Wakulla Springs is well-known for being one of the world’s largest springs, and the only Florida State Park with a lodge.
Fewer people are aware that ancient trees circle the floodplain of the spring. That’s where this trail shines.
Created by Friends of Wakulla Springs volunteers, the Wakulla Springs Trail provides up to 10 miles of hiking to showcase the habitats along the river’s floodplain.
A bridge over Sally Ward Spring Run provides access to the uplands along the far side of the Wakulla River, where ancient trees tower over the hardwood forest.
It’s a round-trip trek. Sample a little, or head out for a long day hike: the choice is yours!
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Length: Up to 12 miles round-trip
Trailhead: 30.233708, -84.302148
Address: 465 Wakulla Park Dr, Wakulla Springs FL 32327
Fees: $6 per vehicle state park entrance fee
Restroom: at the lodge
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM to sundown. Leashed dogs welcome. Do not take them into the lodge, the swimming area, or on tour boats.
Ticks are a known problem in this area. Use full precautions against tick bites and check yourself thoroughly after hiking.
From Tallahassee, follow US 319 / SR 61 south of Capital Circle. Turn left to stay on SR 61 as it heads south into Wakulla County. At SR 267, turn left. The park entrance is on your right.
From US 98, follow CR 365 (from the west) or SR 267 (from the east) to SR 267 west of CR 363. The park entrance is on the left.
Follow the park road back to Wakulla Lodge. The trailhead kiosk is at the lodge parking lot.
The trail begins as a boardwalk connecting two karst features – depressions in the limestone bedrock known as sinkholes.
Interpretive displays explain how water moves through karst to emerge as Wakulla Springs. Benches provide overlooks into the sinkholes.
Leaving the boardwalk, follow the blue blazes down a nicely graded footpath beneath loblolly pines to cross the park road.
Along the way, an Eagle Scout project has provided unique interpretive displays about the trees on the trail.
Coming to a former junction in the trail system (now blocked off from use) the trail swings to the right. You’re following a portion of the old Sally Ward Trail.
Watch for the twists and turns as you walk beneath hickory, sparkleberry, and laurel oak.
In spring, the eastern redbud’s colorful blooms stand out in the otherwise sparse canopy.
Enormous southern magnolias add their deep greens high above, and you may spot a few violets underfoot.
By 0.4 mile, the elevation drops as you near the floodplain forest that surrounds the Wakulla Springs basin.
The forest thickens as you reach a boardwalk. At the end of the boardwalk, the trail leads back up into a forest of oaks, southern magnolia, loblolly pine, and eastern redbud.
You’ll soon reach the spot where the new trail makes a sharp right, away from the blocked-off Sally Ward Trail.
Follow the new trail through more hardwoods, and up and over a small bluff.
If you peer closely at the ground to your right, you’ll see that it’s made up of middens dense with snail shells, much like those found along the St. Johns River.
At 0.5 mile, cross the bridge over crystal-clear Sally Ward Spring Run. The trail continues as a boardwalk over the broad floodplain of the spring run.
Due to the nature of karst, heavy rains in Tallahassee can cause these springs to gush.
In this part of the forest, the cypresses are huge. The stumps of even larger cypresses speak to an era long past, before loggers found these ancient trees and floated them away.
At the end of the boardwalk, note the features of this hardwood forest: the open understory, the tall canopy, the deep shade.
This is a spectacular example of a hardwood forest in North Florida, with a nice variety of trees and surface limestone breaking through the forest floor.
Downhill and to your right is denser forest – it’s closer to the spring run, transitioning into the floodplain, the edge of which is defined by the big cypress trees.
Stepping past a large fallen tree, note the karst depression to the left – perhaps the beginning of a sinkhole, or a cavern’s entrance, blocked by leaves and rocks. Either way, it’s another place for rain to drain into the spring basin.
You’ll soon reach the Mile 1 marker. From here, the linear portion of the trail heads out to Mile 4, a well-worn footpath beneath the tree canopy.
A two-mile loop through pine flatwoods brings you back around to that marker for the return trip, where you’ll retrace your steps on this well-marked trail.
See our photos of the Wakulla Springs Trail
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Stretching across 70,000 acres in Florida’s Big Bend, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge protects one of Florida’s longest wild shorelines, more than 43 miles in three counties.
Using the Tallahassee-St Marks Trail, the Coastal Trail, and the Florida Trail, ride a scenic 22-mile loop between the St. Marks and Wakulla River floodplains along the Big Bend
In the Apalachicola National Forest just south of Tallahassee, Leon Sinks Geological Area offers a delightful introduction to the wonders of karst topography on its trails