8.9 miles. Slipping through pine flatwoods and sandhills to the east of Sopchoppy, this segment of the Florida Trail plays tag with a network of forest roads that criss-crosses the southern portion of the National Forest.
A surprisingly interesting and easily accessed segment of the Florida Trail, this span of footpath between Medart and the Sopchoppy River is mainly within a maze of forest roads in pine flatwoods and pine plantations managed for timber prior to a shift in priorities to more natural habitats within the Apalachicola National Forest. However, it showcases some spectacular swaths of pine flatwoods, and crosses a couple of picturesque creeks. If you love wildflowers, this is a must-hike piece of the Florida Trail for spring and fall blooms.
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. The remainder of the year, you are welcome to random camp in any pleasant spot. Check hunt dates as a part of your trip planning, and always wear bright orange clothing during hunting seasons.
For the Carraway Cutoff trailhead at the south end of this section, bear right at the Y intersection where US 319 diverges from US 98 west at Triangle Mart in Medart. After 1.1 miles, turn left onto Carraway Cutoff, a dirt road. Continue another quarter mile or so to the small trailhead on the left. It can handle 3 or 4 cars.
The Oak Park trailhead is 6.3 miles north of Sopchoppy. From downtown Sopchoppy, follow Railroad Avenue north. Entering the rural community of Oak Park, it becomes Oak Park Road, which turns to dirt (and becomes FR 365) as it enters the Apalachicola National Forest. Once you’re on the dirt road, turn left at FR 343. After the road crosses the Sopchoppy River, there is an enormous trailhead parking area on the right side of the road.
Starting from Carraway Cutoff, you parallel US 319 for a stretch before crossing it. Soon after, there are lengthy boardwalks with a balance-beam feel as the trail makes its way through pines and titi swamps to Lawhon Mill Road. Once you cross that road, the trail starts zigzagging its way along the forest roads, bridging them here and there with refreshing stretches of footpath under the pines.
There are two designated campsites along this section – Bent Sapling and Sopchoppy River – and both must be used by backpackers during general gun hunting season. Otherwise, you’re free to random camp, and there are some pretty spots along the way, some of which we highlight in the Florida Trail Guide app.
Deep within this section is a creek ford, which comes as somewhat of a surprise, and no matter the time of year, you can expect a little wading through deep puddles on some of the forest roads. West of the power transmission lines under which the GF&A bicycle path – now just in the planning stages – will eventually link Tallahassee with Sopchoppy, the trail zigzags through more pine flatwoods before entering two bayhead swamps where loblolly bay and pine trees tower well overhead.
Crossing Oak Park Road, the last-chance opportunity for access to resupply in Sopchoppy, the trail continues into a climax sandhill forest dominated by laurel oaks, coming to the Sopchoppy River campsite and a walk on the river bluffs before using the FR 343 bridge over the river to reach its finale at the Oak Park trailhead.
FLORIDA TRAIL NORTHBOUND: Sopchoppy River
FLORIDA TRAIL SOUTHBOUND:Purify Bay