Starting at the canoe launch opposite the Big Shoals Trail, the Long Branch Trail heads upriver to follow a mellow Suwannee River—broad and shaded by overhanging tupelo trees. It’s a relaxed hike through scrubby flatwoods and deeply shaded hardwood forests, where sassafras peeks out from the undergrowth and southern magnolia rustles in the breeze. Although the 2.4-mile loop is shared with bicycles, it makes for a pleasant walk.
Location: White Springs
Length: 2.4 miles
Lat-Long: 30.352167, -82.687617
Type: round-trip or loop
Fees / Permits: state park entrance fee
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Bug factor: low to moderate
Big Shoals State Park is open from 8 AM to dusk daily, and provides restrooms and picnic tables at the trailhead. Avoid walking the forest roads during hunting season (dates posted at the trailhead kiosk)—stick to the yellow-blazed Big Shoals Trail and the Long Branch Trail, which also departs from this trailhead.
From downtown White Springs, follow US 41 south until you see the Big Shoals sign. Turn north onto CR 135. Drive past the Little Shoals entrance to Big Shoals Public Lands, and continue another 2.3 miles to SE 94th Street. Follow this road 1.7 miles to where it ends at the parking lot.
Starting at the canoe launch, the Long Branch Trail showcases the placid side of the Suwannee River in its first mile. Blazed in blue, it leads you straight into a hardwood hammock of sweetgum and hickory, cypresses and azaleas, with roots breaking up the footpath.
Rising up to a view of the river, the trail then parallels the river upstream just behind the bluff, winding back and forth across the bluffs. At 0.5 mile, a short spur trail leads to the river’s edge, where you can walk down to a sandy beach under a cypress tree and admire the tranquil scene. As you near the mile mark, a spur trail to the right leads to your last glimpse of the river before the trail turns inland.
River bluffs give way to a a deciduous bottomland forest, a floodplain of hickory, sweetgum, and elm, cypress and maple, showing off a parade of crimson, purple, and gold in the late fall. A seasonal creek flows through the forest. You walk beneath loblolly pines that stand like grand columns. Keep alert for a live oak that’s a natural, live sculpture, the trunk strangely warped and gnarled as if the wood were carved into fantastic shapes.
At the T intersection at 1.8 miles, turn right. The trail continues through a farmer’s field reclaimed by forest, then drops into the bottomlands again, the woods lush around you. The trail twists and turns, so be mindful of the blazing. At a T at a firebreak, turn left, then left at the next T onto an old forest road. The trail ends at the parking lot loop road; walk back to the left to return to the restroom area.