45.5 miles (Pensacola). An official connector, the Blackwater section takes a blue-blazed branch of the Florida Trail up to the Alabama State Line to link up with the Alabama Hiking Trail and the greater Eastern Continental Trail. Florida’s largest state forest, encompassing 190,000 acres of pine flatwoods and clayhills along the scenic Blackwater River and its tributaries, this beautiful section of the trail walks you through 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. North of Deaton Bridge, the Florida Trail utilizes parts of three hiking trails to head north: the Juniper Creek Trail, the Jackson Red Ground Trail, and the Wiregrass Trail.
- The southern junction for the Blackwater section has shifted several miles south of US 90 at Harold to Yellow Creek Ravines. Southbounders, follow the blue blazes until you reach the orange blazes.
- General gun (deer hunting) season starts Nov 24. See the full schedule of hunting dates. You must wear an orange vest or shirt during hunting seasons, and you should camp at designated campsites for your safety. Hunting dogs are used in parts of the forest.
FT symbols indicate trailheads and access points. Click on symbols for details and directions.
Florida Trail, Burnt Grocery Creek
3.2 miles. Heading north from the Deer Lake trail junction in the Yellow River Ravines section, the trail enters a ravine along the edge of picturesque Burnt Grocery Creek, where tall white-top pitcher plants grow along the shoreline. Passing through the Burnt Grocery campsite, it climbs out of the ravine and heads across a restoration area to the community of Harold.
Florida Trail, Hutton Unit
6 miles. Leaving Harold to cross US 90 and enter a restoration area of former sand pine plantations, the trail through the Hutton Unit traverses some of the highest elevations on the Florida Trail, with winter views of distant ridges as you pass through longleaf pine forests, sandhills, and pitcher plants on seepage slopes.
7.3 miles. The Florida Trail along Juniper Creek is a gorgeous place to explore in springtime, when mountain laurel blooms in both pink and white. The trail remains within sight of the Blackwater River and the creek for some distance, and offers spectacular views from the tall bluffs at Red Rocks.
16.7 miles. Primarily immersed in longleaf pines and wiregrass, the Jackson Red Ground Trail provides glimpses into bluff forests and titi swamps, and passes the historic Otathie Cemetery. It is a historic route used by General Andrew Jackson and his 1,200 troops in 1818 as they marched towards Pensacola.
12.3 miles. On this last stretch of the Blackwater section to the Alabama state line, the Florida Trail traverses rolling clayhills topped with stately longleaf pine and wiregrass, with views that go on and on as you look out beneath the pines. It circles around Hurricane Lake on its way to the border.
For hikers headed northbound to Alabama on the Eastern Continental Trail route, here are details for Alabama provided by the Alabama Hiking Trail Society.
98.2 miles. The trail junction leads you into the Yellow River Ravines segment of the Eglin section, rugged but beautiful steephead ravines to the north of the Yellow River. To the north, Eglin East is primarily sandhills and steepheads; to the south, old growth forest and deeply eroded ravines in a former National Forest.
Hutton Unit Trailhead
0.5 miles. Follow an unmarked forest road to the east just before a deep gully around erosion features, bear right at fork. The road continues diagonally to the property line of the Hutton Unit. Follow it to the trailhead along Deaton Bridge Road, within sight of Blackwater Canoe Rental.
Flanking the sandy banks of the Blackwater River, Blackwater River State Park is home to a nice campground under the pines and to two nature trails, the Juniper Creek Nature Trail (which starts at the recreation area and campground) and the Chain of Lakes Nature Trail (which starts at Deaton Bridge trailhead).
Bear Lake Connector
3.5 miles. The Bear Lake Connector leads you down forest roads to Bear Lake Recreation Area, with a campground under the pines overlooking the reflective lake. A loop trail showcases habitats around Bear Lake, while a spur trail, the Sweetwater Trail, leads another 1.2 miles to the Krul Recreation Area, which has its own campground and swimming area.
Jackson Red Ground Trail
4.5 miles. Although the Florida Trail follows most of its length, the Jackson Red Ground Trail continues past the intersection where the Florida Trail joins the Wiregrass Trail, passing a waterfall and dipping through titi swamps in the longleaf pine forest before reaching two campgrounds at Karick Lake.
- Be sure to resupply at the Harold Store if heading northbound for the Eastern Continental Trail. It is the last on-trail resupply stop in Florida.
- Expect to walk through extensive burned areas when hiking the Blackwater section. Fire is used to manage the longleaf pine forest, so you will pass through at least one or more burned-over areas on your hike.