As a service to our readers, we do our best to keep on top of changes to the Florida Trail and its services as they happen. The following trail updates are keyed to the pages of the current edition of The Florida Trail Guide. If you own an older edition, we encourage you to get a current edition (third edition) since there have been many major trail relocations over the past five years.
IMPORTANT! In October 2018, Hurricane Michael caused severe damage throughout the central portion of the Florida Panhandle. As of October 30, more than 200 miles of the Florida Trail remain closed until further notice, spanning from the Aucilla River to the Choctawhatchee River and including popular destinations like St. Marks NWR, Apalachicola National Forest, Econfina Creek, and Pine Log. See details below for specific closures by mile marker.
Our updates come from a variety of sources, including hikers on the trail, trail maintainers, government agencies, business owners, and from the Florida Trail Association. And, of course, we research changes to the trail and its services ourselves on a regular basis. You’ll find the results of all of the above on the Trail Conditions reports managed by the Florida Trail Hikers Alliance. On this page, we accumulate updates keyed to specific pages of our guidebook.
We send a collection of updates by email, no more than once a month during hiking season. Even if you’ve never bought our guidebook, you’re welcome to sign up for that newsletter here. If you have bought a guidebook, we add you to the mailing list automatically.
Updates to The Florida Trail Guide, Third Edition
The Florida Trail Association office has moved! Their new address is 1050 NW 2 Street, Suite A, Gainesville, FL 32601. Phone numbers and email remain the same.
p.19, Permits. A new free permit is available to Florida Trail thru-hikers crossing Eglin Air Force Base. Day hikers and section hikers not continuing at least 50 miles beyond Eglin must still obtain the standard $20 annual Outdoor Recreation permit. The procedure is the same: see our Permits page.
p.29, Oasis Ranger Station. There is a new weatherproof mailbox with the trail register inside it. Be sure to sign in!
p.36, STA 5/6. A pitcher pump has been added at the picnic shelter at STA 5/6. See FTA Notice to Hikers.
p.37-58, Okeechobee. ALL spigots on the outside of the locks and water control structures atop the dike pull directly from the lake. Water MUST be treated from spigots.
p.43, Okeechobee Landings. They are no longer accepting tent campers.
p.43, Levee Park. We’ve pointed this out in our annual Okeechobee update, but we’ve learned some hikers are still confused about it. The city of Clewiston was able to get the Army Corps of Engineers contractors to keep a walking route open through the construction zone on the dike, which stretches a mile north of the park. Enter the construction zone through the gap next to the fence as shown above. You’ll walk a mile along the west side of the canal before returning to the normal route on the levee.
p.45 map, Dollar General. It’s moving. We don’t have a new address for it yet.
p.45, Fisheating Creek Boat Ramp. If you are stuck between designated campsites and do need to camp near Fisheating Creek because of the roadwalk south of here, do call the local sheriffs office at 863-946-1600 to give them a heads-up for your personal safety. They are aware that hikers are camping here as needed.
p.65 chart, mile 204. A pitcher pump has been installed at Cowboy Crossing Campsite. Filter water.
p.70, Cracker Trail Country Store. Updated phone number 863-763-0653. Open 6-2 Mon-Sat, 8-6 Sun. IMPORTANT: Do NOT trespass through private property to make a beeline to the store. Use US 98 from either spot where the trail crosses it, east or west of Basinger.
p.70, Micco Landing Trailhead. On 3/31/18, the new 11.3-mile Micco section opened as a footpath through palm hammocks, pasture, and slough along the Kissimmee River. It connects from US 98 to the Oak Creek trailhead along Micco Landing Rd. The blazes along that road are now painted white as an alternate route in times of high water. This permanent reroute cuts the roadwalk to 2.5 miles between Oak Creek and Starvation Slough trailheads.
Trail maintainers warn us that alligators are seen all along the banks of the Kissimmee River as you near Oak Creek, and cluster in the lake that is the best water source for Oak Creek campsite. Use caution when obtaining water.
p.72, Starvation Slough to No Name Slough. There has been a large wildfire in this area. Blazes may be missing, but the trail pretty much sticks close to the river floodplain through this area with a fence to the east defining the edge of public land. Please report any trail maintenance needed through here.
p.73, High Water Route . Hikers report that the trail has been relocated to this higher, drier track to the east of the original FT route; however, also that it is not easy to follow if it hasn’t been mowed or compacted by a park vehicle, as the blazes vanish quickly northbound.
p.73, Duck Slough. Now that a new pitcher plant has been installed at the Cowboy Crossing campsite, use that instead as your water source for the dry section of trail north of Duck Slough.
p.73, Pine Island Slough Campsite. A brand-new pitcher pump has been installed at the campsite.
