Florida Trail | USA, 2011/12

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Campsite visitor | Florida Trail

Distance: 1136 miles (1828 km)

Avg. Time:  65 days

Start / Finish:

  • Northern Terminus: Fort Pickens (just south of Pensacola)
  • Southern Terminus: Loop Road, Big Cypress National Preserve
  • I extended my FT hike by a further 188 miles to finish at Key West, the southern most point in the continental USA.
  • Click here for details on getting to and from the respective trailheads.

Season:

  • The winter “dry” season is ideal for extended hiking trips on the FT. Basically any time between November and April is Ok. Unless you’re a fan of torrential rain, high humidity and mosquitos, you may want to avoid thru-hiking in the summer.

Day 1 Sunset – Pensacola Bay

Devil’s Hole

Maps / Info:

  • Florida Trail Guide: Guide book includes basic maps, resupply info, GPS data and mileage information.

Bingo Burgers | Favourite food stop on the FT, just outside of the town of St. Marks.

Sunrise from a jetty at St.Marks.

  • You will need to organize some permits if you are hiking the entire FT. Click here for details.

Route / Conditions:

  • The FT is well marked with orange blazes.
  • It may well be the world’s flattest long distance trail. I think the high point in the FT was somewhere around 260 ft above sea level. You can leave the Diamox and oxygen tanks at home for this one!

Couldn’t resist.

The Florida Trail is a contender for the title of “World’s Flattest Long Distance Hike.”

  • What it lacks in altitudinal variation, it makes up for in ecological diversity. Florida’s subtropical and temperate ecosystems make it the most biologically diverse of America’s lower 48 states.
  • Environments that the FT passes through include swamplands, scrub, pine forests, hardwood hammocks and Palmetto prairies.
  • In regards to wildlife, there are black bears, alligators, gopher tortoises, wild pigs and a great variety of reptile and birdlife. If you are extremely lucky, you may even spot a Florida Panther. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife service, there are only 100-160 adult panthers still left in the wild as of 2015.

Big Gator in St.Marks Wildlife Refuge

Feathered Friends

Big Pig

  • In addition to the variety of flora and fauna, personally speaking the other highlight of the FT was the sunrises and sunsets. The most consistently beautiful of any of the long trails I have done in North America.
  • The lowlight of the FT was the road walking. There’s a lot of it. According to the Florida Trail Association, a little less than 300 miles.

Vultures waiting.

Overview:

  • I hiked the Florida Trail in December/January of 2011/12. It was the 7th of the 12 Long Walks and the only one that I had reservations about before setting out. These doubts solely pertained to the above-mentioned road walking.
  • In the end I decided to go ahead and hike the FT, because I wanted to experience the unique environments that the state had to offer on foot. One step at a time.

Sunrise in the swamp.

  • At journey’s end I asked myself whether the  ecological diversity combined with the gorgeous sunrises & sunsets had compensated for the inordinate amount of road walking? The answer was “yes.”
  • Whilst it may not rate as one of my favourites, the opportunity to lie under a tarp and watch as an alligator moseys by not more than 40 ft away, is something that still makes me break out into a big smile.

Cottonmouth snake

The “trail” through Big Cypress.

Key West – The finish of my Florida Trail journey.


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