Topsail Hill Preserve State Park: Turpentine Trail, Deer Track Trail, Morris Lake Trail, and Old Growth Trail, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida
The coastal Florida Panhandle is well-known for its outstanding beaches. You have probably at least heard names such as Fort Walton Beach, Destin, and Panama City Beach. What most people don't know though is that not all of the beaches between Pensacola and Panama City are developed. A number of state parks, such as Topsail Hill State Park and St. Andrews State Park, are placed along the coast here to protect the fragile ecosystems that are found near the ocean. This part of Florida's coastline is home to fifteen coastal dune lakes - a very rare ecosystem that is found only in four other places: Oregon, Australia, Madagascar, and New Zealand. These lakes are one of the reasons that there is so much conserved land along the shoreline in Walton County. Out of the variety of state parks here, Topsail Hill State Park is the king of them all. This large park has several hiking trails that visit two dune lakes, a remote beach, and a landscape spotted with dunes of all shapes and sizes. This hike occurred on Tuesday, April 19, 2016. My plan was first to follow the paved Beach Tram Path to the Campbell Lake Bike Path, This is where I would take the south side of the Turpentine Trail past a view of Lake Campbell and then to the Deer Track Trail. I would follow the Deer Track Trail's south side to the Morris Lake Trail. After making a side trip to the beach, I would hike the Morris Lake Trail's loop counter-clockwise. Then, I would hike the Old Growth Trail, before hiking the Deer Track Trail's north side. I would finish the hike by following the north side of the Turpentine Trail.
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