Nature Outings

Florida Parks & Trails

Gadsden County (Quincy Area)

Angus K. Gholson, Jr. Nature Park (Chatahoochee)
A 126 acre natural preserve on the Appalachicola River Bluffs near Lake Seminole, with a very different terrain from Leon or Monticello. The website has printable list of wildflowers you can spot while hiking. 

Bear Creek Educational Forest at Lake Talquin Educational Forest. 
This is an educational center, much like Joe Budd Center below. Not only are there a myriad of trails with handicap accessibility, there are many classes set up for school children. There is a great mix of ravine trails and easy trails for hiking.

Cypress Cove Nature Park is a little known, but gorgeous, gem. It has a few picnic shelters, a spillway, and lovely scenery. A wonderful place for a nature study!

Eugene Lamb, Jr. Park on Iron Bridge Road in the Havana Midway area. This park has a playground, picnic facilities, a basketball court, paved trails, restrooms, and a multi-use field. 

Nature Conservancy Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines (Garden of Eden Trail) in Bristol is a lovely place to go hiking and birding. My children went with grandparents and a host of older birders. 

Jackson County (Marianna Area)

Bear Paw Water Adventures 
A tubing, canoeing and kayaking venue on a crystal clear spring that feeds into the Chipola River. Amazingly pristine and peaceful. Read blog post here.

Blue Springs Recreation Area
(Summers only) A fabulously clear spring is surrounded by floating docks (with diving boards) and pavillions – the perfect venue for paddleboats, canoes and fishing. For land-loving peeps, there is a volleyball coart, as well as a playground and a beach.

Blue Springs Recreation Area
(Summers only) A fabulously clear spring is surrounded by floating docks (with diving boards) and pavillions – the perfect venue for paddleboats, canoes and fishing. For land-loving peeps, there is a volleyball coart, as well as a playground and a beach.

Bluff Trail / Bluff Rock
A 3/4 mile hiking trail over moderate terrain through a cave and to Bluff Rock (a 20′ limestone bluff) overlooking the Chipola River Plain.The cave is only open during daylight hours, but can be hiked around if desired. Supposed to be an amazing place to stargaze.

Citizen’s Lodge Park
Jackson County’s newest park sports trails through forests and past ponds. The Lodge is available for rent as well. 

Falling Waters State Park
With hiking, swimming, and a Florida’s highest waterfall, this state park is a summer day trip. Sporting the highest campground in Florida (and bathhouse), Falling Waters State park also has a playground at the picnic area for the littlest ones. The park is closed for road repairs until January 1, 2023.

Marianna Caverns
Florida’s only public cavern system, Marianna Caverns have been a local attraction for decades with history reaching back to the Civil War. Open for tours Thursday – Monday daylight hours.

Three Rivers State Park 
This gorgeous park has a lot to offer for birders, hikers, paddlers, and bikers. Campsites are available with electricity and a bathhouse as well.This is a large park where the convergence of the Flint and Chattahoochee River form Lake Seminole. 

Jefferson County (Monticello Area)

Aucila River Watershed
Hiking, paddling, camping and wildlife viewing are all top tier here. Many organizations have links to explore both the trail and its waterways. The site linked here is hosted by the venerable Tall Timbers Research Institute. There are other sites dedicated wholly to the trail, like this one. 

Florida Trail Aucila Sinks Trailhead 
This trail follows the Aucila river as it rises up from its 8 mile underground passage into a series of sinks. The spectacular geology of this area makes it arguably one of the most interesting sections of the Florida Trail. 

Goose Pasture Campground
A self-serve campground on the edge of the Aucila river, Goose Pasture Campground is quite close to the Aucila Sinks Trailhead.

Letchworth-Love Archaelogical State Park

The site of the tallest Native American Ceremonial Mound in Florida, this park has a 1/2 mile hiking trail, covered pavilions and offers tours (best to book the tours ahead.)

Monticello Ecological Park
This little park sports peaceful boardwalks and good opportunities for birding. A terrific place for a short study break.

Plank Road State Forest
A terrific place for cross-country practice, Plank Road State Forest covers the far eastern side of Leon county and western side of Jefferson County. Excellent for nature walks, biking and horesback riding and wildlife viewing.

Wacissa River Springs
Yet another lovely, clear river where visitors can swim, float along, paddle ro fish. There is also a small river side pavilion and beach for a short visit (but I have lost the address and will have to update this part later. The site linked above will suffice to keep most of us happy!)

