Arriving at the peak of pitcher plant blooming season at the Clear Creek Nature Trail (early April) on my first visit and walking the boardwalk across the bog, I’d felt like I’d stepped into an 18th century painting of a fairyland.
Clear Creek is a crystal clear waterway with a sepia-toned bottom; fish float through it as if on wings. But the magic came from the pitcher plants.
First clusters of them on hummocky islands, their blooms and trumpets reflected in the crystalline waters. Then armies of them swarming down the banks of this steep-sided ravine.
Then constellations of them scattered throughout the bog grasses in every direction. I was mesmerized. Enchanted. I could stay there for days. I stayed there for hours, until sunset chased me back to my car.
Length: 1.6 miles round-trip with loop
Trailhead: 30.710586, -87.032572
Type: Round trip with loop
Land manager: Naval Air Station Pensacola
Open sunrise to sunset. The trail may close at any time due to military operations.
The trailhead area is adjoined by a military RV park with ten spaces, available to service personnel.
There are restrooms, picnic tables and potable water at the trailhead. This is an interpretive trail with great information along the way to share with your young ones.
The Clear Creek Nature Trail is 6 miles north of Milton. Follow SR 87 north to SR 87A (Langley St). Turn right. Just as you get to the gate of Whiting Field, turn left into the park. Follow the road to the very back of the park to find the trailhead.
The trail itself starts out with no foreshadowing of the wonders that lie ahead. It begins at a kiosk surrounded by a picnic area, and ambles off on a broad path into an upland forest.
Numerous interpretive displays identify habitats, trees, and other flora. After a quarter mile, it drops down an obvious steep slope, winding its way down to an observation point above a storm drain into the creek.
At 0.6 mile, you reach the Clear Creek Bog loop sign. Turn left. In a few moments, you reach the boardwalk and the magical realm of Sarracenia leucophylla, the showy white-topped pitcher plant.
After rounding an open stretch of crystalline water, the boardwalk follows the narrow passage of the stream up the valley, flanked by thousands of pitcher plants.
At the end of the boardwalk, Florida anise shows bright red blooms in spring. The trail rises back above the creek to complete the loop.
Follow the loop as it is marked, or walk back along the boardwalk and stare some more at the beautiful sprays of these carnivorous beauties.
No other trail in Florida is as enchanting as when these pitcher plants are in bloom, late March through mid April.
See our photos of Clear Creek
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
At the site of Florida’s first “modern” industrial complex, Arcadia Mill features an accessible boardwalk offering a glimpse of the past and the gradual return of natural landscapes.
An exceptionally scenic hike, the Hutton section of the Florida Trail navigates distinctive landscapes though clayhills, ravines, and pitcher plant bogs, encompassed in thick stands of pine.
At Blackwater River State Forest near Milton, immerse yourself in the largest state forest in Florida: 190,000 acres surrounding the Blackwater River and its tributaries.