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Apalachicola National Forest

The Apalachicola National Forest is located within 6 watersheds: Apalachicola River, New River, Ochlockonee, Sopchoppy, Lost Creek and Wakulla River. These rivers and streams provide a steady freshwater flow to productive coastal bays or estuaries. Apalachicola Bay and Ochlockonee Bay are known for shellfish & other commercial seafood. The Apalachicola National Forest is about 4 miles southwest of Tallahassee.

The Apalachicola National Forest offers water-based recreation such as boating and fishing along the Ochlockonee and Apalachicola Rivers, and swimming in the numerous lakes. Trails and roads accommodate hiking, mountain bike riding, horseback riding, and off road ATV and motorcycle riding. Primitive camping is allowed throughout the Forest; fee campsites provide restrooms and water, picnic tables and fire rings. Hunting for deer is the dominant activity in December and January. Off the beaten path, this Forest offers opportunities for solitude and reflection.

The Apalachicola National Forest has three developed picnic and swim areas: Silver Lake, Camel Lake, and Wright Lake Recreation Areas; and two special areas: Fort Gadsden and Leon Sinks.

Camel Lake Recreation Area

Camel Lake in Liberty County has a designated swim area with a white sand beach on a beautiful lake. A nearby bathhouse includes flush toilets. Outdoor (cold water only) showers for rinsing off are provided. Picnic tables and grills are scattered among trees with views of the lake. One medium sized shelter will be provided on a first come basis. A water fountain and some water spigots are available. The site is fairly level and easily accessible to people in wheelchairs. A small boat ramp is available. Motorized boat use is limited to electric trolling motors. Three trails are nearby: the Florida National Scenic Trail, the Trail of Lakes, and the Camel Lake Interpretive Trail.

Fort Gadsden Historical Site

Fort Gadsden in Franklin County is the site of an historic fort and several battles. Interpretive exhibits and artifacts are displayed along a level pathway on the banks of the Apalachicola River. Picnic tables and vault toilets are available. Drinking water is not available. The area is also accessible by boat.

Leon Sinks Geological Area

Leon Sinks in Leon County is a designated Geological Area featuring education, interpretation, and views of sinkholes from a system of boardwalks and trails. Picnic tables, a kiosk, a water fountain, and a restroom with flush toilets are available. There is a $3.00 per vehicle fee. Click here for map of the area.

The sinks at Leon Sinks are unique, fragile areas with very steep sides. Both humans and dogs have drowned in the sinks. To protect the sinks and avoid these situations, a number of uses are prohibited at Leon Sinks: swimming, diving, motor vehicles (except in the parking area), hunting, mountain biking, horseback riding, and ATV and motorcycle riding.

Silver Lake Recreation Area

Silver Lake in Leon County has a designated swim area with a white sand beach on a beautiful lake. A nearby bathhouse includes flush toilets and hot showers. Picnic tables and grills are scattered among trees with views of the lake. One large and one small picnic shelter are available on a first come basis. The smaller shelter is an historic CCC constructed shelter. Water fountains are available. The site is fairly level and easily accessible to people in wheelchairs. A small boat ramp is available. Motorized boat use is limited to electric trolling motors. A one-mile interpretive trail winds around the lake. A volunteer host lives on site. There is no camping available here.

Wright Lake Recreation Area

Wright Lake in Franklin County has a designated swim area with a small white sand beach on a beautiful lake. A nearby bathhouse includes flush toilets and hot showers. Picnic tables and grills are scattered among trees with views of the lake. A water fountain is available. The site is fairly level and easily accessible to people in wheelchairs. A 5-mile interpretive trail winds around the lake. A volunteer host lives on site. Camping is also available here.

Camping

Camping can be enjoyed during all seasons on the Apalachicola National Forest, although summer camping would be without air conditioning. None of the campgrounds have hook ups and generators may not be run after 10pm. Be aware that at certain times of the year, due to high fire danger, open fires may not allowed. Visitors may stay a maximum of 14 days within a 30-day period, in one location, except during hunting season. Campsites are available on a first come, first served basis; there are no reservations. Pets are allowed, but must be restrained or on a leash.

The Apalachicola National Forest has developed and dispersed camping opportunities. Only developed campgrounds have fees. There are no group campgrounds or cabins on the Apalachicola National Forest.

    Hickory Landing Boat Ramp & Hunt Camp
    Hickory Landing in Franklin County has 12 campsites. The campsites are $3.00 per vehicle. Each campsite has a picnic table with a grill or fire ring. Drinking water is available. Vault toilets are provided. A volunteer host lives on site. A concrete boat ramp is available.

    Mack Landing Boat Ramp & Hunt Camp
    Mack Landing in Wakulla County has 6 campsites. The campsites are $3.00 per vehicle. Each campsite has a picnic table with a grill or fire ring. Drinking water is available. Vault toilets are provided. A concrete boat ramp is available.

    Whitehead Landing Boat Ramp & Hunt Camp
    Whitehead Landing in Liberty County has 6 campsites. The campsites are $3.00 per vehicle. Each campsite has a picnic table with a grill or fire ring. Drinking water is available. Vault toilets are provided. A concrete boat ramp is available.

    Wright Lake Recreation Area
    Wright Lake in Franklin County has 20 campsites. The campsites are $8.00 per night. Each campsite has a picnic table and a grill or fire ring. Drinking water is available. A nearby bathhouse includes flush toilets and hot showers. A dump station for RVs is available. Wright Lake is fairly level and easily accessible to people in wheelchairs. A volunteer host lives on site. Picnicking, swimming, boating, fishing, and hiking opportunities are also available here. No alcohol is allowed on site.

