At Blackwater River State Forest, immerse yourself in the largest state forest in Florida: 190,000 acres surrounding the Blackwater River and its tributaries. Topped with longleaf pine and wiregrass, the undulating landscape seems to stretch on forever. With six campgrounds, seven recreation areas, and 12 trails to choose from, you won’t run out of things to do!
Lat-Lon: 30.854443, -86.875307
Fees: Some of the recreation areas charge a day use fee
Open: 24 hours
The park office is located in Munson at 11650 Munson Highway, Milton 32570
With so much space to explore, it’s tough to decide where to start. Campers and hikers will want to head for the recreation areas: Bear Lake, Krul, Sweetwater, Karick Lake (North and South), and Hurricane Lake (North and South). Campsites are first-come, first-served. Backpackers have more than 30 miles of the Florida Trail to hike, equestrians have their own dedicated trail system – the Coldwater Horse Trails – and paddlers can arrange shuttle services with several Milton-area outfitters for trips down Coldwater Creek, Juniper Creek, and the Blackwater River.
Blackwater River State Forest is a haven for botanical beauty, thanks to its healthy longleaf pine and wiregrass ecosystem. Looking for pitcher plants? Stop in at the visitor center in Milton and ask for a map of the pitcher plant bogs. A patchwork of hundreds of small bogs on seepage slopes and along the edges of creeks makes it possible to find pitcher plants throughout the forest. These carnivorous beauties bloom in April.
For a full immersion into the forest’s botanical wonders, hike the Juniper Creek Trail, a 7.5-mile segment of the Florida Trail paralleling this sand-bottomed creek from Red Rocks to Deaton Bridge / Blackwater River State Park. In early spring, you’ll be surrounded by mountain laurel blooms in white and pink. Atlantic white cedars, distinctive with their whorled bark, rise to incredible heights, and there are longleaf pines too broad to wrap your arms around.
Explore the park
- Bear Lake Trail- At Blackwater River State Forest, each of the recreation areas offers access to hiking, and popular Bear Lake is no exception. A 4-mile trail loops around this impounded reservoir, which flows into Sweetwater Creek.
- Coldwater Gardens- A private nature retreat north of Milton, Coldwater Gardens is a study in serenity, melding camping, gardening, and enjoyment of natural habitats along the Coldwater Creek basin.
- Florida Trail, Jackson Red Ground Trail- 16.6 miles. On the Jackson Red Ground Trail, the very first trail built in Blackwater River State Forest in the 1970s, the Florida Trail rises up from the red clay bluffs of Juniper Creek and enters rolling clayhills topped with longleaf pine forests.
- Florida Trail, Juniper Creek- 7.3 miles. Also known as the Juniper Creek Trail, the Florida Trail at Juniper Creek is a gorgeous place to explore, with its panorama at Red Rocks and botanical delights along and above the creek basin.
- Florida Trail, Wiregrass Trail- 12.3 miles. On the northernmost segment of the Florida Trail, connecting to the greater Eastern Continental Trail at the state line with Alabama, the Wiregrass Trail immerses you in longleaf pine forests northeast of Pensacola.
- Florida Trail, Yellow River Ravines- For an acrobatic adventure on the Florida Trail, the 11.1-mile Yellow River Ravines section between Holt and Harold tosses both tricky swamp traverses and creative creek crossings your way.