Located along Florida's Gulf Coast, Tate's Hell State Forest is one of Florida's largest state forests - and one of its wildest. Tate's Hell State Forest is home to several dwarf cypress swamps, one of the most bizarre sights to be seen in Florida. On this short boardwalk, you will get a chance to see one of the largest dwarf cypress swamps in Tate's Hell, where none of the cypress trees are taller than 15 feet, and some are over 300 years old. This hike occurred on Tuesday, December 29th, 2015. My plan was to follow the Ralph G. Kendrick Dwarf Cypress Boardwalk out and back to an observation area overlooking the dwarf cypress swamp.
R/T Length of Trail: 0.3 Miles
Duration of Hike: 0:30 (allow time for viewing the swamp)
Type of Hike: Out and back
Difficulty Rating: 1 out of 10
Total Elevation Gain: Minimal
Pros: This excellent boardwalk provides a great dry vantage point for the otherwise wet dwarf cypress swamp
Points of Interest: The observation areas of the dwarf cypress swamp
Trail Blaze Color(s): None
Best Season(s) to Hike: Year-round
Beginning Point: Dwarf Cypress Boardwalk Trailhead in Tate's Hell State Forest
Directions: From Eastpoint, FL: Follow FL State Route 65 North for 5.6 miles.Then, turn right onto dirt North Road and enter Tate's Hell State Forest. In 1.8 miles, turn right onto Dry Bridge Road, also dirt. Continue on Dry Bridge Road for 2.7 miles. At a sign for the Ralph G. Kendrick Dwarf Cypress Boardwalk, turn right onto another unnamed dirt road. Reach the parking are at a dead-end in another 0.2 miles. It is important to know the following information: while the roads to the trailhead are in good shape and may be only slightly muddy after significant rainfall, other lesser-used roads throughout the forest are not in such good shape. In fact, I highly recommend consulting the official road map of the forest before venturing onto roads deeper into the forest. If you end up on a road that is not listed on the official map, you may be able to drive out, but you're most likely going to be facing mud, areas of fairly deep water, and sugar sand. If you're on a secondary road, marked as a dashed line on the map, you may still face some of these obstacles. If you're on a main road, marked by an unbroken line on the map, then you shouldn't run into any issues. Venture onto the roads beyond the trailhead at your own risk.
A map and some other information regarding this hike can be viewed here.
My biggest adventure on this day probably was not doing this short hike, but spending 2 hours afterwards in a maze of forgotten, half-passable forest roads in the eastern section of Tate's Hell State Forest. That said, I was thrilled to see the unique sight of the dwarf cypress swamp, and I suggest that if you're in the area, you should take the time to stop. You'll only need to spend a minimum of half an hour here. Begin by taking the boardwalk from the end of the short spur road that leads to this trailhead. You'll have to brave the fierce mosquitoes at the trailhead - in few places have I encountered such clouds of mosquitoes, especially on a late December day. Luckily, you will leave the mosquitoes as you gain elevation on the boardwalk.
The first observation area will be at a fork in the boardwalk, located to your right. This observation area gives an up-close view of some of these ancient cypress trees. This isn't the best observation area though. Continue on the main boardwalk and rise to a sheltered observation deck in the middle of the dwarf cypress swamp, high above this weird field. Views across the dwarf cypress swamp stretch in every direction. Stay here for a while and admire the spectacle. Then, return to the trailhead for a roundtrip hike of 0.3 miles.
If this boardwalk is too short for you, consider visiting Fort Gadsden in nearby Apalachicola National Forest.
Fort Gadsden Nature Trail in Apalachicola National Forest
Mark Oleg Ozboyd
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