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Hiking on the Forgotten Coast

Hiking on the Forgotten CoastWith hundreds of thousands of protected acres to explore, hiking opportunities abound in Franklin County, Florida.

Tate’s Hell State Forest
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The High Bluff Coastal Hiking Trail winds six miles through the forest, often paralleling St. George Sound.  Informative visitor education exhibits are located along the trail and cover fire, coastal scrub ecosystems and the turpentine industry.  Of special note, hikers can see the natural phenomenon of the dwarf cypress trees, which grow no more than 15 feet tall even though they are 150 years old, and are unique to the area. Among the most unusual plants in the forest are the native pitcher plants. Tate’s Hell also allows off-highway vehicle (OHV) use in designated areas only.  OHV use requires an OHV decal that can be obtained from the state forest office.

The Apalachicola National Forest is the largest forest in Florida with more than 570,000 acres. The forest features nearly 70 miles of hiking as part of the Florida National Scenic Trail. There you’ll see wildflowers, sinkholes, open prairies and scenic creeks and lakes.

St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge
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A 12,350-acre undeveloped barrier island, located 22 miles offshore from Apalachicola.  Here, hikers can explore the island’s 14 miles of beaches and 80 miles of sand roads, often without seeing a manmade structure or even another person.  Because of its relative isolation, the island is particularly popular with photographers and shell collectors. Access is by boat or ferry only.

Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park
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St. George Island State Park boasts nine miles of undeveloped beaches and high dunes, surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico and Apalachicola Bay. Occupying nearly 2,000 acres, park terrain is a combination of sandy coves, salt marshes, shady pines and oak forest.  Inside the state park, a two-mile marked trail along the bayside is especially popular among birders, and a series of trails and boardwalks throughout the park provides many wildlife sighting opportunities.  Raccoons, ghost crabs and loggerhead turtles share the St. George stage with birds during different seasons of the year.

Bald Point State Park
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At the easternmost end of the county Located on Alligator Point where Ochlockonee Bay meets Apalachee Bay is Bald Point State Park.  Bald Point’s coastal marshes, pine flatwoods and oak thickets foster a diversity of biological communities that make the park a popular destination for hikers.   A newly constructed observation boardwalk overlooks prime areas for viewing rare Florida black bears, which occasionally swim at the beach.  This area also is popular for windsurfing, hiking, canoeing, kayaking and bird watching.

Not sure where to start? Begin with a trained green guide who can give you a tour, advice and set up the perfect trip for you.