Whether you're looking for a great day hike or a rugged week of backpacking, you'll find the St. Marks section of the Florida National Scenic Trail fits the bill perfectly. It's a wild place, south of Tallahassee, hugging the coast as it curves into the panhandle. It's brimming with wildlife and history– and the hiking is terrific.

The section of the Florida Trail that passes through the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge stretches east to west about 50 miles in length, and backpackers can gain the special treat of camping on refuge property with a permit. After periods of heavy rain, you can encounter some water on the trail, but otherwise, the trail is mostly dry.

Thanks to abundant trailheads that are easy to access from US 98, day hiking portions of the Florida Trail in the refuge is simple as well. One offering is the 5.3 mile Florida Trail, Shepherd Spring hike that meanders through coastal swamps at the Cathedral of Palms before revealing magnificent Shepherd Spring, pristine and calm.

Make sure to take time to feast your eyes on the St. Marks Lighthouse, a much-photographed sentinel that was originally built in 1830 and has stood proud through over 100 storms. The present tower was constructed in 1842.

For more information, including directions, specific hikes and trail tips, visit floridahikes.com/st-marks-nwr.

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