At Cary State Forest, you have the opportunity for a highly accessible, close-up look at carnivorous plants in the wild. Hooded pitcher plants thrive in these wet pine flatwoods.
While the 13,000-acre forest has dozens of miles of multi-use trails and is popular with local equestrians, the 1.4-mile Cary Nature Trail is hiking only.
It’s a great short walk for kids and persons of limited mobility.
It’s also part of the Florida State Forests Trailwalker program, allowing you to accrue credit towards your Trailwalker levels.
Look for the little things along this trail. Sometimes the most interesting surprises are at your feet: wildflowers and wildlife.
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Length: 1.4 mile loop
Trailhead: 30.399850, -81.926772
Address: 7465 Pavilion Rd, Bryceville
Fees: $2 per person
Restroom: at the pavilion
Land manager: Florida State Forests
Phone: 904-266-8398 weekdays, 904-266-8396 weekends
Open dawn to dusk. Leashed dogs welcome.
A small campground is in the woods south of Pavilion Road and is perfect for families with young children. Sites must be reserved in advance.
From Interstate 10 exit 343, Baldwin/Starke, head north on US 301 for 9 miles. After you pass the Bryceville fire station and a “Welcome to Cary State Forest” sign on the right. Keep alert for the first turnoff, Pavilion Road. Turn right and drive 0.4 mile to the trail kiosk and grassy parking area at its intersection with Fire Tower Road. After you park, pay your state forest usage fee, and pick up a trail map at the kiosk.
The trail starts just across Pavilion Road, following the blazes into the pine flatwoods. A clearing surrounds the S. Bryan Jennings Pavilion, where there are picnic tables and restrooms.
From the pavilion, walk under the power lines to reach the “Nature Trail” sign. Follow the path into the forest.
The trail is broad enough for three people to walk abreast and well-graded. The habitat becomes damper as loblolly bay and red maples fill the forest.
Star-shaped marsh pinks display their pale pink blossoms. Orange wild bachelor’s button pokes up from the grassy forest floor.
The trail comes up to a boardwalk with the sign “Adam’s Wilderness Trail.” It is named for the family who donated funds to have it built.
The boardwalk carries the trail through a cypress dome, zigzagging between the trees. Pond cypresses form the core of the dome.
It is a cool, damp place where hundreds of cypress knees jut from the forest floor. A shaded bench gives you a place to sit and contemplate the cypress swamp.
After a half mile, the boardwalk ends at a T intersection with a forest road. Turn left at the “Nature Trail” sign and follow the blazes down the road.
The broad, open forest road is in full sun, but where it crosses a swampy area, keep alert for hooded pitcher plants growing out of the seepage slope on the right side of the road.
When you come to the intersection of Hog Track Road and Moccasin Slough at 0.7 mile, the “Nature Trail” sign points left.
Follow this grassy strip through the forest, watching along the drainage areas on both sides for more hooded pitcher plants.
After a mile, there is a bench. When we hiked here for 50 Hikes in North Florida, there was an observation tower to climb.
We understand it is no longer there. It’s a shame, but it did need to be replaced.
Pass a trail coming in from the right, then walk down a corridor of slender pines to continue back under the power lines.
Walking back through a different part of the pine flatwoods, you emerge on Pavilion Road. Turn left to return to the parking area.
Discover more trails and activities in Cary State Forest.
See our photos of the Cary Nature Trail
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
On a walk through Camp Milton Historic Preserve, discover Civil War stories through a grove of historic trees that have tales to tell beneath their leafy shade