p.74, Kissimmee Prairie. Due to a flood-induced breach in the dike that the Florida Trail followed along the Kissimmee River, the trail has been permanent rerouted before you get to Pine Island Slough. It now continues due north to the park boundary fence and follows it due west, also skipping the “Junction of park roads.” The Pine Island Slough campsite has been relocated to an oak hammock adjoining the slough at the new crossing, which serves as a water source. Please see this FTA Notice to Hikers for the new route.
p.74, S-65A Lock. No more need to call ahead to request access! Per this FTA Notice to Hikers, there are now pedestrian gates on both sides of the lock and you may use them on your own (provided the lock isn’t in operation) during the following hours: Mon-Fri 7 AM-6 PM, Sat-Sun 5:30 AM-7:30 PM (Mar-Oct), 5:30 AM-6:30 PM (Nov-Feb)
p.76, River Ranch. MAILDROPS: Maildrops are held at the Mustang building at the south end of the road by the RV park. Package pickup hours are 9-4 Mon-Thu & Sat, 9-6 Fri, 9-1 Sun. Call 863-692-1116 to confirm before sending a maildrop. USPS is fine. Mail to: HIKER NAME c/o River Ranch RV, 30529 River Ranch Blvd, River Ranch FL 33867.
CAMPING: Tent sites are now $45.00 per night on weekends and holidays. According to Ray Duncan, General Manager, “I can extend a special mid-week price to the hikers of $30 per night Mon-Thu (excluding any holiday) if they book at the front desk and tell us they are hikers. Any group larger than 5 tents should call the resort directly prior to arriving for reservations.” Call them at 863-692-1321.
p.78, Prairie Lakes. Unless you’re thru-hiking the Florida Trail, it’s necessary to obtain a free permit for camping at Dry Pond and Parker Hammock in Prairie Lakes. It’s always necessary to get a free permit for the Lake Jackson Campground, which is vehicle-accessible. Call FWC at 352-732-1225. Parker Hammock has a pitcher pump. The pitcher pump at Dry Pond is unreliable.
p.91, Forever Florida. Due to changes in management, the Visitor Center and Cypress Restaurant are closed and will remain closed through January 2019. Hikers are still permitted to use their parking lot as a trailhead but no services are open. To reserve a spot at the campsite, call 407-957-9794.
“Illahaw Camp” is an incorrect name. Forever Florida staff call this “Tracey Branch” or TBO.
p.83 data sheet mile 310, Cox Creek. Water is accessible from the NW side of the bridge, but beware that it is likely tainted with biosolids runoff.
p.85 data sheet mile 350.4, Roberts Branch. Water is accessible from road.
p.89 data sheet mile 389.5, Wekiva River. Highway construction is going on parallel to the bridge over the Wekiva River to build a new toll road that will take the place of SR 46, which you walk along now to cross the river.
p.92, Deer Park Road. Deer Park Road is officially closed pending repairs on two highway bridges. Please see this FTA Notice to Hikers. An alternate route is suggested here. 3/21/18 note: Although the road is officially closed to all but local traffic and closure signs have been up since fall, on our personal inspection we discovered that the road remains open and both bridges are being used by vehicular traffic, including semis. We reaffirmed the road is open as of 4/1/18.
p.94, Tiger Branch campsite. Tent platforms have been added.
p.97, Snow Hill Road. A temporary closure is in place in Little Big Econ State Forest due to bridge damage over the Econ River. Please see this FTA Notice to Hikers for the alternate route following Snow Hill Road north.
p.97, Little Big Econ State Forest. Hikers report that in addition to the above, other bridges in here north of that point are also broken and need replaced, but are not closed.
p.99, Winter Springs. The “unmarked but obvious path” has been obliterated along with everything else in sight as relentless urbanization continues. Line of sight, you should be able to see the shopping center as you come to the curve in the trail. Getting to it may be tricky due to construction vehicles and fences. If so, use Tuscawilla Road up ahead as your access point.
p.104, Lower Wekiva Preserve State Park. The Florida Trail has been obliterated in the west end of this state park as construction for the Wekiva Parkway is tearing out a vast swath of public land. Follow the shoulder of SR 46 from the traffic light at this trailhead to resume the trail route at Wekiva Park Drive.
p.105, Cassia trailhead. Permanent addition of vault toilet replaces the portalet.
p.105, Cassia, between Cassia Trailhead and Royal Trails. Annette Codding at Cassia Fresh Farm – the farm with the sign “brown eggs for sale” at 30242 SR 44 – has been helping out hikers with shuttles, food, and sometimes even a place to stay. 352-589-0577.
p.106, Paisley. A long distance hiker reported being threatened with arrest when charging a phone outside the Dollar General after making purchases. Do not charge your phone here, visit the library across the street and ask first. It’s always good to ask first about using power outlets at any private business.
