On a peninsula separating Blackwater Bay and East Bay, Garcon Point Preserve presents an open landscape of wind-swept prairies punctuated by oak hammocks and tall longleaf pines.The Western Gate Chapter of the Florida Trail Association constructed two trails to provide public access to this prime place to enjoy pitcher plant blooms in the spring, with two public access points along SR 281.
Location: south of Milton
Length: 3.1 mile trail system; 1.7 mile loop
Lat-Long: 30.459067, -87.092433
Type: loop and linear
Fees / Permits: none
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Bug factor: Moderate
You may get your feet wet on this hike.
Garcon Point is part of the Yellow River Marshes Water Management Area
Follow SR 281 or SR 191 south from Milton or Bagdad or I-10 to Garcon Point, just south of where the two highways meet. Both trailheads are on the left as you continue south. The southern trailhead is just north of the toll booth on the left.
Between the northern trailhead (just south of where Garcon Point Rd meets SR 281) and the southern trailhead (just north of the toll booth for the Garcon Point Bridge), the linear trail that connects the trailheads is the prime place to see white-topped pitcher plants in bloom. Here in the open prairie, they emerge from puddle-sized bogs and poke right through the footpath.
The loop trail provides fabulous views as well. To enjoy the best of both worlds, park at the southern trailhead, where a map illustrates the route and brochures with maps are usually available. Keep left at the first fork, then turn left at the second fork to walk north a few minutes on the linear trail to enjoy the pitcher plants along the footpath. Return back to the fork and turn left to continue along the loop, where you can see the expanse of the prairie dropping off into the bay. Glistening sundews in the footpath alert you to more pitcher plants within sight.
The trail begins curving to the right and becomes hummocky underfoot as you round a small marsh where the trees were killed by salt deposited during the Hurricane Dennis storm surge. Look carefully into the prairie grasses to see delicate grass-pinks, wild bachelors buttons, and more. After 1.4 miles you leave the prairie for the pine forest, where yaupon holly crowds the understory and can be seen blooming in the spring. You reach a trail junction; turn left to head back to the trailhead and complete your 1.7 mile loop.