Protecting over 13,700 acres of rare habitats alongside the Apalachicola River, Torreya State Park is a unique destination in the Florida Panhandle.
Two loop trails showcase the variety of landscapes within the park, with the Torreya Challenge Loop having the highest elevation changes.
The Challenge Loop can be accessed from approach trails for a day hike or added to the Rock Creek Loop for an overnight backpacking trip.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 7 mile loop
Trailhead: 30.559320, -84.949841
Address: 2576 NW Torreya Park Rd, Bristol
Fees: $3 per vehicle
Restrooms: At the picnic area on the main drive
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM to sunset. Leashed pets welcome. Pay your entrance fee at the iron ranger as you enter the park.
From Exit 166 on Interstate 10, head south on Flat Creek Rd for 3.2 mile, and turn right onto Audie Clark Rd. In 1.1 mile, turn right onto Sycamore Rd and continue for 10.2 miles. Turn right onto NW Torreya Park Rd and follow it 2.6 miles to the park entrance. The trailhead is immediately on the left after passing through the main gate.
Starting at the junction of the connector trail and Rock Creek Loop, head east to the Torreya Challenge Loop.
Follow blue blazes along the half-mile approach trail as it crosses over two ridges that seem to foreshadow the terrain to come.
At the first orange blaze, turn right to begin a counterclockwise loop on the Challenge Trail.
The path crosses a small stream before ascending over a hilly landscape of sweetgum, magnolia, hickory, and spruce pines.
As the elevation changes increase, a greater variety of flora presents itself as well. Florida anise flourishes on the slopes, covered with red blossoms in the springtime.
Coral bean stalks sprout from the understory with flowers similar in color but much different in shape.
The trail follows a steady pattern of climbs and dips into steep ravines, many of which have a steady-flowing creek at the bottom.
Bridges span these little waterways, in various stages of repair. Some are sturdy, while others may be better to avoid, chancing wet feet instead.
After a particularly steep ascent to a sort of plateau, the trail follows an old forest road for a bit, passing a bench along the way.
Reaching an edge of this formation, the trail narrows again and begins a quick descent down the side of a ravine, crossing one of the larger tributaries to Rock Creek at the base.
Across the creek, a steady, tough climb begins up to the next plateau. Although it is not the steepest grade, it is one of the longest.
At the top, a sign for the Challenge Campsite is a welcome sight, especially if staying the night.
The Torreya Challenge Backpack Camp is a little over a quarter-mile east of the trail.
It is an exceptional destination for an overnight stay, nestled under a dense canopy on the edge of a bluff. Reservations for this campsite can be in advance online.
Heading north from the campsite side trail, the path drops down a gradual slope, turning left before reaching the bottom.
The trail meanders through tall trees while following a ridge, and mountain laurels bloom alongside the path in early spring.
A makeshift walkway crosses over a shallow creek at the end of the ridge before the trail weaves through a soggy area lined with tall brambles of blackberries.
After crossing a sturdy bridge, the trail begins a slow ascent, following a forest road for a short distance.
Leaving the forest road, the grade increases substantially, requiring a steep though quick climb to the top.
A panoramic view awaits atop of this clay incline, providing a spectacular sight and a good resting spot.
At this point, the remainder of the Torreya Challenge Loop is mostly downhill.
For the next mile, the trail is generally under a shady canopy as it descends to a well-constructed bridge over Rock Creek.
Shortly after crossing the bridge, the loop ends at the blue-blazed connector trail.
Learn more about Torreya State Park
Perched on bluffs above the Apalachicola River, Torreya State Park is one of Florida’s first state parks, developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s
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