Rice Creek/Etoniah/Gold Head
Length: 34.3 miles (linear) from SR 20 to SR 21
Continuing through the rolling sandhills of Florida’s Central Highlands, the Florida Trail traverses longleaf pine forests (some natural, most planted for harvesting) owned by timber companies. Dropping down along Rice Creek, the trail follows a floodplain where ancient cypresses stand sentinel over the remains of a Revolutionary War-era indigo and rice plantation. Using unpaved roads to connect protected sections, the trail swings west into Etoniah Creek State Forest, where it parallels a ravine more than forty feet deep.
Watch for the trees of Appalachia to make their first appearance along this segment—tulip poplars, dogwoods, and sassafras, as well as fragrant azaleas in spring. West of the ravine, you encounter a pleasant camping shelter at Iron Bridge, and look down from another bluff across a winding creek before working your way through dense oak forests to reach the Holloway Road trailhead. To minimize your impact to the feeder streams and marshes through this area, here are many bridges and boardwalks, and they can become slippery when wet.
A road walk presently connects the Tinsley Road trailhead at Etoniah Creek State Forest with the south gate of Gold Head Branch State Park. Inside the park, enjoy more than three miles of scenic hiking. After you pass through the cabins and picnic area along Little Lake Johnson, the trail follows Gold Head Branch upstream along the shady ravine, and emerges in a sandhill area to circle around the eerie Devil’s Washbasin before exiting the park. For more information contact the North Florida Trailblazers.