75.5 miles (Lake City & Live Oak). Combining rugged terrain and beauty in one package, it’s no wonder that the Suwannee section of the Florida Trail is well-loved by backpackers, especially in early spring when fragrant wild azaleas are in bloom. Experience challenging terrain as you clamber in and out of valleys cut deeply by floodwaters and tributaries feeding the Suwannee River, and see some of the region’s geological wonders firsthand – deep sinkholes, hundreds of springs, stretches of rapids, and several serious-sized waterfalls. The views are fabulous all along the river, and when water levels are low, white sand beaches invite a night’s stay.
- Keep alert for prescribed burns planned throughout the region. Check in with Suwannee River Water Management District before your hike.
FT symbols indicate trailheads and access points. Click on symbols for details and directions.
Florida Trail, Deep Creek to Bell Springs
9.3 miles. Working its way west along backroads – some unpaved – to connect the Osceola National Forest to the Suwannee River, this section of the Florida Trail is all roadwalk, mostly on quiet rural roads.
Florida Trail, Bell Springs to US 41 wayside
4.9 miles. High atop the bluffs of the Suwannee River, this undulating section between two established trailheads scrambles through tributary crossings and up through Waldron’s Landing to views of Little Shoals before passing a trailhead deep in the woods. If you are hiking through to White Springs, continue along to where the trail leads you up to US 41 to cross the highway bridge over the Suwannee River and enter the wayside park for access to the next section.
Florida Trail, White Springs
2.5 miles. Entering the White Springs Tract of Swift Creek Conservation Area at the US 41 wayside, the Florida Trail shares a route with an off road bike trail, the Bridge to Bridge Trail, while circling swamps and traversing bluffs with scenic views of the river.
WHITE SPRINGS:On this 1.2-mile in-town segment, the orange blazes of the Florida Trail lead you up a back street into White Springs and right down the sidewalk of this historic trail town, passing all services.
4.7 miles. Massive live oaks, deep sinkholes, and the sweet scent of wild azalea in early spring will tempt you to this roly-poly section of the Florida Trail through Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park. As you leave the park, you cross Sal Marie Branch and follow an easement through a residential area along CR 25A.
Florida Trail, CR 25A to Swift Creek
1.7 miles. Rugged and beautiful, this very scenic section along the Suwannee River offers beaches for random camping and a good bit of scrambling up and down the bluffs before you reach a trailside parking area deep within Swift Creek Conservation Area. The trail continues on to picturesque Swift Creek, an outstanding destination for a hike.
Florida Trail, Swift Creek to Camp Branch
7.0 miles. Between the Swift Creek trailhead and Camp Branch, the Florida Trail treats you to extremely deep ravines – some bridged, some requiring a rope or staircase to scramble out of – and sidehill balanced on steep slopes above the Suwannee River.
Florida Trail, Camp Branch to Suwannee Springs
6.5 miles. With stretches of both scrub forest and river bluff forest, as well as a climb up and over Devil’s Mountain, the highest point along the river, this trail segment has a great deal of variety and good views of the karst features on the southern shore. Plan an additional 1.2 miles to/from the Camp Branch trailhead.
Florida Trail, Suwannee Springs to Holton River Camp
9.6 miles. Waterfalls, whirlpool, and springs: welcome to the place of playful waters. Spanning several tributaries, the trail dips into views of these natural phenomena as it winds through lush river bluff forests. One mile near the east end is a roadwalk through an older riverfront neighborhood.
Florida Trail, Holton Creek
5.1 miles. Interesting geology, including sinkholes and springs, make this segment of the Florida Trail a delight. Leaving the Suwannee River to follow Holton Creek upstream, the trail dips past sinks and rounds Holton Spring en route to Gibson Park.
ROADWALK: A 0.8 mile rural roadwalk gets you out of the woods along the Suwannee to cut over to the Alapaha River via the shoulder of CR 751, providing access to camping at Gibson Park.
Florida Trail, Alapaha to Withlacoochee
6.6 miles. Two rivers pour into the Suwannee River between Gibson Park and Ellaville and form the boundaries of this section of trail, which passes through conservation areas, private lands, and a northern tract of Suwannee River State Park.
ROADWALK: While an access issue cuts off the Big Oak Trail from CR 141, a 2.4 mile roadwalk connects from the Suwannee River to the parking area below the Withlacoochee River Bridge.
Florida Trail, Ellaville
2.3 miles. Following the Withlacoochee River downriver to its confluence with the Suwannee River, the Ellaville section meanders through remnants of a once-thriving timber town from the late 1800s until it reaches the Suwannee River State Park Annex picnic area at the historic US 90 bridge.
