Cool Weather Hiking

by: Doug Alderson, Outdoor & Nature Expert

Fall, winter and early spring are ideal times to embark on a hike, and we have numerous trails in the Big Bend region that are highly scenic and sometimes challenging. Take Torreya State Park, for instance.  Boasting deep ravines and steep bluffs, the park’s 15 miles of hiking trails are Florida’s version of the Appalachian Trail. And the 3.3 mile Garden of Eden Trail just south of the park near Bristol offers more of the same along with spectacular views of the Apalachicola River valley from atop Alum Bluff.

For a more lowland subtropical paradise, you can’t beat the Cathedral of Palms Trail in the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. Part of the 1300-mile Florida National Scenic Trail, the path takes you through a sabal palm canopy with a side trail leading to one of our wildest springs—Shepard  Spring. To reach the trail, you first need to walk or ride a mountain bike 1.7 miles on an unpaved road heading west from Wakulla Beach Road. The Apalachee Chapter of the Florida Trail Association has good online information about the hike. And while you are on their website, be sure to check out other trails, such as the Aucilla River and Sinks Trail. Here, the Aucilla River goes underground and plays peek-a-boo with the surface for a number of miles, making for a unique hiking experience.

Closer to Tallahassee, be sure to check out the Fort Braden Trails along Highway 20 less than ten miles west of Capital Circle. There are three loop trails to choose from totaling nine miles. The trails traverse numerous scenic ravines and creeks and there are panoramic views of Lake Talquin. And just five miles south of Tallahassee is the Leon Sinks Geological Area in the Apalachicola National Forest where nearly six miles of trails takes you to stunning sinkholes, a disappearing stream, and even a small cave.

Of course, several expansive Tallahassee and Leon County parks and greenways offer great hiking, too, along with the Lake Overstreet trails in Maclay Gardens State Park and six miles of trails in Wakulla Springs State Park. The local parks include J.R. Alford Greenway, Miccosukee Greenway, Lafayette Heritage Park, Tom Brown Park and Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park. Fortunately, there is one website that covers all of these local trails and more, the Trailahassee website. And for broader statewide coverage, check out the more than 400 non-motorized trails featured of the Florida Office of Greenways and Trails online trail guide. So, there is an abundance of trails to choose from, all within 50 miles of Tallahassee. It’s just a matter of getting out and taking that first step!

Doug Alderson. Outdoor & Nature Expert from Tallahassee, FL Author:

Doug Alderson

Outdoor & Nature Expert

Bio:

Doug Alderson is the author of several books, including Waters Less Traveled: Exploring Florida's Big Bend Coast (University Press of Florida 2005), The Vision Keepers: Walking for Native Americans and the Earth (Quest Books 2007), New Dawn for the Kissimmee River: Orlando to Okeechobee by Kayak (University Press of Florida, 2009), Encounters with Florida's Endangered Wildlife (University Press of Florida, 2010), and his newest book, Wild Florida Waters: Exploring the Sunshine State by Kayak and Canoe (Earthways Press, 2011). Additionally, his articles and photographs have been featured in magazines such as Sea Kayaker, Coast and Kayak, Wildlife Conservation, American Forests, Sierra, Mother Earth News and Shaman's Drum. He has won several state and national awards for his books and magazine features. Doug also works as the paddling trails coordinator for the Florida Office of Greenways and Trails.

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