Designated the Florida Trail’s first Gateway Community more than a decade ago, White Springs is Florida’s original spa destination. In the late 1800s, more than a dozen hotels catered to visitors coming to soak in the waters of White Sulphur Springs.
This segment of the Florida Trail takes you from one side of town to the other, walking you right down the sidewalk past hiker services and historic homes.
But before it takes to downtown, it leads you through a pretty stretch of bluff forest along the river in the White Springs Tract of Swift Creek Conservation Area.
Length: 3.6 miles
Trailhead: 30.32531, -82.739273
Fees / Permits: none
Restroom: at the ballfield the trail passes
Land Manager: Suwannee River Water Management District
IMPORTANT: Camping is NOT permitted at the trailheads
Leashed dogs welcome. Through the White Springs Tract, the trail is often shared with off-road cyclists along the Bridge-to-Bridge Trail (the blue blazes) and can be busy on weekends.
Ticks can be a serious problem on any hike along the Suwannee River. Protect yourself by using bug spray and wearing light clothing.
Always check river levels before hiking the Florida Trail along the Suwannee River. At flood stage, the river can flow over the trail and make hiking dangerous.
From Interstate 10 exit 301 for Lake City, drive north on US 41 towards White Springs. Immediately after you cross the Suwannee River, make a left into the US 41 Wayside Park. Keep right through the one-way loop through the picnic area. Look for the trailhead entrance on the right, which leads into a parking corral with a large sign “White Springs Tract.”
Start your hike from the White Springs Tract trailhead by following the beaten path towards the river. It passes what looks like an old railroad building before settling onto a broad but canopied forest road up to a gate.
Turn right and the trail narrows. Continue past a low spot between the pines that might work for random camping before rising up a bluff.
A sharp turn on the other side of the bluff points the trail along the edge of an oxbow pond filled with cypresses.
Pass a side trail at 0.6 mile. It’s a 0.7-mile shortcut that cuts off the scenic loop and walk along the river bluffs ahead. Use it if you have any flooding to backtrack out of, as it heads more directly uphill to White Springs.
The bike path and Florida Trail diverge. The trail leads you to a scenic spot atop the river bluffs. As the forest gets denser the trails come back together.
For the next mile, the trail leads you on and off the bluffs, backing off into old river channels with gentler ground before leading to scenic spots again. Much of the time, the trail is a tunnel through the bluff forest.
At 2 miles, the Bridge-to-Bridge Trail goes straight ahead. Turn right to follow the Florida Trail away from the river. It meets the blue blazed trail at a T. Turn right.
The trail broadens to a double track. Within the next half mile, the shortcut trail comes in from the right. You see some interpretive signs near its junction.
Slipping around a bayhead swamp, the trail starts gaining elevation and emerges at the White Springs Tract Adams Memorial Circle Entrance, a small parking area at the end of a rough dirt track behind Riverside Cemetery, after 2.6 miles.
The orange blazes lead left on Adams Memorial Circle, an unpaved road. Walking along Riverside Cemetery under the large old oaks, you come up to the ballfields adjoining US 41. You’ll find restrooms and water there when they are unlocked.
The trail crosses US 41 at the blinker. Follow the blazes up the sidewalk past a variety of services, from Fat Belly’s – a barbecue restaurant that’s a hiker favorite – to the laundromat and the White Springs B&B. There is even a small park with a sheltered bench.
The post office, bank, and convenience store are on the opposite side of the street.
When you get to the intersection of SR 136 and US 41, cross over from the Adams Country Store to the big parking lot. This used to be a visitor center but has been closed for many years. Day use parking is permitted.
From here, the trail continues into its next section down the staircase adjoining the building, which leads down to the historic White Sulphur Springs spa building.
NORTHBOUND: Florida Trail, Stephen Foster to CR 25A
SOUTHBOUND: Florida Trail, Bell Springs to Little Shoals
Our slides from hiking this segment of the Florida Trail
Other nearby trails and parks in the area
Showcasing springs, sandy beaches, waterfalls, and haunting swamp forests where manatees gather, the 170-mile Suwannee River Wilderness Trail is a paddling trip of a lifetime
A boardwalk trail at Falling Creek Falls north of Lake City leads you to overlooks on a waterfall with a twelve-foot drop in a picturesque setting
The Woodpecker Trail at Big Shoals State Park provides a 7-mile wildlife-rich round trip ride, but watch out for those puddles! John plunges in anyway to get the story.