Hiking, Paddling and Camping opportunities are everywhere!
Welcome to an ecoadventure in Franklin County. Eighty-one percent of Franklin County is publically owned, giving us a huge back yard to share with you. And that’s not even counting our front yard, St. George Sound and the Gulf of Mexico. If your adventure involves camping, hiking and paddling, you have come to the right place. Don’t forget your camera and if you adventure in the summer you’ll need bug spray.
The Apalachicola River Paddling Trail System was designated as a national paddle trail in 2008. Paddlers at all levels of ability enjoy scenic waterways on 11 canoeing and kayaking trails - nearly 100 miles through the swamps of the Apalachicola River. Distances range from short, easy trips to multi-day river trips flowing into open bays of the Gulf of Mexico. Tate’s Hell State Forest, covering over 200,000 acres of public land, is bordered on the west by the Apalachicola River and on the east by the Ochlockonee River. The forest offers numerous creeks and rivers for paddling opportunities. Beginning in the Mud Swamp Wilderness Area of the Apalachicola National Forest, the New River runs through the middle of Franklin County. It then merges with the Crooked River to form the Carrabelle River, which flows into St. George Sound.
More than a dozen primitive campsites, several with soft launches, offer a wilderness experience paddle on the New River. The Crooked River, a much larger river with more dependable flow, has four campsites with launches. Like the Apalachicola River, the headwaters of the Ochlockonee River begins in Georgia, and many miles later empty into the Gulf of Mexico. There are two campsites with launches in Tate’s Hell State Forest on the Ochlockonee River. Be prepared to see alligators and lots of birds, maybe even a Florida black bear on any of these rivers. For more information, you may visit www.floridaforestservice.com.
Franklin County features several campgrounds that accommodate large RV campers. The facilities in Carrabelle handle RVs and feature full amenities. Utility hookups are available at the Eastpoint campground. Florida State park campgrounds generally make room for both traditional tent camping and RVs. For more information, visit our campgrounds page.
If you prefer to enjoy your adventure on land, you may want to consider a hike on the Coastal High Bluff Trail on Highway 98, west of Carrabelle, in Tate’s Hell State Forest. There is an East Trailhead and a West Trailhead so you can leave a vehicle at one end if you want to hike all six miles. It is an easy hike through coastal scrub habitat along an ancient dune system that climbs to an elevation offering views of St. George Sound. In April there are masses of Lady Lupine less than one mile in from the West Trailhead. Another colorful flower is the bright orange/yellow of the Bog Bachelor Buttons. After rains you can find Sundew, tiny carnivorous plants in the wet areas of the trail. In October, the Large Leaf Jointweed is flowering along the trial in the white coastal sands. Tall terrestrial plume orchids can be found along the dirt roads of Tate’s Hell during the summer. The hydrology of Tate’s Hell State Forest is being restored by constructing water crossings in some of the roads that allow surface water to flow toward Apalachicola Bay. The resulting wet areas, called savannas, are where you will find the carnivorous pitcher plants. As for birding, Wild Turkey, Red Shouldered Hawk, American Bald Eagle, Swallow-tailed and Mississippi Kites are a few of the birds you might see. Raccoons are often seen during the day and white-tailed deer are abundant. You may even glimpse a bobcat or a black bear. The trails and natural areas are rough and uneven. Insects, irritating plants and other hazards may be present. Wear boots and use caution. Take water, sunscreen, and bug spray and don’t hike alone. Franklin County is happy to share our bountiful natural resources. These public areas have been set aside for your use and enjoyment. We ask that you “take only pictures and leave only footprints.”