Appreciating Leon Sinks

by: Doug Alderson, Outdoor & Nature Expert

Few hiking trails in Florida have it all together like Leon Sinks in the Apalachicola National Forest. The first thing going for it is its accessibility. It is only seven miles south of Tallahassee off U.S. 319. The entrance is clearly marked and the access road and parking area is paved. No mud bogging after bad weather to get to the trailhead. And, there are restrooms and running water!

The 4.4 mile loop trail is also well maintained thanks to a full-time volunteer caretaker who lives on the site. If you’ve seen how other trails in Florida can be obscured by summer growth, I will gladly pay the $3.00 parking fee to ensure Leon Sinks is free of vines and brush year-round.

But the most important reason to hike Leon Sinks is that the area is unique, an introduction to what scientists call karst topography. The trails traverse a rolling terrain that leads hikers to a series of shallow and deep sinks, the most spectacular of which is Big Dismal. Here, hikers climb a high hill only to find a crater that drops more than 50 feet to the water. It is another 80 feet or so to the bottom. There is often a sound of falling water as groundwater seeps out along the fern-covered walls.

Nearby Hammock Sink is probably the most serene of the sinks. Arching live oaks frame the often clear turquoise water and a meandering boardwalk takes one to different vantage points.

Fisher Creek is the dominant waterway in the area, only it dips underground and reemerges along the trail so it won’t be outdone by the other sinks. The creek and all of the sinks tie into underground conduits that lead to Wakulla Springs. Thus far, about 29 miles of underground passageways have been mapped.

Leon Sinks also boasts a couple of gum and cypress swamps and one is bisected by a boardwalk. There is also a shelf cave to poke into and experience temperatures several degrees cooler.

So, for year-round hiking pleasure, you can’t beat the Leon Sinks Geological Area. 

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

Doug Alderson

Outdoor & Nature Expert


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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