Length: 29.4 miles (linear)
The southern part of the Blackwater River section starts at the Hutton Unit near Harold, east of Pensacola, and continues to the Jackson/Wiregrass Trail. The connection provides excellent day hiking and backpacking experiences within Blackwater River State Forest, Florida’s largest state forest
Encompassing 206,000 acres of pine flatwoods and clay hills along the scenic Blackwater River and its tributaries, this beautiful forest brings together Atlantic white cedar and longleaf pine forests, pitcher plant bogs and titi swamps. Once a major lumber and turpentine area, it’s now devoted to conservation and recreation, with a handful of private leases to farmers growing cotton and corn. The Florida Trail utilizes parts of two existing hiking trails (both in the Florida State Forest Trailwalker program) to head north: the Juniper Creek Trail and the Jackson Red Ground Trail. There are additional day hiking opportunities scattered throughout the forest at its developed recreation areas. Although there are developed campgrounds, designated campsites, and shelters, you may camp anywhere you like along the trail. For your safety, try to avoid camping near any forest roads.
The Blackwater River and the Coldwater, Sweetwater, and Juniper Creeks are clean, sandy-bottom, spring-fed waters, despite the dark coloring imparted by tannin from the trees along the bank. A wide range of flora and fauna flourishes along the trail. Pines and junipers predominate, but oak, cypress, ash, live oak, tupelo, bay, and wax myrtle trees, holly, pyracantha, titi and yaupon shrubs can be found. Rare mountain laurel, rhododendron, and pitcher plant bogs may also be seen. Blueberries and blackberries can be picked in early summer. In the fall, the hardwood foliage changes color, and although the hues are not as brilliant as on the Appalachian Trail, the display is well worth seeing. Wildlife that may be seen include raccoons, beaver, deer, rabbits, foxes, and bobcats as well as osprey, wood ducks, herons, eagles, and red-cockaded woodpeckers. Places to swim can be found along this trail. For more information contact the Western Gate Chapter.