When it comes to wilderness, Florida’s Apalachicola National Forest is about as wild as it is in the Sunshine State.
The Apalachicola National Forest in Tallahassee is the largest forest in Florida. Longleaf pines, evergreen trees and deciduous trees, along with the crystal-clear river and lakes provide the perfect backdrop and location for a day trip or weekend camping trip.
There is a lot to see in this forest, especially for nature lovers and those who just want a break from city life. The forest has two wilderness areas: Bradwell Bay Wilderness and Mud Swamp / New River Wilderness. Animal lovers should keep an eye out for red cocked woodpeckers, red-shouldered hawks, raccoons, bobcats, fox squirrels, and alligators.
The Apalachicola National Forest is a massive property encompassing over 900 square miles of land. There are various designated areas for recreation with different types of water and land outdoor activities.
- Camel Lake Recreation Area – has 10 campsites, lake access, picnic tables and barbecues; open all year round | Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
- Silver Lake Recreation Area – is best for day trips. Has picnic areas and grills where visitors can cook their food; open all year round | Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
- The Leon Sinks geological area – takes its name from the sinkholes caused by the interbreeding limestones. Swimming is prohibited in this area.
- Wright Lake Recreation Area – provides access to the lake where visitors can swim or go fishing. There are a total of 18 campsites with picnic tables, barbecues and fire pits; Open all year round | Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
- Trout Pond Recreation Area – a day-use area where visitors can cycle, hike, and walk their pets.
- Fort Gadsen Historic Site – a historic landmark dating back to the early 1800s.
Day trips. Those who live near the forest like to go into the forest for hiking, picnicking, and water sports like swimming and kayaking. There is no entrance fee to the forest, however, some activities (like camping) may require reservations and fees.
Other activities to try:
- Panoramic driving
- Nature observation and photography
- To swim
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission monitors water-related activities. As the Apalachicola National Forest is a protected area, they regulate the volume of fishing as well as the type of water activities they allow visitors to do.
There are a few campgrounds in the Apalachicola National Forest, such as Camel Lake Campground, Porter Lake, and Wright Lake Campground. There are options for RV camping, campground camping, and scattered camping.
The Apalachicola National Forest has several hiking trails with different levels of difficulty. Those traveling with children can opt for the easy trails, while more experienced and athletic travelers can take the moderate trails.
- Sinkhole Trail Loop – 4.7 km (moderate)
- Munson Hills Trail – 13.4 km (easy)
- Seven Wells Trail – 5 km (moderate)
- Tallahassee Saint Marks Historic Rail State Trail – 23.2 km (easy)
- Dusk East – 10.9 km (moderate)
- Sopchoppy River Trail – 7.9 km (moderate)
Bonus: Florida National Scenic Trail – this is not a hiking trail, but a long trail. Stretching the length of Florida, this trail traverses the Apalachicola National Forest. If you have a few hours to spare in your schedule, try to see how far you can go!
Explore the surroundings
You have now realized that it is not just great beaches in Florida. Besides the forest, Apalachicola also has other historical sites and monuments to see. Below are some examples:
- Saint-Vincent National Wildlife Refuge – located in the southwestern region of Apalachicola, this wildlife refuge is accessible by boat.
- Battery Park Marina – a site for water sports enthusiasts
- Bowery Art Gallery and Studio – showcases works by local artists
- Raney House Museum – Built in 1835, his house has seen historical events and now houses 19th century artefacts and documents.
- Apalachicola Maritime Museum – offers boat trips and artifacts of Apalachicola’s maritime heritage. Entrance fee: $ 5.00.
- John Gorrie State Museum – a monument dedicated to John Gorrie, who was one of the men who developed air conditioning. The museum includes memorabilia and artifacts from the life and work of John Gorrie, as well as exhibits related to Apalachicola. Entrance fee: $ 2.00.
The Apalachicola National Forest is accessible by car. There are no public transport options. There are a few campsites in the forest, but those who wish to stay in hotels can choose one of the Tallahassee hotels and head west to the Apalachicola National Forest.
Where to stay
- Holiday Inn Tallahassee E Capitol: From $ 93.60 per night
- Hampton Inn & Suites Tallahassee Capitol: From $ 118 per night
- Clarion Pointe Tallahassee: From $ 58.27 per night
- Staybridge Suites Tallahassee: From $ 109.65
- Suites Sept Collines: Starting at $ 84.95
Why should you go
The Apalachicola National Forest is worth a visit not only because it is “America’s largest forest”, but also because of its natural beauty and the many activities that visitors can do during their stay. It is a good option for those who want to take a break from city life and reconnect with nature. Those who wish to fully explore this forest should stay for a long time or take multiple tours as it is massive and has a lot of different areas to explore. It is impossible to visit each in a day!
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