North, East, Northeast Leon
 

AJ Henry Park  MAP
Nestled between Killearn Estates and Arbor Hill neighborhoods, this sprawling park has a boardwalk-fringed pond, playground, restrooms, covered pavilions, wonderful trails with two trailheads, open fields and half-court basketball areas. Trails are well marked and include ravine trails. My children loved looking for salamanders in the streams there.

Appalachee Regional Park   MAP
Host to the 2021 NCCA Cross Country tournament, this park is a distance runners dream. It has multipurpose fields and an area for RC planes.

Brinkley Glen   MAP
Tucked away in the north Meridian Road area, Brinkley Glen Park offers some pond life viewing and trail hiking / cycling. A quick 1/2 – 1 mile hike depending on which loop you take. 

Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park   MAP   Brochure   Birding List
Another terrific park for Cross Country running, nature study, hiking and biking, this park offers plenty of diverse trails and a lot of solitude. Cell service is spotty – especially near the wetlands area. Read more here on nature study in this park.

Fern Trail     MAP  
This was a favorite hike in the days before it had a name and I had children. Fern Trail links up to other trails and has a offers a fun “back alley” way to span the gap from Governor’s Park to Tom Brown. Poison ivy is a big deal in spots here, but otherwise, a lot of fun.

Fred George Greenway Trail & Park    MAP
Biography of Fred George
A busy park for ball games with a nearby pond makes this a terrific place for a playgroup co-op on the Northwest side of town. A stone’s throw from I-10 exit 196, it is easy to dart from both east Tallahassee exits and Quincy/Midway exits for group fun. There is a covered pavilion- 1 – so bring your sunscreen!

Goose Pond Trail    MAP
Part of the trails that link the east side of Tallahassee through parks and paths, this trail is quite popular with spots for rollerblades, and of course, biking and hiking. There are multiple trail heads, but starting/finishing at Tom Brown Park provides a picnic area, restrooms, water and a playground.

Guyte P. McCord Walking Park   
This is a lovely little park is tucked away in the Betton Hills area.. Multiple sculptures by artist Sandy Proctor grace the trails. The walking path also skirts a pond, and community gardens. There are picnic tables, but no bathrooms.

Governor’s Park    MAP
An undeveloped parcel of land – wide and open for frisbees, kites or just a quick run. Located between park and Mahan,, Governor’s Park sits at the central end of Fern Trail. No bathrooms or amenities, but plenty of fun.

Lafayette Heritage Park    MAP
Alternate post
This huge park boasts not only a playground, bathrooms and picnic areas, but some terrific trails as well. A paddling trail is advertised for kayaks/canoes as well. Excellent views!

Lake Jackson Indian Mounds   MAP
Home of huge earthen mounds from some of Tallahassee’s earliest residents, this park is usually a quiet one. Well shaded picnic tables, a covered pavilion, restrooms and hiking trails are available. A $3 entrance fee should be left in the honor box.

Maclay Gardens & Park   MAP
A unique park across from the Killearn Estates neighborhood, Maclay Gardens once served as the winter home for the Maclay family. Alfred B. Maclay enjoyed obviously enjoyed gardening, as the grounds contain not only a walled garden, a (no longer) Secret Garden, a reflecting pool, a lovely pavilion and numerous brick paths. In addition, there are marvelous trails for hiking, a playground (not in the garden area), and a swimming area. Heads up for alligators at lake’s edge (including just a few feet from some trail paths). Per the ranger in 2007, there was still at least one Florida Panther.  Great place for nature observations and pictures.

Micosukee Greenway   MAP
A lovely shady trail that runs parallel to Miccosukee Road with multiple trailheads, excellent for jogging, bike or horses. Bathrooms are available. Usually quiet and serene with plenty of deer and other wildlife.

Orchard Pond Greenway   MAP
A very quiet area for hiking, bike riding and horses with ample opportunity to observe birds, this greenway runs parallel to the parkway that connects Havana to Tallahasee.

St. Marks Headwaters Greenway MAP 
Is an offshoot of the St. Marks River Preserve State park (see below).

St. Marks River Preserve State Park    MAP

A quiet, undeveloped park for hiking and horseback riding, this park has no amenities. It is a lovely place to photograph or do a nature study, though.

Tom Brown Park & Trails   MAP
Hands down the most developed of all parks, Tom Brown has areas for games, picnics, grilling or playgrounds easily availale. with all kinds of ball courts, trails and wide grassy fields to enjoy, it is very popular and busy.

