bottom.
As the trail curves left and drops steeply, you walk under a spruce pine with dark bark amid mountain laurel and Florida star-anise.
This is a botanical beauty spot in spring, with trout lilies peeping out from amid the leaf litter.
Leaving the pretty stream at 0.8 mile, the trail heads back uphill, passing spruce pine, chokecherry, and wild olive along ever-increasing grades.
You can hear traffic nearby, as the trail draws close to SR 267 for a short stretch. The dropoff is steep and deep.
By 0.9 mile, an overlook provides another beauty spot to enjoy the steep ravine. Here’s where you need a hiking stick, as the pitched descent begins.
Winding its way around the seeps and tributaries feeding the creek, the trail gets into a stretch of not-so-pointless ups and downs.
An unmarked trail comes in from the right as the Ravine Trail heads into a switchback. Looking down into the creek, it is beautifully clear.
A spruce pine towers overhead, dropping pine cones very out of proportion with the tree.
At another pretty spot where the creek twists and curves through Florida anise, sphagnum moss grows thick and tufty.
At Marker P, a cascade drops a foot or more, drawing your attention to the miniature waterfall. Beyond it, the impoundment pool begins.
Spruce pines tower over the trail as you pass the other set of remains of bridge piers at 1.3 miles.
In summer, look for pyramid magnolia in bloom. It has an elongated leaf with a bulge, very different from Southern magnolia.
Another overlook provides a view of the impoundment, with a sweeping view towards the dike at its end.
Welcome to the native azalea garden. Whether it was planted here or just happened, the slope forest at 1.5 miles hosts a bevy of rare spring beauties, including Chapman’s rhododendron, mountain laurel, and flame azalea.
It’s also where the Bear Creek Trail, marked with orange blazes, comes in from the left. Continue straight along the blue blazes.
The trail meets a forest road, and signage indicates you should head downhill. At the bottom is a junction of junctions.
The Bear Creek Trail goes off to the right, and the Ravine Trail turns left to cross the dike that forms the impoundment.
This short walk provides an open perspective on pond, a good place to scan the lily-laden surface for waterfowl. Water gushes out of a pipe into the forest below.
Reaching the far end of the impoundment, the Bear Creek Trail goes straight ahead up the forest road, on the orange blazes.
The Ravine Trail turns left, so make the left turn. The trail crosses a little bridge over a tributary, and within a few paces, you return to the end of the loop, at 1.6 miles.
The observation deck is to your right. Head uphill to meet the Living Forest Trail. Follow the paved path back uphill to the parking area, completing a 2 mile hike.
See our photos of the Terry L. Rhodes Trail System
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
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
Lake Talquin State Park
When the Ochlockonee River was dammed to create hydroelectric power for Tallahassee, it also created a massive lake between the deeply folded ridges to the west of the city. Lake Talquin State Park is one of several access points to the lake.