18.4 miles. One of the most famous sections of the Florida Trail, Econfina Creek was radically changed by Hurricane Michael in 2018.
Although the landscape has been altered by incredible forces of nature, it continues to be a spectacularly scenic destination for hiking and overnight backpacking.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 18.4 miles linear
Trailhead: 30.548933, -85.435780
Address: Scott Rd, Fountain
Land manager: Northwest Florida Water Management District
Leashed dogs welcome. Hunting is permitted seasonally, so check hunt dates in advance of your visit and wear bright orange during hunting seasons.
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 through NWFWMD.
From Interstate 10, head south on US 231 for 15.3 miles, and turn right onto Scott Rd. Follow Scott Rd for 2.6 miles, turning left at the sign for the trailhead. The parking area is located 0.2 miles down a dirt road.
The southern terminus is 10 miles west of Fountain along SR 20, on north side of the highway past the entrance to Pitt Spring. It is an obvious parking corral with kiosk in the middle of a barren plain.
Passing through a gap in the fence next to a kiosk at the south end of the parking lot, a narrow trail leads into a stand of young longleaf pines.
In 0.2 mile, turn right at a wooden sign assembled with four planks that indicate distances to upcoming trail bridges.
The pathway slowly descends into a hardwood forest, although shade is limited.
Much of the long-established canopy was blown over from Hurricane Michael, exposing the forest floor to generous sunlight.
This sudden change has produced an interesting landscape as numerous plants compete, covering the sandy soils at a shrub-like height.
Grape vines shroud large swaths of low-lying vegetation adjacent to young southern magnolias and spruce pine saplings.
Within a mile, the sound of water rushing over Stairstep Shoal can be heard through the trees.
The trail opens along the bank of Econfina Creek at a scenic spot overlooking this feature created by underwater limestone formations.
Continuing southwest, the trail traverses sandy bluffs alongside this tannic waterway, crossing a series of small bridges over seasonal tributaries.
In a mile, an impressive feat of engineering known as Two Penny Bridge allows passage over Econfina Creek.
Large, toppled trees crisscross the trail and creek, expertly cut by Florida Trail volunteers who spent countless hours clearing the path after the storm.
The creek flows swiftly to the left now, providing picturesque views of the rippling current, and a waterfall that cascades down the opposite shore.
At 2.5 miles, the trail crosses a tributary known as Branning Branch, using the sturdy Apple Bridge.
Mountain laurels sporadically border the trail, sporting striking white flowers accented with hints of scarlet that bloom in early spring.
The creek picks up pace as the geology changes, and surface limestone becomes more prevalent.
Nearly vertical walls of rock line the water’s edge at some points, forming an intriguing natural channel through the woods.
After crossing another large structure over the Econfina known as the Fender Bridge, the trail traces along the south side of the creek again.
In about three hundred feet, a small spring run of crystal-clear water flows underneath a sturdy bridge, providing an excellent source of cool water.
Venturing further south, the banks become taller, with the winding creek visible over steep edges.
The terrain becomes more rugged, and multiple bridges over creeks and ravines make trekking easier.
A few of the bluffs offer incredible panoramic views adjacent to flat areas suitable for camping.
Reaching the 8.5-mile mark, the trail passes a little campground and swimming area known as Devils Hole.
This sinkhole is spring-fed and can be blue under the right conditions, although debris and loss of tree cover due to the hurricane can make the water less inviting for a swim at times.
The next mile of trail passes through a few designated campgrounds that were radically changed by the storm.
Large swaths of trees were removed and mulched to mitigate the damage, leaving an exposed hilly landscape next to the creek. Camping is allowed in the spots by reserving in advance.
After crossing a road bridge over the creek and under powerlines, the trail delves back into dense forest.
The trail continues alongside the creek for the next mile before heading away from the water for the rest of the hike.
A tiny flow of clear-blue water rises from Tupelo Spring on the left, a remarkable water feature submerged near the shore.
Leaving the creek, the trail heads westward, climbing to the rim of tall sandy bluffs on a horseshoe curve in Econfina Creek.
After another climb, it dives steeply into a ravine to cross a clear spring run at Quail Farm Spring Run before an extremely steep ascent to the sandhills.
Follow the footpath through rolling hills, crossing Strickland Road before reaching Rattlesnake Spring Ravine.
Impressively steep by Florida standards, the sidehill path bites into the slope of the ravine, following the run until it opens to Rattlesnake Pond.
Skirting the pond’s edge, the trail ascends through pine forest, passing a blue-blazed side trail to Rattlesnake Pond Camp, a designated backpacking site.
Crossing a forest road, the landscape changes quickly as rolling hills overlook depressions filled with distant prairie ponds.
In 1.5 miles, the trail passes through Little Porter Pond Campsite, situated next to a scenic vista overlooking this expanse of water.
A switchback eases the quick climb in elevation from the pond up to the neighboring sandhills and pine plantations.
The Chair, a trail-famous landmark sits alongside the path in the middle of a stand of pines.
Although its origin is unknown, the odd chair with a makeshift seat of old branches offers a spot to rest or take a photo.
After crossing a few more forest roads, the trail slices across a hilly countryside dotted with longleaf pines.
This particularly scenic habitat is covered in golden grasses and showy sky-blue lupine that bloom in the spring.
The last quarter mile of trail cuts across a cleared area covered in longleaf pine saplings before following a forest road a short distance to the SR 20 trailhead.
The hike concludes at a small parking area next to a large kiosk with a Florida Trail sign.
FLORIDA TRAIL NORTHBOUND: SR 20 Roadwalk
FLORIDA TRAIL SOUTHBOUND: Chipola West Roadwalk
Learn more about the Florida Trail in the Eastern Panhandle
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
On the Econfina Nature Trail, discover rugged climbs, steep drop-offs, bubbling springs, and deep crevices into the earth as you walk between two major springs where you can swim.
Florida’s oldest state forest, Pine Log State Forest north of Panama City Beach offers a variety of loop trails as well as a segment of the statewide Florida Trail
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