Famous for its pitcher plant bogs, Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park protects over 4,200 acres along Florida’s border with Alabama.
Rare carnivorous plants are easily seen from the accessible Tarkiln Bayou Trail en route to its views of the bayou.
Leaving that accessible path not far from the trailhead, the far longer Perdido Bay Trail loops the peninsular portion of the park.
It leads through uplands edging the delicate bogs of the Perdido Pitcher Plant Prairie to reach the shores of Perdido Bay.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 5.8 mile loop
Trailhead: 30.372868, -87.402932
Address: 2401 Bauer Rd, Pensacola, FL 32506
Fees: $3 per vehicle
Restrooms: Vault toilet at trailhead
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM to sunset. Leashed dogs permitted.
From interstate 10 and US 29 in Pensacola, head south on US 29 S for 1.4, before turning right onto North W St. In 1.7 miles, turn right onto SR 296, continuing for 4.3 miles to N Blue Angel Parkway. Turn left, continuing for 7.7 miles, then make a right at SR 292. In 3 miles, turn left onto Bauer Rd, and the park entrance will be on the right in 1.7 miles.
From the parking area, follow the Tarkiln Bayou Trail, a paved sidewalk winding through a healthy flatwoods habitat featuring prominent pines amongst a sea of saw palmettos.
Reaching a trail intersection at a tenth of a mile, leave the paved trail, which continues through pitcher plant prairies to the bayou.
Follow the white blazes of the Perdido Bay Trail leading west.
Bracken ferns line the mowed pathway alongside orange milkwort, a variety of blueberry bushes, and fetterbush lyonia.
Rainfall collects in the lowest spots on the trail. Tiny red sundews proliferate in the swales, their deep red color contrasting against the dark soils underneath.
As the trail gradually climbs in elevation, the landscape becomes drier. Wet flatwoods become scrubbier.
Pines, titi, and galberry give way to oaks, woody goldenrod, and false rosemary.
At 1.3 miles, the loop begins. Continue straight at the trail intersection.
Within a quarter mile, a short side trail leads to the first glimpse of Perdido Bay, presenting a panoramic view across the waterway to Alabama on the opposite side.
Turkey oaks and gopher apples become more prominent as the trail meanders south and enters a sandhill community.
Once the trail nears water again, the bay is visible through the trees before the footpath starts to parallel the sandy shoreline.
Waves lap the beach alongside a hammock of oaks as salty breezes drift from the bay, rustling leaves and grasses.
At 2.6 miles, the trail turns inland towards a bench situated in a quiet spot under a tall pine.
Queen and monarch butterflies float across the path in search of nectar or host plants such as the pinewoods milkweed, a wildflower with striking blooms and foliage.
The trail continues through a mix of mesic flatwoods and sandhill before completing the loop at 4.5 miles.
From this intersection, turn right, retracing your hike along the white blazes for 1.3 miles to the trailhead.
Learn more about Tarkiln Bayou State Park and its trails
Conserving a vast swath of wetland habitats in low-lying areas along the Perdido River floodplain, Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park is home to four species of Sarracenia – pitcher plants – unique to the Gulf Coast.
Explore the Perdido Bay Trail
See our photos of Tarkiln Bayou State Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Explore a sweep of coastal forest and wetlands along one of Florida’s largest lagoons, with panoramas that stretch to Perdido Key and the Gulf of Mexico.
Showcasing the habitat diversity of Perdido Key at Johnson Beach, the accessible Perdido Key Discovery Trail is a gentle boardwalk over wetlands, forests, and dunes.
With sand as white as fresh fallen snow, Perdido Key State Park offers Florida’s westernmost public beach.