By Andrew J. Skerritt
With almost 900 square miles of long leaf pine, cypress, swamps, rivers and lakes, the Apalachicola National Forest is a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts.
“It’s like a backyard forest that provides a wide range of opportunities to experience, explore,” said Chandra Roberts, recreation program manager for the Apalachicola National Forest.
For an exhaustive list of recreational opportunities, check out the forest’s website. Here are five ways to get you started in the largest forest in Florida:
Surrounding one of the few crystal-clear lakes in the Apalachicola National Forest, Camel Lake Recreation Area also provides a quiet place to relax and take in the beauty of the longleaf pine forest.
Silver Lake is the largest recreation area in the Apalachicola National Forest. Large pine and moss-draped cypress create a beautiful backdrop for a spring-fed lake. People often picnic at one of 45 picnic tables, swim off the 250-foot white sand beach, or hike the mile-long interpretive trail.
Wright Lake offers white sand beach, and a nearby bathhouse includes flush toilets and hot showers. Picnic tables and grills are scattered among trees with views of the lake.
Camel Lake has a well-shaded 10-site campground, suitable for RVs or tents, and the day use recreation area has picnic tables, picnic shelter, and a sandy beach for swimming.
Porter Lake is for primitive camping, with access for paddlers into winding channels through the floodplain forest of the Ochlockonee River basin. Trailhead along the Florida National Scenic Trail.
Wright Lake includes 18 campsites with picnic tables, grills, tent pads and fire rings. The recreation area is fairly level and easily accessible. Hikers can enjoy a 4.6-mile interpretive trail that circles the lake.
You can hike for a few hours or a few days on the more than 80 miles of designated backpacking trails in the Apalachicola National Forest.
One of the most adventurous stretches of the trail meanders east-west through the 39-square-mile Bradwell Bay Wilderness Area.
For shorter expeditions, hikers can explore the six interpretive trails, including the five-mile trail to Leon Sinks and the nine-mile Trail of Lakes. Hikers should be prepared to get feet and trousers wet.
4. Visit Fort Gadsden Historic Site
Fort Gadsden is the site of an underappreciated piece of African-American history, the former Negro Fort is where 300 men, women and children, many of them escaped slaves, died when an American shell hit an open magazine 1816.
Located along the scenic highway Route 65 near Eastpoint, just south of Wright Lake campground, be sure to visit the interpretive center, the relax in the picnic areas or along the tranquil Apalachicola River.
5. Kayaking and Canoeing
The hundreds of miles of waterways offer slow, scenic canoe and kayak rides.
The adventurous can spend a three-day weekend on the Ochlockonee River, which has campsites at places like Mack and Wood Lake landings along the way. June through September, the wettest months, is the best time of year.
For shorter canoe and kayak excursions, the New River, Lost Creek, Owl Creek, Kennedy Creek, River Styx and the Upper Sopchoppy River beckon.
If you go…
Apalachicola National Forest
State Road 13, Bristol, Fla. 32358
Photos by Colin Hackley for VISIT FLORIDA
Sponsored listings by VISIT FLORIDA Partners
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