The Chipola River in the Central Florida Panhandle is preserved through many conservation areas, perhaps the best-known of which is Florida Caverns State Park. South of Marianna, however, lies a conservation area that is less-visited but no less interesting: the Hinson Recreation Area, which has a beautiful loop trail that is maintained by the Florida Trail Association. The Hinson Trail presents numerous views of the gorgeous Chipola River, and additionally, there are other highlights that include several sinkholes, an impressive cave that is also a natural bridge, and an abandoned railbed. This hike occurred on Sunday, May 14th, 2017. My plan was to hike the Hinson Loop Trail counter-clockwise from the trailhead at the end of Gator Hole Lane.
Torreya State Park: Torreya Loop via Gregory House, Weeping Ridge Trail to Waterfall, and Rock Creek Loop (Torreya Challenge Trail), Bristol, Florida
Three thousand feet of elevation gain on a hike in the mountains is fairly common; three thousand feet of elevation gain on a hike in Florida is unheard of. Florida is well-known for its flat terrain, but exceptions do exist. Located on the east side of the Apalachicola River in the middle of nowhere, Torreya State Park - one of Florida's most interesting natural areas - features dozens of steephead ravines, limestone bluffs, sharp hills, and even a waterfall. In fact, it is safe to say that the park's hiking trails are the most rugged in Florida. Torreya State Park also boasts a collection of rare plants and animals, including the extremely rare Florida torreya tree, that are not typically found this far south. You'll get quite a workout on this hike, ascending dozens of hills and visiting many scenic mini-canyons carved out by small streams that feed the Apalachicola River. Also, you'll view the Apalachicola River from blufftop overlooks in several places. This hike occurred on Sunday, April 16th, 2017. My plan was to hike the Torreya Loop Trail counter-clockwise starting via the Gregory House east access trail. Along the way, I would make side trips to Weeping Ridge Falls and to Rock Bluff Overlook, and additionally, I would hike the Rock Creek Loop counter-clockwise.
Florida Caverns State Park: Beech-Magnolia Trail, Floodplain Trail, and Tunnel Cave, Marianna, Florida
Florida Caverns State Park might be Florida's most famous state park, as it is the only state park with a show tour cave. Nestled in some of Florida's taller hills near the Chipola River, the park has a lot to offer in terms of outdoor recreation besides a public cave tour. The park is home to two trail systems: a smaller nature trail system east of the Chipola River and a longer trail system west of the river, and most people who visit the park to be guided through the cave are not aware of the beauty that awaits a short distance away on the park's trails. Along the short nature trail system, you will pass several limestone bluffs with great views of the Chipola River floodplain, and you will even hike through Tunnel Cave on Florida's only trail that passes through a cave. This hike occurred on Monday, January 2nd, 2017. My plan was to hike counter-clockwise the outermost loop in Florida Caverns State Park's nature trail system, by first hiking the Beech-Magnolia Trail, followed by the Floodplain Trail and Tunnel Cave.
Located near the Apalachicola River, the Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve protects one of the most unique habitats in Florida. The preserve has a number of steep ravines with streams flowing through them, and in fact, the preserve's hiking trail provides some of the biggest elevation changes to be found in the state. En route to the Apalachicola River, this hike passes through lush ravines as well as sandhill uplands with some longleaf pines. The highlight of the hike is at Alum Bluff. Positioned 135 feet above the Apalachicola River, this interesting geological formation provides a grand view of the river northward. The hike also makes a short loop through more ravines near the river and past additional sandy bluffs. This hike occurred on Sunday, April 24, 2016. My plan was to hike the Eden of Garden Trail out and back, At the far end of the trail, I would hike the short river loop counter-clockwise.
Falling Waters State Park: Sinkhole Trail, Falling Water Falls, Wiregrass Trail, and Terrace Trail, Chipley, Florida
When you think Florida, wetlands and beaches come to mind. Perhaps springs, prairies, and ranches come to mind as well. However, would waterfalls come to mind? Probably not. Falling Waters State Park protects one of Florida's truly most unique features - a waterfall that lands into a sinkhole, where the stream disappears into the Florida Aquifer. The park's hiking trails showcase a couple other interesting features as well, including a set of sinkholes near the king of them all, a longleaf pine forest, a small lake, and a capped oil well location. This hike occurred on Sunday, January 3rd, 2016. My plan was to hike the Sinkhole Trail, visit Falling Water Falls, and then to hike the Wiregrass Trail and the Terrace Trail out and back.
Year 1: 540.0 Miles
Year 2: 552.3 Miles
Year 3: 518.4 Miles
Year 4: 468.7 Miles