9.7 miles. Contrasting steephead ravines and sluggish creeks surrounded by titi and gum swamp with stretches of sod farm and pine plantation undergoing restoration to longleaf pine habitat, this section of the Florida Trail offers some unexpected challenges.
Hiking the Florida Trail through the central part of the Nokuse section means traversing a mix of steephead ravines, pine plantations being restored to longleaf habitat, and titi-gum swamps surrounding tannic waterways. Although not as consistently beautiful overall as the adjoining sections of Nokuse, the Forgotten Creek section offers up some unexpected immersions into tricky tangles of floodplain swamps, as well as some unforgettable beauty spots in steephead ravines and along perched boggy slopes where pitcher plants thrive.
For those seeking a short day hike with a great deal of beauty, a walk in from Seven Runs trailhead to the steephead along Boggy Head Creek, a round-trip of 3 miles, is very worthwhile, especially in springtime when the mountain laurel and Florida anise are in bloom. This is one of the easiest-to-reach botanical hot spots along the Florida Trail.
Ongoing restoration of pine plantations back to native longleaf pine habitat is the goal of Nokuse Plantation, a private conservancy created by local entrepreneur M.C. Davis. While this process is going on, you will encounter both recent clearcuts and new young forests, particularly through this section of the Florida Trail in Nokuse. Keep alert for flagging and blaze posts in these areas to follow the footpath.
Portions of this trail, including the Red Deer campsite, are on lands managed by Northwest Florida Water Management District, which permits limited seasonal hunting in Lafayette Creek WMA. Check hunt dates and locations.
For a day hike between trailheads, your total mileage will be 10.1 miles.
From SR 20 in Bruce, follow SR 81 north for 5.8 miles to the Seven Runs trailhead on the west side of the highway, just north of the bridge. This is your starting point.
The ending point is the Lafayette Creek trailhead. From the same major road junction in Bruce, continue west towards Freeport. Turn right on J.W. Hollingsworth Rd and follow it for 4.2 miles. It’s a narrow rural road that makes several 90-degree turns and crosses a one-lane bridge before ending at the Lafayette Creek trailhead.
From the Seven Runs trailhead, it’s necessary to walk a quarter mile south along SR 81 to reach the trail crossing. The reason is Seven Runs Creek and its extensive floodplain. Where the trail enters the woods, you’ll follow the edge of this floodplain for the next mile, sometimes adjoining it, sometimes on bluffs above it. Mountain laurel thrives on the bluffs.
After crossing Boggy Head Creek, the trail continues up the steephead ravine from which it flows, eventually climbing up and out onto the rolling hills of Nokuse. It’s here that active restoration is going on, cutting down stands of planted pine and replacing them with longleaf. The restoration area extends over the next four miles.
When you reach the Black Creek basin, it’s almost a surprise how the trail heads downhill to meet the creek. Look for pitcher plants on the slopes. Expect to hop through roots and puddles down in this floodplain. It’s the first of five floodplains central to the Forgotten Creek section. Segments of pine plantation and restoration areas are between each of the floodplains. After you cross Lafayette Creek, here far closer to its source than along the Lafayette Creek section to the north, the Forgotten Creek campsite is 7.4 miles into this hike. It’s perched on the hill above its namesake creek, which is also surrounded by a large gum swamp.
Once you cross Red Doe Creek, a pretty sand-bottomed waterway at the bottom of a steephead ravine, you’re done with the creek crossings. Climbing up out of that steephead, you reach level ground and an area that was clearcut and replanted with longleaf pines. Look for blaze posts to guide you over the next several miles. At the end of this section, a sign points out the side trail leading over to the Lafayette Creek trailhead.