Timberlane Ravine Park MAP
Here is a fun little stretch in the Timberlane / Market Square area.. Nice, woodsy and quick trail. Be sure to read the linked post from the “Hike It Baby!” site – an excellent resource for moms with littles who want to explore

Midtown & Downtown Tallahassee


Barret W. Allen Nature Perserve   
Hidden off of East Call near the railroad tracks lies a little unpaved, wooded loop that offers a quick stretch of the legs for little people. While it would is easy enough for a little person, there are no amenities (ie bathrooms).

Cascades Park   Park Map       MAP
Tallahassee’s newest park, Cascades park has a terrific splashpad, playground, paths, The Riley House Museum, the Korean War Memorial and more. A frequent venue for entertainment.

Carter Howell Strong Park   MAP
This little park is a midtown alternative to the busier Lake Ella Park. A little more than a half mile of paved path around a lake in Historic Frenchtown (Between Virginia and West Georgia – at the end of Carolina). There is a little fountain in the middle of the park, but not many amenities. A nice change of pace after a library stop at the Main Branch.

Dorothy B. Oven    MAP
Once home to another camelia developer, this park sits quite close to midtown on Thomasville between the Fire Station and Thomasville Baptist Road Church. Its pagoda makes a fun place for a small group to picnic. There are no tables, but some benches. There are restrooms in the main house, however, these may not be accessible unless the house is open for an event. Visitors are welcome to stroll the grounds. During the holiday season the park is awash with lights , decorations and music which can be enjoyed either drive-thru or walking style. There is even an “Elf Night” -but be warned, the line is *very* long.

Lake Ella Park    History Article
One of Tallahassee’s oldest parks, Lake Ella has been remodeled a few times to become a popular spot for walking, biking and birdwatching. It is a wonderful place to watch baby ducks in the spring. There are benches, a covered pavillion and picnic tables. Wreathed by both a sidewalk and shops, it is easy to find a treat and a bathroom. (Black Dog Cafe and Big Easy Sneauxcones are favorite stops). Parking is limited to either the tiny lot by Black Dog or parallel parking around the circle. (No meters.)

Lafayette Park   
Between Midtown and Oldtown Tallahassee you can find a wonderful woodsy stretch here with a terrific covered playground area, benches, an art center and a community center. The art center has classes with homeschool friendly schedules (read that – early afternoon before public schools let out). The staff is super friendly and supportive. The park also has tennis and basketball cours.

Waverly Park Pond    
Yet another park with a pond close to the heart of Tally, this park has a few parking spaces and offers access to one side of the pond. The other side of the pond is made of other people’s backyards. Even so, it is a cute little spot to park with elementary kiddos and a blanket for lunch on a busy day of school and errands. When my children were young we enjoyed some birdwatching here.

Winthrop Park    MAP
A favorite park right at the edge of the Betton neighborhood, off Thomasville and Betton Road, known for its well shaded children’s playgrounds, baseball diamonds, raquetball and tennis ball courts. There is also a large grassy field for playing other sports, like kickball or frisbee. Ample parking at the playground or by the diamonds. There are no benches at the fields, so bring a park chair, and possibly an umbrella. Restrooms are available.

South and West Leon County

Evans Pond Park  MAP
Close to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, next door to Myers Park, this little pond has a sidewalk running down one side. It is undeveloped, with no bathrooms (though there are bathrooms in Myers park).

J.R.Alford Greenway    MAP
If you have seen pictures taken on a local covered bridge, chances are you are looking at this park. Park of an enormous and gorgeous trail system, this park has plenty of paved trails, as well as unpaved bike trails. The paved walkway through the oak canopy provides an unusual, but lovely, perspective, and the opportunities to observe pond life are excellent. And, as Julie Allie Photography proved, it is the perfect setting for pictures of very camera shy teens.

Indian Head Acres (Optomist Park & Koucky Park) Birding List

Located in one of the city’s first planned communities, Indian Head Acres is a narrow strip park encompassing two parks. Optimist Park is the largest park, and a popular place for playdates. There are restrooms, basketball and sand volleyball courts, as well as playgrounds. There are bridges and water for exploring as well.  (Note: there are no restrooms at the Koucky Park playground.) There is not a lot of shade.

Jack Maclean Park    MAP
If your family (1) lives close to the south side of town and (2) loves disc golf, this may be your favorite park.  With a  community center, playground, an activity and a lap pool, this park is a summertime favorite. It is often easier to get into swim lessons at this park as well.

 Lake Elberta Trail       
Yet another trail-wrapped pond, this park has pavilions for a quick lunch stop and a water fountain, but no restrooms. A simple, lovely park, perfect for a rollerblade or bike break.

