While at the Panhandle Trace Hike we camped at Blackwater River State Park. We didn’t know in advance that this particular state park campground is designed for RVs, trailers, and other folks who don’t camp in tents. After months and months of camping in the woods, it was quite a shock to our way of […]
Florida Trail, Blackwater
45.5 miles Milton & Pensacola
An official connector, the Blackwater section takes a blue-blazed branch of the Florida Trail up to the Alabama State Line to link up with the Alabama Hiking Trail and the greater Eastern Continental Trail. Blackwater River State Forest is Florida’s largest state forest, encompassing 190,000 acres of pine flatwoods and clayhills along the scenic Blackwater River and its tributaries.
Popular for backpacking trips, this beautiful section of the trail walks you through Atlantic white cedar and longleaf pine forests, pitcher plant bogs and titi swamps. Once a major lumber and turpentine area, it’s now devoted to conservation and recreation, with a handful of private leases to farmers growing cotton and corn. North of Deaton Bridge, the Florida Trail utilizes parts of three hiking trails to head north: the Juniper Creek Trail, the Jackson Red Ground Trail, and the Wiregrass Trail. South of Deaton Bridge, the trail traverses the Hutton Unit and the Deer Lake Unit, both of which sport showy pitcher plant bogs as well as steephead ravines.
FLOODING can make hiking along the Blackwater River and its tributaries dangerous. Check National Weather Service flood gauge. There is no safe way to skirt around flooding at Deaton Bridge if it occurs. Do not enter flowing waters.
Wear a bright orange shirt or vest during hunting seasons in Blackwater River State Forest. Check the FWC website for hunting season dates.
No permits are required to hike in Blackwater River State Forest. Fees apply if you are camping at developed recreation areas such as Blackwater River State Park, Bear Lake Recreation Area, Krul Lake Recreation Area, Karick Lake Recreation Area, and Hurricane Lake Recreation Area.
Fees apply if you leave a car at Blackwater River State Park, which is the safest place to leave one during a backpacking trip, inside the park gates. Check at the ranger station for fees.
Frequent prescribed burns are used for forest management throughout Blackwater River State Forest. All times of year, expect at least a portion of your hike to be through recently burned forest. To avoid walking into an ongoing burn, call ahead to check on their schedule of planned burns along the Florida Trail, 850-957-5700
Water sources are scarce the farther north you go along this section. Plan where to get your next water.
- Florida Trail, Jackson Red Ground Trail- 16.6 miles. On the Jackson Red Ground Trail, the very first trail built in Blackwater River State Forest in the 1970s, the Florida Trail rises up from the red clay bluffs of Juniper Creek and enters rolling clayhills topped with longleaf pine forests.
- Florida Trail, Juniper Creek- 7.3 miles. Also known as the Juniper Creek Trail, the Florida Trail at Juniper Creek is a gorgeous place to explore, with its panorama at Red Rocks and botanical delights along and above the creek basin.
- Florida Trail, Wiregrass Trail- 12.3 miles. On the northernmost segment of the Florida Trail, connecting to the greater Eastern Continental Trail at the state line with Alabama, the Wiregrass Trail immerses you in longleaf pine forests northeast of Pensacola.
With two hikes behind us, we drove toward west to join the Panhandle Trace Hike. Knowing that after ten years of leading this event long-time Florida Trail Association activity leader Peggy Grantham would be retiring, Sandy wanted to participate this year and fill in a few new spots on the Florida Trail map. We arrived […]
16.6 miles. On the Jackson Red Ground Trail, the very first trail built in Blackwater River State Forest in the 1970s, the Florida Trail rises up from the red clay bluffs of Juniper Creek and enters rolling clayhills topped with longleaf pine forests.
7.3 miles. Also known as the Juniper Creek Trail, the Florida Trail at Juniper Creek is a gorgeous place to explore, with its panorama at Red Rocks and botanical delights along and above the creek basin.
12.3 miles. On the northernmost segment of the Florida Trail, connecting to the greater Eastern Continental Trail at the state line with Alabama, the Wiregrass Trail immerses you in longleaf pine forests northeast of Pensacola.
Day 3 of the Panhandle Trace Hike Yesterday, while being shuttled back to camp, we drove through an area that was still burning. The forest was black and charred, filled with thick smoke. As we drove past, we watched for small flames still brightly burning. Our first thought was why would the forest service do […]
With our switcheroo on the previous day – skipping the burned zone of the Jackson Trail to walk the Juniper Creek Trail back to the campground – Day Four of the Panhandle Trace Hike had us headed northbound for the first time on this trek. Peggy had hikers going in all directions and for different […]
Day Two of the Panhandle Trace Hike started off where we’d left the trail the day before, at Kennedy Bridge. After we dropped off our cars at the end point for the hike, McVay Road, Peggy, Helen, and other members of the Western Gate Chapter shuttled us to the starting point. We asked how long […]
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 […]
The northern terminus of the Florida Trail isn’t easy to get to. I was thankful we weren’t driving one of our vehicles – especially Primrose – and even more thankful that Helen, from the Western Gate Chapter of the Florida Trail Association, was willing to ferry us in her car down this terribly rutted and […]