With powdery white beaches, lush pine forests, broad open prairies, rugged riverside bluffs, and clear sand-bottomed rivers perfect for enjoying the outdoors, the region around Pensacola has a deep and rich history. A naturally deep harbor, Pensacola Bay first attracted Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León. But it was Don Tristán de Luna y Arellano who settled on its shores in 1559, founding the first European settlement in what is now the continental United States.
As the City of Five Flags, Pensacola has a rich cultural history, including Spanish, French, and British rule. Shots were fired at Fort Barrancas mere hours before the Civil War began. Three of Pensacola’s four historic forts remain accessible for exploration. Other important historic sites include Historic Pensacola Village, the Pensacola Lighthouse, and the Arcadia Mill site.
Florida’s Best Urban Parks
When you live in a tightly packed space, you need somewhere green as your go-to place nearby. These are our top picks for parks in Florida’s urban areas, chosen for their diversity of outdoor activities and/or their unique green spaces.
Exploring Trout Point in Pensacola
A visit to Trout Point Nature Trail at Pensacola NAS provides scenic panoramas of the Big Lagoon and Perdido Key from a boardwalk atop a coastal scrub ridge.
Two sides of the Yellow River
Hiking through the Yellow River Ravines section on the Panhandle Trace Hike was a new experience for us all, as it’s a newly opened segment of trail near Milton.
On the 2013 Panhandle Trace Hike
It was a delight this year – Peggy Grantham’s last as hike leader – to join the Panhandle Trace and get to know the far northern reaches of the Florida Trail. It’s been 11 years since I hiked through Blackwater River State Forest and while some things remain the same, others certainly have changed. I …
Where to Stay in Pensacola
On our visits to Pensacola, we’ve both camped and found hotels at reasonable prices to use as our base camp while we hiked. Our favorite camping spots include Blackwater River State Park, Fort Pickens, and the campgrounds of Blackwater River State Forest, especially Bear Lake for its accessibility to many trails.
Lodging around Pensacola ranges from top-name beach resorts (yes, there is a Margaritaville right along the Florida Trail) to B&Bs and small mom-and-pops as well as dozens of chain hotels. Paradise Inn is a great bargain in Pensacola Beach, right along the Florida Trail / Pensacola Beach Bike Path.
Adventures Unlimited in Milton makes a good base camp for outdoor adventures, with tent camping, cabins, and the School House Inn. At Coldwater Gardens, bring your tent and camp along the creek, check into an eco-friendly cabin, or grab one of their unique glamping tents for a fun weekend in the woods.
NEARBY: Eglin Air Force Base, Milton, Navarre | PART OF: Northwest Florida