p.113, Clearwater Lake. Hikers have reported being harassed along this stretch of the trail north to Alexander Springs, particularly when making camp and after dark. This section of trail runs very close to homes in Paisley. It’s safest to camp at or near the recreation areas.
p.118, St. Johns South Camping Area. Hikers report that the water from the pitcher pump is awful. Better to pass through the Buckman Lock gate (south side) and find the tap.
p.125 mile 350, Concession Stand campsite. Pitcher pump added just south of the campsite.
p.163-164, Ocala West. Trail maintainers have been unable to tackle hurricane damage between SR 40 and CR 314A due to water levels in the area. There are broken boardwalks and downed trees. Use CR 314 north from Nuby’s Corner to the trail crossing at the power lines north of Eaton Creek as an alternate route.
p.165, SR 19. The section of trail between SR 19 and SR 20, which has always been a rough mess of logging roads through timberlands, is scheduled to be relocated this season. Watch for signage indicating the new route.
p.179, SR 100. The Palatka-Lake Butler Trail section just north of Rice Creek Conservation Area now has pavement and a new modern bridge across Rice Creek. Although there are still closure barriers up while paving of the trail continues, the bridge is complete and using it is far safer than any other option for crossing Rice Creek. Officially, this section is still closed.See this FTA Notice to Hikers.
p.180, Iron Bridge Shelter. Hurricane Irma damage has been taken care of and the shelter now has a new roof. Hikers welcome.
p.181, Etoniah. Due to logging this fall, the trail has been relocated from the south intersection with the Longleaf Pine Trail northbound for a stretch, steering you closer to a water source in a sinkhole at 29.7770,-81.8719.
p.181, Gold Head Branch State Park. Sandhill Camping Area is actually Turkey Oak Camping Area (tent sites); Sandhill is RV only.
p.182, Keystone Heights. Water is accessible at Alligator Creek along Immokalee Rd at 29.8091, -82.0329 along the Keystone Heights roadwalk.
p.184, Bobbie Shepherd Park. Hikers report water from spigot is usable. Picnic tables and trash can added.
p.187, LAKE BUTLER. The city’s free camping program inside Union Station has been discontinued. You can still inquire about camping at Lake Side Park.
p.195 mile 627.4, Sal Marie Branch. The bridge is broken and you must wade across.
p.196 mile 646.8. Suwannee River whirlpool. Benches and a table added 0.1N.
p.203, Suwannee. New designated campsite with fire ring and camping sign between Swift Creek and No Name Creek, west of the Interstate 75 overpass, at 30.3434, -82.8418.
p.209, Mill Creek North campsite. Follow the old boat ramp trail past some broken pavement. When you get to the river look to the left and you’ll see a bubbling spring. Good water source.
HURRICANE MICHAEL IMPACTS
The AUCILLA section of the Florida Trail is closed pending hurricane damage assessment, affecting mile 728.4 (CR 14 access to Aucilla) through mile 742.8 (Powell Hammock Grade), or 14.4 miles of footpath. Connecting roads to US 98 and to the Suwannee River may be impassable in part or fully as well.
Although ST MARKS NWR reopened to the public on October 22, photos posted by the refuge staff on social media show deep divots out of some of the dikes. For the time being, the Florida Trail remains closed across the forest until downed trees can be cleared and infrastructure damage assessed. This impacts trail mile 749.7 (Small Game Rd access in Aucilla WMA) through 797.2 (Carraway Cutoff Trailhead near Sopchoppy), or 47.5 miles of the Florida Trail.
The trail town of ST MARKS was flooded by a storm surge and some businesses remain closed as of October 30.
p.231, St. Marks NWR. Great news! The Swamp Hammock Trail, formerly the Florida Trail, has been reblazed in orange. Leave the levee to follow the blazes through three miles of lush palm hammocks. You miss the junction with the Deep Creek Trail along this route, but gain a beautiful walk. This area still can flood, so the levees are an alternate route.
p.233, St. Marks River. If you are staying at Shell Island Fish Camp they will ferry you for free, otherwise there is a $25 fee. Shields Marina sits within sight of the crossing (upriver) and might ferry just for tips: 850-925-5612.
p.234, Big Bend. Construction of a paved bike path paralleling US 98 has affected access to the Florida Trail in this section that parallels the highway between St. Marks and the Wakulla River. Hikers recommend you walk along the highway berm (including across the Wakulla River Bridge) on the north side of the highway, instead of trying to follow the blazes, because of the obstacles in the way.
p.237, Medart. Kangaroo Express across from Dollar General replaced by Rocky’s, which has decent resupply.
