6.8 miles. In this connective stretch of the Florida Trail, Bradwell Bay connects to the drier uplands near Smith Creek by way of wet pine flatwoods between the two. It’s then necessary to roadwalk up Smith Creek Road to FR 13 to cross the Ochlockonee River floodplain to Porter Lake Recreation Area.
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This is a connector piece of the Florida Trail that only has hiking value along two short segments, each an easy walk from a trailhead. First, for photographers looking to grab good images of the Ochlockonee River floodplain from the highway bridges along FR 13, walk southbound (compass east) from the Porter Lake trailhead for excellent views from these high spans.
Second, of historical and photographic interest, a blue-blazed side trail leads from the Langston House trailhead to the site of the Langston Homestead, where one of the earliest settlers of the Smith Creek community set up a homestead and farm. Follow the path behind the old home to discover a bamboo thicket along a stream and the probable location of an old spring house.
The Apalachicola National Forest is a popular destination for hunters, especially during the fall deer season, when hikers are restricted to camping at designated campsites, of which Porter Lake Recreation Area is the only one along this segment. The remainder of the year, you are welcome to random camp in any pleasant spot, although we strongly recommend against camping near the Langston Homestead based on reports from hikers who have done so.
Check hunt dates as a part of your trip planning, and always wear bright orange clothing during hunting seasons.
The easiest trailhead to access is the Langston House trailhead. From Sopchoppy, follow Smith Creek Rd for 14 miles north to reach the trailhead on the west side of the highway.
To start this hike from the Bradwell West trailhead, follow FR 13 east from Smith Creek Rd to FR 314. Follow FR 314 south until you see the Florida National Scenic Trail sign and small trailhead for Bradwell West. The clay road is narrow, with ditches on both sides, and is extremely slippery when wet.
To reach the Porter Lake trailhead, follow FR 13 west from Smith Creek Rd across the Ochlockonee River floodplain. Look for the entrance to the recreation area on the left after the last bridge.
With the loss of the Ochlockonee River segment of this hike due to land ownership and access issues at Smith Creek, there is no compelling reason to walk this piece of the Florida Trail other than to complete a thru-hike or section hike. Of greater interest are the walks you can take from the trailheads.