Combining rugged terrain and beauty in one package, it’s no wonder that the Suwannee section of the Florida Trail is well-loved by backpackers, especially in early spring when fragrant wild azaleas are in bloom.
Experience challenging terrain as you clamber in and out of valleys cut deeply by floodwaters and tributaries feeding the Suwannee River.
See some of the region’s geological wonders firsthand – deep sinkholes, hundreds of springs, stretches of rapids, and several serious-sized waterfalls.
The views are fabulous all along the river, and when water levels are low, white sand beaches invite a night’s stay.
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CAMPING AND LODGING
The Suwannee section is one of the few places on the Florida Trail that you can stay in cabins and B&Bs along the entire route. There is a B&B right along the trail in White Springs.
Cabins are available at Stephen Foster Folk Culture State Park in White Springs, Suwannee River State Park near Live Oak, and Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Suwannee Springs.
All three locations also have developed campgrounds with nice amenities and easy access to the Florida Trail. Gibson Park is another very nice riverfront campground north of Holton Creek.
This section also has ample designated campsites, all with benches and a fire ring. Some, like Coopers Bluff in Twin Rivers State Forest, also offer a little bit of shelter from the weather.
Hikers enjoy access to the Holton Creek River Camp as well. This is one of five camps built for paddlers using the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail.
It has hot showers, flush toilets, screened shelters, and a friendly camp host. And it’s free. Call ahead for a reservation: 1-800-868-9914
Random camping is also permitted along the Suwannee section on Water Management District land. Many hikers camp on the beaches along the river. You must avoid camping at or close to trailheads.
Dogs are welcome along this section of the trail. Although you wouldn’t expect it, there are alligators in the Suwannee River and its side channels, so keep your dog away from the water’s edge.
While the sounds of songbirds and woodpeckers echo through the forest, we haven’t seen a lot of wildlife on our hikes along the Suwannee. However, bears have been seen at Holton Creek. Protect your food by bear bagging.
Paralleling a river, you’d think that it would be easy to filter water. However, much of the time the trail is atop bluffs that are too steep or too sandy to get to river level for filtering.
You are better off filtering from tributaries running into the Suwannee River than the river itself.
Once you reach Twin Rivers State Forest, be cautious of river water. There are good clear springs at Suwannacoochee and Black Tract.
Upstream along the Withlacoochee River, the city of Valdosta is notorious for dumping sewage in the river, especially during hiking season.
Wear a bright orange shirt or vest during hunting seasons in Holton Creek WMA and Twin Rivers State Forest. Check the FWC website for hunting season dates.
Walking right down the middle of White Springs, it’s easy to grab resupply either at the Dollar General or any of several convenience stores. There is also a post office right along the trail.
It’s less than a mile off-trail to convenience stores at Suwannee Springs and Ellaville, as well.
PARKING & SHUTTLE
These are the safest places to leave a car during a backpacking trip, inside the park gates at the trailhead parking areas. Check at the ranger station for fees.
Shuttle services are available from American Canoe Adventures in White Springs.
You may also be able to book a shuttle through Suwannee Canoe Outpost at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park.
Using shuttle services makes it easy to place a car at one end of your hike and be shuttled to a far point to hike back to it.
It’s also possible to hike north along the river to White Springs, then rent a canoe and do a paddling trip south to Dowling Park to make a hike/paddle loop.
The trail has several short roadwalk sections that lead you through riverfront subdivisions. It also passes behind a handful of backyards west of White Springs.
If you get into an uncomfortable situation, move on and/or call law enforcement.
Important landmarks starting with mile 0 at Deep Creek trailhead in Osceola National Forest and ending at mile 74.8 at Winquepin Road. ** denotes potable water available nearby, not necessarily at trailhead.
0.0 – Deep Creek trailhead
8.0 – Bell Springs trailhead 0.1W
11.4 – Little Shoals trailhad
12.9 – US 41 Wayside / White Springs Tract trailhead
15.4 – Adams Memorial Circle trailhead
16.4 – White Springs** (former visitor center)
17.0 – Stephen Foster Gazebo trailhead** ($$)
22.8 – Swift Creek trailhead
29.8 – Camp Branch trailhead
36.2 – Suwannee Springs** 0.8W
45.9 – Holton River Camp**
50.0 – Holton Creek trailhead
51.4 – Gibson Park ** 0.2W
63.5 – Suwannee River State Park Annex, Ellaville **
70.0 – Black Tract trailhead
We have not written up all of the segments of the Florida Trail along the Suwannee River for our website yet, although details about all of them can be found in our guidebook and app.
Each of the segments below are described from the perspective of a day hiker, noting landmarks, water, and campsites along the way. Not all are aligned in a S > N perspective, but this is the order they are in northbound.
These trails connect to the Florida Trail along the Suwannee River but are not a part of the thru-trail mileage.
Despite pouring rain and thunderstorms, nearly 240 people showed up to tackle the Florida Trail along the Suwannee River for the annual I-Did-A-Hike, and it made for a memorable experience.