Florida Trail, Twin Rivers South
10.9 miles. Closely following the Suwannee River from bluffs high above, this scenic segment of the Florida Trail winds through the Ellaville South, Black Tract, and Mill Creek North Tracts of Twin Rivers State Forest, passing three riverside campsites en route to the end of this section.
2.8 miles. Formerly a thru-trail section of the Florida Trail, this scenic blue-blazed footpath is now a round-trip spur to Florida’s only Class III whitewater rapids and the campsite that sits above them. It also features a waterfall and spectacular views of the river and rapids. It awaits an official connection to Hamp Farmer Road to become the thru-trail once again.
4 miles. A blue blazed bike path within the White Springs Tract of Swift Creek Conservation Area, the Bridge-to-Bridge Trail shows off the lush forests atop the Suwannee River bluffs between the US 41 bridge and the CR 138 bridge in White Springs.
Cable Road Trail
0.7 miles. Connecting the primitive campsites at Stephen Foster from the Florida Trail to the Foster’s Hammock Trail and River Road, the Cable Road Trail follows an open easement for a gas line that bisects the park.
Carter Camp Trail
4 miles. Utilizing the River Road and the Florida Trail to make a loop between Catfish Hole and the primitive camping areas along the Cable Road Trail, this multi-use trail overlaps with a portion of the Florida Trail, wandering through the river floodplain and the pine flatwoods above the river. It’s an excellent place to enjoy native azalea blossoms in springtime.
Foster’s Hammock Loop Trail
7.5 miles. Primarily a single-track loop open to bicycles and hiking, the Foster’s Hammock Loop Trail at Stephen Foster begins at a trailhead adjacent to the campground. Staying behind the floodplain channels, it nonetheless offers rugged terrain and great views, especially in winter.
Swift Creek Connector
0.6 miles. Immediately after you cross Swift Creek, a blue blazed side trail leads upstream to Rooster’s Outfitters and Angie’s Moonshine Acres Campground along SR 25A, a hiker-friendly stop with tent camping and showers. Ask about parking on site for access to the trail.
3.3 miles. On the Disappearing Creek Loop off the Florida Trail along the Suwannee River, watch Camp Branch burble through rapids and a deep ravines, eventually cascading into a giant sinkhole. The loop is just a little north of the Florida Trail, connected by the trail to the Camp Branch trailhead.
Suwannee Springs Connector
0.8 miles. Blue blazes lead from the Florida Trail up a slope to utilize the old US 129 highway bridge to cross the Suwannee River. Watch for the sharp turn downhill to the left after crossing the bridge. The trail continues into Suwannee Springs, a popular swimming area surrounding a historic spring and a trailhead for the Florida Trail. The blazes continue past the spring and return to old US 129 to make a loop.
The Guardian Cypress
0.6 miles. Starting at the parking area at the gate where the forest road ends at Holton Creek River Camp, a blazed trail leads through a deeply folded landscape to a very deep sinkhole with two massive cypresses rising from its bottom. The one closer to the slope of the sinkhole is The Guardian, and the two cypresses are the largest known of their kind in Florida. Round-trip of 0.6 miles.
8.6 miles. The Big Oak Trail is one of the most scenic hikes in North Florida. Much of the hiking parallels the Suwannee and Withlacoochee Rivers, which meet at a confluence at the tip of the Big Oak peninsula. A disjunct portion of the trail connects to Suwannee River State Park across the old US 90 bridge.
5 miles linear. Blazed yellow, this Trailwalker Trail in Twin Rivers State Forest Ellaville Tract connects to the Florida Trail near Coopers Bluff and near Interstate 10. Use this uplands footpath along with the Florida Trail along the river to make a 10-mile loop starting and ending from the parking area off US 90. There is also a shorter option of 6 miles, utilizing a cross trail.
- The Suwannee section is one of the few places on the Florida Trail that you can stay in cabins and B&Bs along the entire route. There are cabins at Stephen Foster Folk Culture State Park in White Springs as well as the White Springs B&B. At Suwannee Springs, there is an AirBnB right by the spring, plus cabins across the highway at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. Finally, there are cabins at Suwannee River State Park, and a lovely riverfront inn, the Village Lodge, at Dowling Park. These can be used as base camps for day hiking the entire Suwannee section.
- Shuttle services are available from ACA in White Springs and from Suwannee River Outfitters at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, making it easy to place a car at one end of your hike and be shuttled to a far point to hike back to it. It’s also possible to hike north along the river to White Springs, then rent a canoe and do a paddling trip south to Dowling Park to make a hike/paddle loop.
- March is a fabulous time to hike along the Suwannee because of the colorful wildflowers, especially the very fragrant Florida azalea.