123 miles Lake City, Palatka, & Jacksonville
As the Florida Trail curves its way north and west between Buckman Lock and the Suwannee River, it touches on centuries of Florida’s history.
Timeframes span from the British colonial period at Rice Creek and the boom of Civil War cannons through the pine forests at Olustee and the Civilian Conservation Corps efforts that built Gold Head Branch State Park.
Connecting an array of public lands, this section of the Florida Trail includes the smallest of Florida’s national forests, Osceola National Forest as well as walks on backroads.
There is also a very long stroll down a former rail line, now the Palatka-Lake Butler Trail. This part of the trail is an introduction to a decidedly rural pace of life.
Some of the region’s highlights include the botanical wonders of Rice Creek Conservation Area, the deep ravine at Etoniah Creek State Forest, and the rolling sandhills of Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park and Camp Blanding.
<< Ocala >> Suwannee
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Guthook Guides GPS-driven map-based guide to the Florida National Scenic Trail with thousands of waypoints from The Florida Trail Guide. Works offline. For iPhone and Android.
There are three trail shelters along this section, at Rice Creek, Etoniah Creek, and Osceola National Forest. All three are popular destinations for weekend backpackers.
Wear a bright orange shirt or vest during hunting seasons. Be aware that private hunting leases flank many portions of the Palatka-Lake Butler Trail corridor, so wearing bright colors there is smart.
Where the trail traverses Lake Butler Forest, the entire corridor is under a hunting lease and hunters may be present 24/7.
Check the FWC website for hunting season dates for Caravelle Ranch, Etoniah Creek, Camp Blanding, and Osceola National Forest.
During general gun (deer) season, backpackers must use designated campsites and recreation areas in the Osceola National Forest. Random camping is permitted at all other times.
A bear bag or bear canister is required for backpackers in the Osceola National Forest.
Fees are applicable for entry and camping at Gold Head Branch State Park.
Call ahead to reserve your space at the primitive campsite: 352-473-4701. Cabins and spaces in two developed campgrounds are also available.
You must sign in and out at the kiosks at Camp Blanding and carry your permit with you.
Prominent signs indicate whether the base is closed for training maneuvers. If it is, use the bike path south from Gold Head Branch State Park to bypass it.
Be cautious of loose dogs along the Palatka-Lake Butler Trail and along the roadwalk sections. A hiker was bit by a small dog near Carraway and required medical treatment.
Camping options are limited along the Palatka-Lake Butler Trail because of the narrowness of the corridor and the many swamps that flank it. Plan your stops ahead of time.
Expect mud and water while traversing the trail between SR 19 (north of Buckman Lock) and SR 100 (north of Rice Creek), both across the forest roads and on the footpath in the woods.
It’s certainly interesting to arrive at Olustee during their annual Civil War reenactment in mid-February. Learn more about it here.
Florida Trail, Buckman Lock to SR 20
7.4 miles. Crisscrossing former timberlands and blackwater cypress swamps, the Florida Trail north of Buckman Lock highlights conservation efforts taken on land previously used for agriculture.
Florida Trail, Etoniah West
On this 3.5-mile segment of the Florida Trail in Etoniah State Forest, you’ll encounter the rare Etonia rosemary and a number of sinkholes in the pine forests and scrub
Florida Trail, Gold Head Branch
Following the high ground above Devil’s Washbasin and Gold Head Ravine, the Florida Trail works its way across Gold Head Branch State Park on a scenic 3.5 mile route
Florida Trail, New River to Hampton
A surprisingly pleasant section of the Florida Trail that sees very few hikers, the most remote part of the Palatka-Lake Butler Trail stretches 9.3 miles between Hampton and the New River, southwest of Starke.
Florida Trail, Nice Wander Loop
In the Osceola National Forest, this short loop along the Florida Trail adjacent to Olustee Battlefield is one of the easiest places in the state to see red-cockaded woodpeckers.
Florida Trail, Ocean Pond to Turkey Run
An easy linear hike or round trip with a stop at the Florida Trail’s oldest shelter, this short segment of the Florida Trail in Osceola National Forest is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail.
Florida Trail, Rice Creek
Home of ancient cypress trees and the remains of a 1700s rice plantation, Rice Creek Conservation Area has a fascinating loop trail along the statewide Florida Trail
Florida Trail, Turkey Run to Deep Creek
In the northwest corner of Osceola National Forest, this 11.4 mile segment of the Florida Trail offers strong contrasts between pine flatwoods and bogs.
Lake Butler Trail
The northernmost paved segment of the Palatka-Lake Butler Trail, the Lake Butler Trail extends 4.5 miles from SR 237 to Union Depot
Palatka-Lake Butler Trail
With a corridor spanning nearly 50 miles through North Florida, the Palatka-Lake Butler State Trail provides paved trail for riders and an unpaved corridor used by the Florida Trail
National Forests in Florida Implement New Fees
Effective July 26, 2019, fees go up at many National Forest campgrounds, boat ramps, and recreation areas
The Rainbow Swamp
A perfect combination of cold weather, blue skies, and winter in a North Florida cypress swamp let us happen upon two instances of rainbow swamps on a hike in the Osecola Experimental Forest. Does that make a double rainbow?