Exploring Florida’s flat “mountains” is an uncommon experience

0

There I found myself, far to the north, gazing atop a high peak, gasping for breath in the thin air where oxygen was scarce.

Except, of course, most of this is hyperbole because it wasn’t one of the massive mountains found in Alaska, Canada, or New England, but Florida’s highest point, Britton Hill.

The mound sits just 345 feet above sea level and offers views of nearby hills and cow pastures. But that’s nothing to get excited about.

It’s as high as it gets in the flattest state in the country; Britton Hill is the lowest “high point” in the United States. Even Visit Florida is in on the joke, remarking online that “You can get to the top without a Sherpa. Your grandma can reach the top without breaking a sweat.

However, venturing into the Panhandle offers more terrain than is typically found in the flatter parts of Florida. By looking in the right places, explorers can find waterfalls, rapids, or high cliffs that overlook rivers and scenic foothills.

There are even a few hikes where you might find yourself out of breath while climbing and descending undulating hills. Here are some areas to consider when venturing into the “mountains” of Florida.

A hike on the Florida Trail beside the Suwannee River passes through hills and ravines.

When hiking sections of the orange Florida Trail through the Panhandle, hikers may feel the added pressure of elevation change with sore legs or burning lungs.

Especially since the trail follows the scenic Suwannee River, it rises and falls near sandy beaches and limestone cliffs perched on either side of the waterway. It’s around the area where trail users on foot, horseback, or bike will find the elevation gain ranges from tens of feet—typical of many Florida hikes—to perhaps hundreds over several miles on the trail.

While paddling the Suwannee River by canoe or kayak, it is possible to encounter small waterfalls flowing from side streams, cascading over rocky outcrops.

The Aucilla River has rapids that cascade over the rocks.

In a few sections, there are even rapids, such as Big Shoals, which reach a Class III (moderately difficult) rating when the river is between 59 and 61 feet above sea level. These turbulent waters represent the largest whitewater rapids in Florida.

Speaking of rapids, head to the Aucilla River and the wildlife management area of ​​the same name for more whitewater that bubbles and bubbles over the rocks. A set of rapids lies a few miles east of the Wacissa River and is accessible by car via unpaved forest roads.

The Florida Trail also follows portions of the river, providing hikers with the same views and natural features that paddlers can experience.

The view from the Torreya State Park Campground offers views of the surrounding foothills.

Other parts of the Florida Panhandle offer even more strenuous hikes, but with scenery that rivals what can be seen along beautiful Suwannee.

Head west to Torreya State Park, which is just east of where the Central Time Zone begins, and find one of the highest campgrounds in the world. ‘State. Located on a windswept cliff over 200 feet above sea level, the site offers elevated views of the surrounding hills, as well as two yurts and cabins for more comfortable accommodation.

Take off from the campsite along the Weeping Ridge trail to descend into a ravine and you may have the rare chance of witnessing a waterfall in Florida. Watch your footing along the way – the hilly terrain will be unfamiliar to those used to hiking in flat Florida.

Adventurous backpackers can experience the joys of primitive camping and find even more exclusive views while hiking one of the park’s two loop trails, staying at one of three backcountry sites along the way . The eastern loop is the aptly named Torreya Challenge, which requires seven miles of climbing steep inclines and descending challenging descents.

Combine the two loops for over 12 miles of hiking and over 1,600 feet of elevation gain, according to AllTrails. A total of 16 miles of trails are available in the park. Of course, day hikers can also enjoy these scenic walks.

Nestled in Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve, just south of Torreya State Park, explorers can find what might be one of the most scenic day hikes in the entire state. Follow the covered Garden of Eden Trail for a 3.7-mile loop that offers impressive views from the cliffs above the Apalachicola River. Be aware of the ups and downs encountered while navigating steep ravines with streams at the bottom.

Lakewood Park near Paxton is home to Florida's highest point, Britton Hill.

After traversing these great exciting trails, Britton Hill can be a little disappointing. Located just south of the Alabama state line and the town of Florala, visit Lakewood Park near Paxton for a photo op with a marker that signals you’ve arrived at Florida’s highest point.

As Visit Florida details in an article on the site, there is a niche group of explorers called “highpointers” who seek to stand on the highest ground in each of the lower forty-eight states. Some have gone to great lengths to include all 50.

Imagine summiting 20,310-foot Mount Denali in Alaska, which has the highest elevation in North America, only to travel to Florida and marvel at its nearly 350-foot peak. I hope they at least had a good holiday.

The Red Clay Cliffs or Red Rock Cliffs of Blackwater River State Forest feature a unique geological formation along the Florida Trail/Juniper Creek Trail.

You don’t have to travel all the way west to see jaw-dropping canyons and cliffs.

Untangled journey

Untangled journey

Weekly

Escape with vacation ideas, trip planning help, and money-saving tips.

The Lone Star State owns Palo Duro Canyon, known as the “Grand Canyon of Texas.” North Carolina is home to Linville Gorge and North Georgia is home to Tallulah Gorge. Even further south in the state, travelers can find a stunning ecological formation at Providence Canyon, which has been dubbed “Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon.”

Surprisingly, Florida has one or two canyons. Visit The Canyons zipline and adventure park near Ocala to soar over a former mining quarry that now provides entertainment for tourists. The attraction contains rocky cliffs and wide blue lakes, geological features that bear little resemblance to other parts of the state.

But away from the heavy tourist orbit of central Florida, venture further west into the Panhandle to explore the Blackwater River State Forest. The tranquil 211,000-acre expanse features beautiful streams and an extensive pine/cordgrass ecosystem, as well as elevations ranging from 10 feet to 290 feet above sea level.

The Blackwater River flows through the Blackwater River State Forest.

Parts of Florida’s largest state forest are underlain by sandy, red clay soil, which has eroded over time to form low hills and scenic banks along the Blackwater River, Juniper Creek, Coldwater Creek and Sweetwater Creek.

Depart from a trail near Juniper Creek for a short hike to Florida’s ‘Red Clay Cliffs’ or ‘Red Rock Bluffs’, located along part of the Florida Trail/Juniper Creek Trail. Watch your footing, but enjoy the views atop tall cliffs overlooking the creek and forest surroundings. Or walk along the cliffs and descend to the bottom of the canyon, witnessing how erosion has worked its magic over time to sculpt the clay into a unique natural wonder.

This entire area of ​​the Florida Panhandle contains many hidden gems and atypical geological features of the Sunshine State.

Find me @PConnPie on Twitter and instagram or send me an email: [email protected]. For more fun things, follow @fun.things.orlando on instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Share.

Comments are closed.