Gold Head Branch State Park Trails
One of Florida's first state parks, Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park was developed on a 2,000-acre site by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the 1930s. The extraordinary craftsmanship of the CCC is still evident today. Located on rolling sandhills in an area known as the central ridge of Florida, a deep ravine with springs issuing from its sides bisects the area and forms Gold Head Branch. Marshes, lakes and scrub provide a habitat for a wide variety of wildlife.Visitors to the park can enjoy hiking and wildlife viewing along the park's nature trails and a 5.44-mile stretch of the Florida National Scenic Trail. For aquatic recreation, visitors can swim or fish in the lake, or spend a lazy afternoon canoeing. A large picnic area, with tables and grills,pavilions, and a playground are available for visitors to enjoy. Nestled under the trees are 3 full-facility campgrounds. Group and primitive campsites are available as are fully equipped lakefront cabins, some of which were built by the CCC.
There are four marked trails within Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park. These trails vary in length from a short 10-minute walk to a full three-hour hike that we recommend for the experienced hiker. The Ravine Ridge meanders along the upper ridge of the ravine between the ravine stairway and the mill site. Hikers can see the contrasts between the sandhill and ravine communities. The Loblolly Trail loop begins and ends at the mill site and winds through the largest loblolly pines in the park. The shortest trail is Fern Loop, which begins at the ravine stairway and passes by the headsprings of Gold Head Branch.The Florida National Scenic Trail traverses the park and is 5.44 miles long. It begins near the entrance gate and covers some of the park's high country. This trail is maintained by Florida Trail Association volunteers.While walking any of these trails you will have the opportunity to see such wildlife as Sherman fox squirrels, southeastern kestrel, red tailed hawk, bald eagles, fox, deer and various water and wading birds.A seven mile trail ride along the sandhills and scrubs takes the horse enthusiast to a picnic area overlooking Big Lake Johnson. This trail is rated intermediate because of the soft sand on the trail. Water is available for horses at the equestrian parking site. All horse riders are required to have proof of negative Coggins on their person or in their saddlebag. For paddling, canoe rentals are available at Little Lake Johnson.