Along with neighboring Twin Rivers State Forest, Suwannee River State Park protects huge swaths of conservation land bordering the Suwannee and Withlacoochee Rivers.
A developed campground and trails are on the south side of the Suwannee, directly across from this particularly picturesque portion of the Florida National Scenic Trail.
From the Big Oak trailhead, this hike can easily be made into either a 4.7 or 6.9-mile loop using the cross trails shown on the map.
Even along the interior yellow and blue trails, you’ll find majestic beauty in both the forest understory and the canopy above.
For an overnighter with a stay at Confluence campsite, it’s best to pair this hike with the adjoining Alapaha section for a hike out from Gibson Park and back.
Or overnight here using the Ellaville North section to leave your car behind the gates of Suwannee River State Park. Cars should not be left overnight at the Big Oak trailhead.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 5.9 miles linear
Trailhead: 30.413598, -83.159249
Address: 7678 SW 46th Ave, Jasper, FL 32052
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Leashed dogs permitted. It’s advisable not to leave a car at the Big Oak trailhead overnight, as vandalism has been reported.
Expect the noise of passing trains when camping at Confluence Camp. They cross the railroad bridge at US 90 and the sound echoes up the river.
From Interstate 75 at Jasper, head southwest on SR 6 for 5.2 miles, then turn left onto SW CR 141. In 5.5 miles, turn left at 74th St, then right onto SW 44th Ln. The road curves to the left, then, turn right again to remain on SW 44th ln. In a half mile, turn left onto 77th St, and the parking area will be on the right at the end of the road next to a boat ramp.
At the trailhead, pass through a gap in the fence next to a helpful map of the state park loop trails.
A narrow path through the palmettos leads into a densely forested hardwood hammock.
Tracing a high bluff, the trail often overlooks spectacular views of the dark waters below as they meander through rock and sand.
At an intersection with the yellow blazed trail in a half mile, stay to the left to remain on the Florida Trail.
Huge moss-covered live oaks tower overhead, creating a thick canopy alongside sweetgum, hickory, and southern magnolia trees.
This diversity is increased in the understory, with many small trees and shrubs including holly, dogwood, red bay and beautyberry.
Despite its proximity, the water is rarely accessible due to steep terrain carved from the limestone over countless years.
As the river snakes through this karst landscape, rocky shores typically sit across from steep sandy beaches on the other side.
The well-worn, grass lined pathway winds through myriad shades of green as it heads further south to an intersection with the blue trail.
A right turn at the blue-blazes leads to the namesake Big Oak, a short distance off the Florida Trail.
Shade is abundant aside from clearing of a hundred feet crossing over a gas pipeline. Palmettos and cabbage pines flourish in this humid riverside jungle beneath huge arches of oaks.
In 0.8 mile, the Withlacoochee River empties into the Suwannee next to a bench and fire ring at the aptly named Confluence campsite.
From the campsite, a railroad trestle crosses the river to the southwest. Although this site is charming, the nearby tracks mean for loud trains passing by at night.
From the campsite, head north alongside the Withlacoochee River.
In a half mile, the trail passes a curious water-filled hole in the limestone, a reminder of the distinctive geology underfoot.
From this pathway high above, the Withlacoochee River looks remarkably like the Suwannee, though a bit narrower.
Painted arrows affixed to trees reduces confusion as the trail winds through open spaces under the canopy.
In 1.5 miles, the trail turns right onto a forest road, then left to follow a fence line to the north. If you’re hiking just the loop, watch for the cross trail.
This section of the hike follows alongside private property, designed to connect the Big Oak trail with the remainder of the Florida Trail northward.
In a half mile, sign indicates the Florida Trail leaves the woods, following a driveway to CR 141.
Turn left at the road for a short roadwalk to cross the river. Watch for a downslope turnoff to the Withlacoochee River parking area.
This day use parking area also marks the start of the Ellaville section of the Florida Trail within Twin Rivers State Forest.
As signposted by Suwannee River State Park, the Big Oak Trail extends another 3.5 miles to the main portion of the park.
It uses the Florida Trail Ellaville North section to reach the Annex Picnic Area, passing through the ghost town of Ellaville and by Suwannacoochee Spring en route.
It then crosses the old US 90 bridge to connect to the main portion of Suwannee River State Park, ending near the Confederate earthworks across from the confluence of rivers.
NORTHBOUND: Florida Trail, Ellaville North
SOUTHBOUND: Florida Trail, Alapaha
Perched on the bluffs at the confluence of the Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers, Suwannee River State Park is one of those don’t-miss Florida outdoors experiences, with two ghost towns, Civil War battlements that once protected a strategic railroad bridge, and the ruins of a former governor’s riverfront mansion.
See our photos from the Big Oak Trail
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
7.7 miles. Along the limestone-bordered waters of the Alapaha and Suwannee Rivers, the Alapaha section of the Florida Trail explores unique geography within a densely forested landscape.
The nature trail at Ladell Brothers Outdoor Environmental Center, North Florida Community College in Madison is a place for students and visitors to get away from it all in the midst of the college campus.
A long-time Old Florida swimming hole along SR 6 between the towns of Lee and Jasper, Madison Blue Spring is a sinkhole pouring out a first-magnitude spring into the Withlacoochee River.