CLOSED DUE TO HURRICANE DAMAGE
The video shows how beautiful it was prior to Hurricane Michael.
1.7 miles. Following the sinuous route of Bauldree Branch before tracing the bluffs of the Chipola River upstream past the famed Look and Tremble rapids, the Altha section of the Florida Trail is a short but sweet break between roadwalks flanking Upper Chipola WMA.
While this was one of our favorite hikes in the Central Panhandle, an outstanding destination for spring wildflowers and scenic views along the Chipola River, the Altha section of the Florida Trail took a direct hit from Hurricane Michael in October 2017. Winds close to 150 mph roared up this river valley, flattening the forests in every direction. As a result, the trail has been closed since. Given the regional devestation to homes and businesses that is still being cleaned up, it may be some time before clearing the fallen trees in Upper Chipola WMA will be on the agenda of any state agency.
Until this section reopens, please refrain from trying to bushwhack through it. For thru-hikers, there is a marked alternative roadwalk (also used in the event of flooding) shown in our Guthook app.
Hunting is permitted in Upper Chipola WMA, so be sure to check hunt dates before hiking here, and wear bright orange clothes during hunting season.
Flooding is always a possibility along the Chipola River, so before driving here to hike this section, always consult the flood gauge for this area. Long distance hikers must detour northbound on SR 71 towards Altha to J.R. Peacock Road to CR 274 if the river floods, as the trail is entirely in the floodplain.
To get to the south end of this hike from Interstate 10 and SR 71 in Marianna, drive south 14 miles, passing through Altha. Turn right on CR 275 and make the right on to Black Bottom Rd a half mile later. Continue 0.8 mile through a rural residential area as the road continues downhill, and watch for the FNST sign on the right across from a fenced yard with miniature horses. There’s room to pull off Black Bottom Road, but it’s not an ideal place to park.
For the north end of this hike, follow SR 71 south from I-10 to Altha for 11 miles. Turn right on CR 274 and follow it 3 miles to Willis Bridge Park, on the left just before the bridge. There is a sign on the gate and a pass-through for hikers. Parking is limited here, but there is also parking in the other portion of Willis Bridge Park on the opposite side of the river, and you’d need to cross the highway bridge on the shoulder to get to the trailhead.
The centerpiece of the Altha section is Look and Tremble, a picturesque stretch of rapids along the Chipola River that commercial boat traffic once navigated when heading upstream to Marianna. When the water is low, they are quite beautiful. We’ve yet to visit when they weren’t entirely underwater due to regional flooding. Thankfully, although plans were drawn up to do so, the Army Corps of Engineers never destroyed this natural treasure. The U.S. Geologic Survey classifies the rapids as a waterfall in Florida.
When the trail is re-established, we hope it will continue to include the scenic views along the river that it was famous for, as well as a designated campsite for backpackers.
FLORIDA TRAIL NORTHBOUND: Chipola West Roadwalk
FLORIDA TRAIL SOUTHBOUND: Chipola East Roadwalk