14.3 miles. Bordered by the tangled floodplain forests of the Yellow River to the north, the 14.3-mile Weaver Creek section of the Florida Trail traverses the western side of Eglin Air Force Base on high, dry sandhills topped with longleaf pine forest and planted pine.
Higher and drier than the eastern side of Eglin Air Force Base, the Weaver Creek section features rolling clayhills topped with longleaf pine, and a handful of stream drainages. Of these, the scenic beauty is concentrated at the segment’s namesake of Weaver Creek, and at the steephead around Dean Creek, where colorful Gulf Coast pitcher plants sport purple blossoms in springtime.
All hikers must have a permit in advance of arriving at Eglin Air Force Base. Eglin now has a FREE permit for thru-hikers. Day hikers and section hikers not continuing at least 50 miles beyond Eglin must obtain the standard $20 annual Outdoor Recreation permit. Obtain your permit online.
Although the traverse of this section is easy, getting access to it is tough. In general, the Weaver Creek section is closed to public access during the week and only open on weekends. Before your hike, call 850-882-4164 or check the Public Access Map online to ensure the base is open: FPCON DELTA status means the base is closed to public access.
Eglin is an active military installation with ongoing training maneuvers. Aircraft may fly very low over the tree canopy and you may hear bombing. Stay in the trail corridor and use established campsites. If you notice any sort of ordinance – rocket, bomb, hand grenade – do not approach it but note the location and call Eglin Security Forces at 850-882-2502 to report it.
Check hunt dates as a part of your trip planning, and always wear bright orange clothing during hunting seasons.
From Interstate 10 Exit 31, follow SR 87 south to the Yellow River parking area, just south of the Yellow River bridge [30.569548, -86.923714]. From there, it’s necessary to cross busy four-laned SR 87 and follow the fenceline for 0.2 mile towards Navarre until you get to the gate in the fence to enter this section. It’s a steep climb down from the highway to the gate The trailhead at the other end of this section is off SR 87 at Holley at the East Bay River [30.441963, -86.866837].
Primarily paralleling SR 87, this section of the Florida Trail leads you through oak hammocks and pine forests in the rolling clayhills of Eglin, while occasionally dipping into titi and gum swamps bridged with long boardwalks. It is a hilly hike on the north end, especially. Wildflowers like sandhill wireweed and lupine add dashes of color to the wiregrass understory.
The blue-blazed trail at 2.2 miles leads west (trail east) to Buck Pond, a designated camping area. We discovered that although this has long been a car camping destination, there is no longer any signage along SR 87 to guide people here. The pond has also been drained, so it’s just a stream.
Climbing around a steephead, the trail continues through more rolling hills topped with sand pine and oaks. The ground cover of deer moss becomes a sea of seafoam in places. Several well-established tracks and dirt roads cross this portion leading up to the Weaver Creek steephead, where you’ll find a trail junction. To explore this fascinating area, stay on the orange blazes.
The trail plunges down to Weaver Creek, your best water source along this part of the trail, before making a very steep climb up and along the rim of the steephead.
From the top you can see ridges in the distance. Looping back around to the blue blaze, the trail crosses a paved road, RR 213. This is a popular roadside access point for hikers, used by many for access to the Weaver Steephead Loop, a scenic 1-mile walk.
The next two miles of hiking are through sand pine forests with lots of deer moss on the forest floor. When you reach the gate at SR 87, untwist the wire and fasten it after you exit.
The trail resumes at a similar gate on the opposite side of the highway, with a small parking area just south of that entrance. After leading you around another steephead, it crosses a powerline and meanders through mature clayhill habitat before descending into a vast titi and gum swamp on the way to Dean Creek.
Dean Creek is a beauty spot with easy access for filtering water. Once you cross it, the trail climbs right back up into rolling clayhills.
The remainder of the hike continues through clayhill habitat in a tight corridor between the powerlines and a residential area in Holley. The Dean Creek campsite has ample flat space for a large group.
After the trail crosses River Road and continues around a large quarry, it finally exits the base at the Nelda Road (RR 255) gate. Follow River Road out to SR 87, which you cross one more time to reach the East Bay trailhead.
NORTHBOUND: Florida Trail, Navarre Roadwalk
SOUTHBOUND: Florida Trail, Yellow River Roadwalk