    Hunt Camps
    During deer gun hunting season (usually mid-November through mid-February), camping is only allowed at designated hunt camps (see map) and the five designated campgrounds. Portable restrooms and trashcans are provided at most hunt camps and campers may stay the entire season in one hunt camp (from 14 days prior to opening day to 14 days after closing day). Individual permits for dog pens may be purchased from your local Forest Service Office.

Bicycling Trails

Bicycles are welcome on public roads in the Forest, and on the designated mountain bike trail at Munson Hills in Leon County. The public roads are flat, but may be deep sand. Public parking for Munson Hills Trail is available at the St. Marks Bicycle Trailhead on Woodville Highway, just south of Capital Circle. The mountain bike trail is on sandy soil with gently rolling slopes through narrow pine trees. The trail is marked by blue blazes and divided into two loops: an 8-mile loop and a 5-mile loop. A bike rack, water fountain, and restrooms are available near the trail entrance. There are no fees.

Hiking Trails

The Apalachicola National Forest has approximately 85 miles of designated hiking trails, although hikers are welcome anywhere in the Forest. Pets are allowed, but must be restrained or on a leash. Sixty four miles of the statewide Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST) wind through the diverse ecosystems of the Apalachicola National Forest. The 18 miles through the Bradwell Bay Wilderness Area (swamp) is considered one of the most challenging sections. Numerous trailheads provide access to the trail. The trail is marked with orange blazes. The path is predominantly shaded through flat to rolling terrain. Hikers may camp while backpacking as long as campsites are at least 200 feet from the trail. Backpackers do not need a permit, do not need to check in and there is no fee. Please let your family and friends know your hiking plans, as the Forest Service does not keep track of Forest users.

Six interpretive trails have been created on the Apalachicola National Forest. These trails are: Camel Lake (1 mile), Fort Gadsden (1/2 mile), Leon Sinks (5 miles), Silver Lake (1 mile), Trail of Lakes (9 miles), and Wright Lake (5 miles). Camel Lake in Liberty County is marked with blue blazes and is one loop. Fort Gadsden in Franklin County is marked with blue blazes and is one loop. Leon Sinks in Leon County has two loops and has blue, green, and white blazes on different sections. Silver Lake in Leon County is marked with blue blazes and is a single loop. The Trail of Lakes in Liberty County is marked with blue blazes and is a single loop. Wright Lake in Franklin County is marked with blue and white blazes on different sections, but is a single loop.

Horseback Riding Trails

The Apalachicola National Forest has one designated horse trail in Leon County, although horse riders are welcome almost anywhere in the Forest (including on public roads). Horses are not allowed on the Florida National Scenic Trail (hiking only) or in developed recreation areas. There are few designated trailheads, so many individuals choose to park alongside a Forest road near where they want to ride. As long as vehicles do not obstruct traffic or destroy natural resources, this is permitted. Camping with horses in the general Forest area is allowed. Horses are also allowed in the primitive hunt camps (no amenities), although cleaning up after the horses is expected and appreciated. There are no fees for horseback riding.

The Vinzant Horse Trail in Leon County, is the only designated horse trail on the Forest. The trail has 2 loops (which overlap): an 11-mile loop and a 23-mile loop. The trail is marked with white, blue, and yellow blazes on different sections. The trailhead (a mowed field with no amenities) is located near the intersection of Forest Road 342 and State Route 267.

Boating

There are many places to access water on the Apalachicola National Forest. They range from easily accessible concrete ramps to narrow dirt clearings. There are some free and some fee boat ramps.

The rivers on the Apalachicola National Forest are best suited to small boats with and without motors. The lakes are limited to small boats with electric trolling motors, and non-motorized boats, such as canoes and kayaks. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) regulates water vessels and should be consulted for safety requirements, registration, and other regulations. Be considerate of those who come after you. Carry out your trash. Please leave flowers and cypress knees for others to enjoy.

For canoers and kayakers, there is no whitewater here. Rivers are kept in their natural condition. Each has its own characteristics. You can usually cover 2.5 miles per hour including periodic rest stops. In rivers with obstructions, you may only move 1.5 miles per hour. You may have to duck under low hanging tree branches or lift the canoe over partly submerged logs.

Private canoe and kayak rentals are available in Tallahassee, Woodville, Sopchoppy, and along the Wakulla River outside the Forest.

Hunting & Fishing

The Apalachicola National Forest is a wildlife management area, in which Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission manage hunting activities. General hunting information can be found on their website: www.floridaconservation.org or in their current Florida Hunting Regulations Handbook. For hunting regulations specific to the Apalachicola National Forest, see the Apalachicola Wildlife Management Area Regulations Summary and Area Map brochure and the Apalachicola Bradwell Unit Wildlife Management Area Regulations Summary and Area Map brochure.

Fishing is the second largest sport industry in Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also manage fishing activities. General fishing information can be found on their website or in their current Florida Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations Handbook.

Hunting and fishing licenses and permits for residents and nonresidents are available at the county tax collector's office, at many retail stores that sell hunting and fishing equipment, by phone (1-888-HUNT-FLORIDA or 1-888-FISH-FLORIDA) or through the internet.

The Rifle Range was built with funds provided by the Pittman-Robertson Act to be used by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Hunter Education Program. This Act levies an excise tax on all sporting arms and ammunition, which is then used for wildlife restoration and hunter education. When classes are not scheduled, the range is available to the public. The facility is open from sunrise to sunset and is unsupervised. The range is usually closed on Wednesdays for cleaning and repairs. Shooters need to bring their own targets and tacks or staples. Shotguns are not allowed. There is no fee to use the area.

Information provided by:
USDA Forest Service