HURRICANE MICHAEL IMPACTS
While the Apalachee Chapter reports that the Sopchoppy River section, mile 806.2 (Oak Park Trailhead) to mile 810.2 (FR 329 Trailhead) has been cleared, the Florida Trail is officially closed through the entire Apalachicola National Forest. Wind impacts were severe. U.S. Forest Service efforts in the National Forest have focused on clearing and reopening the roads for residents and for upcoming hunting seasons, with reopening recreation areas also a priority. Only roads in the eastern Apalachicola have reopened. This impacts trail mile 797.2 (Carraway Cutoff Trailhead near Sopchoppy) through 863.7 (Savannahs Trailhead off CR 12), or 66.5 miles of the Florida Trail.
p.249, Smith Creek. Trail access blocked by lost access to private land along Smith Creek means you’ll have to roadwalk north along CR 329 (Smith Creek Rd) to FR 13 to rejoin the trail route crossing the Ochlockonee River.
HURRICANE MICHAEL IMPACTS
Hurricane Michael sliced right through the Central Panhandle, leaving a swath of destruction from Mexico Beach through Blountstown and Marianna. The power grid is only now being restored in this region. Services in BRISTOL and BLOUNTSTOWN may remain closed for some time. The Florida Trail is officially closed between miles 877.6 (start of Blountstown Greenway) through 943.8 (Pine Log State Forest back gate). This includes the Blountstown Greenway, Altha, Econfina WMA, and Pine Log State Forest sections. Extreme wind damage was experienced throughout this region, so it may be some months before the trail damage can be assessed and the viability of bridges, boardwalks, and campsites checked on. Do not expect this region to open in time for the 2018-2019 thru-hiking season. This impacts 66.2 miles of the Florida Trail.
The NOKUSE section, spanning from the Choctawhatchee River to US 331 north of Freeport, has reopened and according to Northwest Florida Water Management District, backcountry campsites are approved for use. Use caution due to potential downed trees and report any trail damage you encounter to FTA Regional Representative Adam Fryska by email or at 850-888-3502.
p.270, Econfina Rd. The trail remains closed from here to SR 20 trailhead and has been denuded by clearcutting. Follow posted Notice to Hikers to roadwalk south on Econfina Rd to join SR 20 west.
p.270, Oak Park Chevron. Hikers report that new owners do NOT allow camping on the property.
HURRICANE MICHAEL IMPACTS: The Eglin section of the Florida Trail has officially reopened in its entirety.
p.285, Permits. A new free permit is available to Florida Trail thru-hikers crossing Eglin Air Force Base. Day hikers and section hikers not continuing at least 50 miles beyond Eglin must still obtain the standard $20 annual Outdoor Recreation permit. The procedure is the same: see our Permits page.
p.285, Eglin. To alleviate closures of the Florida Trail during tactical training exercises on the north side of Eglin, the base has created a new J-35 TTA on their Public Access Map (PAM) which all recreational users must check before heading anywhere on base. Generally, J-35 should remain open most of the time. It includes the bulk of the Catface section in Eglin
p.287, Alaqua Creek. A suspension bridge is in place across Alaqua Creek. Another more permanent bridge is being built nearby. It crosses the creek at approximately the same location as the old Demon Bridge. No more fording is necessary, but this basin should still be avoided during floods.
p.294, River’s Edge Campground. Hikers report that the campground IS accepting tent campers. $30/night provides access to showers, laundry.
p.297, Yellow River trailhead. A gate has been installed in the new DOT wildlife fence along SR 87 to enable hikers to access the Florida Trail’s Weaver Creek section. It is south of the trailhead along SR 87 on the west side of the highway.
The dam at Buck Pond is gone and the pond has entirely drained down to the creek that was dammed up to form it, so you may not find water there.
HURRICANE MICHAEL IMPACTS
While the Fort Pickens Unit of Gulf Islands National Seashore has reopened, the section of the seashore between Pensacola Beach and Santa Rosa Island is officially closed because CR 399 once again washed away. This FTA Notice to Hikers states that it may take up to three months for this piece of the trail to reopen, and suggests a roadwalk route through Gulf Breeze to US 98 to Navarre as an alternative. This impacts trail mile 1074.3 (Navarre at US 98) to 1094.2 (Pensacola Beach Blvd), or 19.9 miles of the Florida Trail.
HURRICANE MICHAEL IMPACTS: The Blackwater section of the Florida Trail has officially reopened in its entirety.
OCEAN TO LAKE
p.325-326, Ocean to Lake Hiking Trail permits: Permits are no longer needed for the DuPuis campsites. For camping in Loxahatchee Slough (Palm Beach County), new contact is Mary Canada at 561-233-2503 (M-F 9-4), or by email. You may also call 561-233-2400, their main number.
It is no longer necessary to pay your Jonathan Dickinson access fee at the front gate. Drop it in the iron ranger along the Ocean-to-Lake Trail after you cross Hobe Groves Canal. You do still have to contact the park in advance regards camping at Kitching Creek or Scrub Jay.
p.330, Scrub Jay campsite. Pitcher pump added.