The gateway to the Terry L. Rhodes Trail System at the Bear Creek Tract of Lake Talquin State Forest, the Living Forest Trail teaches visitors about Florida forests.
It’s part of the Bear Creek Educational Forest, where students come to learn about the outdoors in a natural setting around the education center.
It’s also the access trail for two longer hikes at Bear Creek, the Ravine Trail and the Bear Creek Trail.
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Length: 0.8 mile round-trip
Trailhead: 30.477918, -84.626358
Address: 8125 Pat Thomas Pkwy, Quincy, FL 32351
Fees: $2 per person day use fee
Restroom: at the educational center
Land manager: Florida Forestry Service
Open sunrise to sunset. Be sure to exit before the gate closes.
Leashed dogs welcome unless otherwise posted. No bicycles allowed.
Although the trail is paved, it has steep grades and some rough spots in places. Self-propelled wheelchair users should use caution.
From Interstate 10 exit 181, Quincy, drive south 4.5 miles on SR 267 to the entrance of the Bear Creek Tract on the left.
From Tallahassee via SR 20, pass the Bloxham Cutoff near the Jackson Bluff Dam and continue to where SR 267 heads north. Turn right and drive north 7.5 miles, passing through Wetumpka, to the Bear Creek Educational Forest entrance on the right.
From the parking area, walk up to the the Bear Creek Environmental Center, a rather large and showy environmental education center.
It has a demonstration garden and restrooms out front. The Living Forest Trail begins on the far side of the building.
This asphalt path narrows down and leads into a dense bluff forest along faded orange blazes. American holly, oaks, and sparkleberry are throughout the forest.
Along the Living Forest Trail are interpretive “Talking Trees.” Each post contains a recorded message in lieu of (or in addition to) the traditional interpretive signs.
Press “Push” at the first one to learn the detailed backstory about this forest. Its existence is a feat inspired by Aldo Leopold.
It’s history includes Prince Murat, a cousin of Napoleon Bonaparte. Stop and listen to the ranger – or rather, the tree – tell the tale.
When the leaves are off the trees, you can see the deep ravine down at the bottom of the hill, where the natural-surface hiking trails start.
As you walk along, pause and learn more about the flora and fauna at the speaker boxes along the route.
To assist with the grade, the trail makes a long switchback on its descent as it snakes down to the bottom of the ravine.
At the Southern magnolia “Talking Tree,” a footpath leads off the paved trail for a more direct route to an observation deck above the reservoir within the ravine.
The Living Forest Trail takes a more gentle slope to end up at the same spot. This is the turnaround point for the accessible trail, at 0.4 mile.
The Ravine Trail and Bear Creek Trail begin here. Unless you’re hiking them as well, return up the switchbacks to the environmental center after enjoying the view from the observation deck.
On the Trail Map download below, the dotted green line is the Living Forest Trail.
See our photos of the Terry L. Rhodes Trail System
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
A popular recreation area in the Apalachicola National Forest west of Tallahassee, Silver Lake is looped by a nature trail that provides scenic views of the lake