17.7 miles. Surprisingly rugged and delightfully diverse, the hike along Econfina Creek was one of the top sections of the Florida Trail for scenic beauty. Scrambling through ravines, stepping carefully along sidehill, and looking down over sheer bluffs along this spring-fed creek, it was almost a marvel that you were hiking in Florida.
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Until Hurricane Michael hit in October 2018, this was the one section of the Florida Trail that we’d recommend over all others for an overnight backpacking trip. But the devastating forces of wind, rain, and erosion simply pounded the region flat.
There is a concentrated diversity of landscapes here, ranging from high bluffs to low swamps, and more sidehill than any other section of the Florida Trail except perhaps the Suwannee River.
With so many tributaries, there were also many bog bridges and boardwalks. Fortunately, the long span bridges crossing the creek survived the hurricane. The campsites did not.
As of February 2020, only Rattlesnake Lake campsite is open to backpackers.
Hunting is permitted in Econfina Creek 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 Econfina Creek, so before driving here to hike this section, always consult the flood gauge for this area.
Camping is free, but certain designated campsites must be reserved in advance. You can do so on the Northwest Florida Water Management District website.
From US 231 north of Fountain, follow Scott Road west for 2 miles. Keep right at the fork. Watch for the narrow trailhead access road on the left at a Water Management District sign. Follow the road back to the parking area.
The southern terminus is 10 miles west of Fountain along SR 20, on north side of the highway past the entrance to Pitt Spring. Once hidden in a pine forest, it’s now an obvious parking corral with kiosk in the middle of a barren plain.
Before Hurricane Michael, what we liked about this section of the Florida Trail was that it was fabulous for trail diversity. It made a good training hike for the Appalachian Trail with its many ups and downs, both along the creek and in the sandhills beyond. One thing it will still offer in the future, no matter how long it takes the forests to heal? Topography.
One of the surprising things about this section is that the creek itself, while a highlight, is rarely a viable water source because of the steep bluffs and dropoffs. We filtered our water from tributaries that flowed under footbridges into the creek, from springs and spring runs, and the larger ponds.
When the trail is re-established, we look forward to hiking it again. While the forest will never again look the same, at least the colorful springs and other geologic features still remain.
FLORIDA TRAIL NORTHBOUND: SR 20 Roadwalk
FLORIDA TRAIL SOUTHBOUND: Chipola West Roadwalk