Tall slash pines dominate the windswept remnant of coastal scrub forest that St. George Island State Park protects along East Slough.
The entire park preserves natural habitats at the easternmost tip of this barrier island dividing the mouth of the Apalachicola River from the Gulf of Mexico.
The Gap Point Trail offers an opportunity to backpack or day hike through desert-like coastal scrub to the bay.
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Length: Up to 5 miles round-trip
Address: 1900 E Gulf Beach Dr, St. George Island
Fees: $6 per vehicle
Restroom: At the beach and campground
Land Manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM until sunset. Call ahead for primitive camping at Gap Point, $5 per night.
Although leashed dogs are welcome, taking pets along is not recommended. With soft sand underfoot, it’s not an easy hike, and it’s hot out there. It is also a very rare and fragile habitat.
Bring plenty of water for the journey, especially if you’re camping. Pack everything in and pack it out.
From Apalachicola, take US 98 east 5.2 miles across Apalachicola Bay to Eastpoint. Turn right on CR 300 (Bay Shore Rd) to loop south of Eastpoint and drive 5 miles, across the long causeway and bridge to St. George Island. On the island, turn left on E Gulf Beach Dr in front of the lighthouse. Follow this road for 4.2 miles through the beachside community. It enters the park gates and becomes the park road. The primary trailhead for the Gap Point Trail is at the campground, 4.5 miles past the ranger station. Use the parking area adjacent to the playground.
There are two approaches to the Gap Point Trail. En route to Sugar Hill, you pass an alternative route that adds 0.8 mile to this round-trip hike, the East Slough Trail.
Starting out as an accessible walkway on the bay side of the road, it reaches an observation deck where a sand path branches off it to round the slough.
This connector meets the Gap Point Trail at a T at 0.9 miles, which is a half mile into the hike if you start from the main trailhead.
That trailhead is next to the playground at Sugar Hill Camping Area. Start with a walk through a forest of slash pine.
Interpretive information explains the importance of the naval stores industry in Florida history, where coastal pines were tapped for turpentine.
The trail breaks into an open area of relict dunes. These are topped with oak scrub and rosemary scrub.
The desert-like landscape is oddly beautiful, a testament to the power of wind and water, where trees and shrubs are twisted and gnarled by the persistent coastal winds.
Winding around salt marshes and along the coastal strand, reach the primitive campsite at Gap Point after 2.5 miles.
Take the same route you hiked in to return to your vehicle. A round-trip from East Slough Beach is 5.8 miles, and a round-trip from Sugar Hill is 5 miles.
Learn more about St. George Island State Park
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