Set in an undulating sandhill landscape with lakes formed inside ancient sinkholes, Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park centers around an incredible ravine dripping with ferns, from which the sand-bottomed Gold Head Branch is born.
It is notable as one of Florida’s earliest state parks, with structures still in use built during the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Resources for exploring the area
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Location: Keystone Heights
Address: 6239 SR 21, Keystone Heights
Fees: $4-5 per vehicle
Land Manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM until sunset daily. Leashed pets welcome.
From SR 100 in Keystone Heights, drive SR 21 north 6 miles to the state park entrance station.
About the Park
Nature trails let you climb down into the deep ravine and follow the stream’s course to Little Lake Johnson, where you can grab a canoe and paddle across the expanse.
Nearly four miles of the Florida Trail also pass through the park, with a primitive campsite along the way.
The main reason people come here is for family camping. There are two large campgrounds tucked into the woods, plus a variety of lakefront cabins, some classic ones from the CCC era and others modern and fully wheelchair accessible.
Fish, swim, and paddle across the lake on a summer’s day to keep cool.
Ridge and Ravine Trails
A beauty spot with extreme elevation changes, the ravine at Gold Head Branch State Park is best explored along the Ridge and Ravine Trails that guide you into and around the bottom of the ravine
Florida Trail, Gold Head Branch
Following the high ground above Devil’s Washbasin and Gold Head Ravine, the Florida Trail works its way across Gold Head Branch State Park on a scenic 3.5 mile route
Mike, mist, and the Cherry Cabin
On Tuesday evening after work, I took a trek up to Keystone Heights to meet up with my buddy Mike DeWitt, whose sole purpose in life these days is to hike the Florida Trail, absorb the essence of Florida, and blend it all into a blog and features for the Tampa Tribune. I’m envious of …
See our photos from Gold Head Branch State Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Palatka-Lake Butler Trail
With a corridor spanning nearly 50 miles through North Florida, the Palatka-Lake Butler State Trail provides paved trail for riders and an unpaved corridor used by the Florida Trail
Belmore State Forest
Crossing a landscape of remarkably resilient trees in a desert-like environment, the Satsuma Trail showcases the adaptability of certain species native to Florida.
Florida Trail, Etoniah West
On this 3.5-mile segment of the Florida Trail in Etoniah State Forest, you’ll encounter the rare Etonia rosemary and a number of sinkholes in the pine forests and scrub
Florida Trail, New River to Hampton
A surprisingly pleasant section of the Florida Trail that sees very few hikers, the most remote part of the Palatka-Lake Butler Trail stretches 9.3 miles between Hampton and the New River, southwest of Starke.