Heading away from the coastal fringe and into the heart of Florida’s largest National Forest, the Apalachicola section of the Florida Trail traverses some of the wettest, wildest swamp forest found outside of the Big Cypress Swamp. The legendary Bradwell Bay, a swamp basin in the heart of the Apalachicola National Forest, protects a stand of virgin pine forest. Traversing it when wet, which is often, is one of the most difficult feats on the Florida Trail.
Known for its botanical beauty, particularly for its pitcher plant bogs and terrestrial orchids, the Apalachicola is often soggy underfoot, with its many titi swamps and wet pine flatwoods. By contrast, beautiful views await on the river bluffs of the Sopchoppy and Ochlockonee Rivers. Best hiked in spring, when the flowers are at their peak, it is a challenging hiking destination.
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FLOODING can make hiking along the Sopchoppy River dangerous. Check National Weather Service flood gauge. Roadwalk around the Sopchoppy River if it is flooded. The Apalachicola National Forest is otherwise always generally wet. Expect to wade. Contact the Apalachicola National Forest, 850-926-3561 regards flood conditions and advisories regarding water levels in Bradwell Bay.
Bradwell Bay is one of the most challenging pieces of the Florida Trail, even though it can be done in a day hike. High water levels and a muddy bottom with deep holes means slow going. In times of high water, Bradwell Island campsite is flooded.
Wear a bright orange shirt or vest during hunting seasons. Check the FWC website for hunting season dates.
Backpackers are limited to using designated campsites (the established primitive campsites with signage, plus Porter Lake and Camel Lake Recreation Areas) during general gun season. Random camping is otherwise permitted the remainder of the year. A fee applies for camping at Camel Lake. A bear bag or bear canister is required for backpackers in the Apalachicola National Forest.
Resupply in Medart, Panacea, or Sopchoppy before you head north into the Apalachicola National Forest, and in Bristol if you are heading south. There are no facilities except campsites anywhere near the trail through this section.
12.3 miles. You’re guaranteed to get wet on Florida’s roughest, wildest day hike. Situated south of Tallahassee, the Bradwell Bay Wilderness is one of the most majestic and wild places in Northwest Florida.
6.8 miles. A connective piece of the Florida Trail centered on the Langston House trailhead, this stretch of trail marries wet flatwoods with roadwalking as it crosses the Ochlockonee River.
11 miles. One of the narrowest high-speed highways that the Florida Trail follows, CR 12 into Bristol connects the Apalachicola National Forest with the Apalachicola River.
5.3 miles. Wet feet are expected on this traverse of the pine savannas along the edges of Johnson Juniper Swamp in the Apalachicola National Forest, where careful inspection along the Florida Trail yields a bounty of carnivorous plants.
14.3 miles. Delving deep into the swampy heart of the Apalachicola National Forest, this section spans some of the gnarliest titi and gum swamps you’ll see outside of Bradwell Bay.
4.6 miles. A deep immersion in pine flatwoods and titi swamps awaits along this segment of the Florida Trail, which uses many old forest roads to cross tributaries draining into the Ochlockonee River.
8.9 miles. Slipping through pine flatwoods and sandhills to the east of Sopchoppy, the Florida Trail plays tag with a network of forest roads that criss-crosses the southern portion of the Apalachicola National Forest.
4 miles. Following the gentle curves of the Sopchoppy River as it carves itself deeply into the bedrock of the Apalachicola National Forest, the Sopchoppy River section of the Florida Trail is one of the most scenic segments of the trail statewide.
Florida Trail Videos (Apalachicola)
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