 

 

Lake Henrietta Trail & Silver Lake  
These two *very* sunny parks on the south side of town are linked together by a trail and bridge. With meandering trails and plenty of pond life, there is ample opportunity to do nature study over the course of a short hike. The Silver Lake link above gives a view of parking and the floating docks where visitors may fish. There is a swimming area, as well as a canoe & kayak launch, and a boardwalk. The 1 mile “Habitat Trail” loops around the lake.  With its remarkably clear water, this quiet park is perfect for nature study both in and out of the water! (And, yes, there are bathrooms to change afterwards.)

Myers Park       MAP   
Just off Apalachee Parkway, near the Capitol Building, lies the sprawling 32-acres of trails, picnic shelters and fields. There is also a playground, restrooms, tennis courts, a basketball court and a pool complex.

San Luis Mission Park     MAP
N
ot to be confused with the archaeological muscum Mission San Luis de Apalachee, the beautiful canopied trails and picnic pavilions of this park make it perfect for large group playdates any time of year. Turtles, fish, and sometimes a beaver, can be seen from the boardwalk over the edge of the lake. The playground has a ramp for some accessibility and there are bathrooms – along with outlets for charging phones. Trails in this park are terrific for hiking and cross country running. The shallow edges of the lake are also perfect for catching tadpoles and minnows. A wonderful way to relax with kids for an afternoon.

 Speed-Spencer-Stephens Walking Trail   
A very short paved trail, the Speed-Spencer-Stephens walking path is just right for a quick stretch with wiggly toddlers. Birds and aquatic life provide interest for walkers.

St. Marks Trail    & St. Marks River Preserve Trail
Twenty miles of rollerblading, biking, or running, is a great way to spend a day with energetic students. There are plenty of entrances for those who aren’t up to the whole twenty to St. Marks, though! This gorgeous trail runs through the Apalachicola National Forest. Bathrooms and a playground are available.

The nearby River Preserve Trail starts at the headwaters of the St. Marks River and offers 16 miles of hiking trails (but no bathrooms!). Another serene trail for a day’s walking!

Liberty County (Bristol Area)

Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Trail: Garden of Eden Preserve
A wonderful site for birding, The Garden of Nature Trail is owned by the Nature Conservancy. The guides were very friendly and helpful with our middle school and elementary aged children during a guided tour. 

Apalachicola National Forest West
Pick up on the Florida Trail In the least populated county in Florida. Be sure to pack a compass as trail markers may not be up to date (especially post Hurricane Michael. This area was badly damaged in that storm.) It is a lovely hike, though!

Beaver Dam Creek Tract
Yes, Florida has beavers, and if you can keep your tribe quiet enough, you might even see them. (They are especially busy in the pond in my backyard – in a nearby county- in winter). Better yet, bring a canoe or plan a hike to get some active fun in.

Campgrounds, Miscellanous list
From HikerCentral.com, this list covers the many primitive campgrounds in the area, as well as some of the better known areas such as “Tate’s Hell” – where a former WWII training camp was located (though the soldiers didn’t name it)

Florida River Island Park and Campground

Located on a 5,000 acre island in the middle of the Apalachicola River, this small campground only has 10 overnight camping sites, and limited facilities. Boating, biking and hiking are all popular here.

Weeping Ridge Trail – Torreya State Park, Bristol
 Part of the trail system through gorgeous Torreya, Weeping Ridge offered some lovely views pre-Michael. 2 years post Michael it was still closed. Most parks have cleared their trails, but it would be a good idea to call first. Beware that there are some very steep areas in this park (think of it like the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains) – not your typical Florida Hike. Very remote, but very fun hike. Certain cross-country teams have briefly lost members here – cell phones don’t reach everywhere in the park either.

 

Wakulla County (Crawfordville/Wakulla Area)

Azalea Park (Sopchoppy Depot Park?)
From all of hte pictures I have seen, this little park packs a lot of beauty in a small town package. With lovely gardens, pavilions, a stage,  paved walks and a self guided tour of native flowers, this is a park I am looking forward to visiting soon. It was planted and maintained in part by the Florida Native Plant Society – in some cases with seeds that were wild harvested. This would be an excellent place for a botanical nature study. 

Cathedral of Palms Trail
A popular hiking, biking and birding trail connected to the Florida Trail. Be sure to print up or download a map before arriving as parts are not well marked. Super for nature walks.

Cherokee Sink Trail
 A nice get-out-and-stretch-their-legs walk for the kids with a beautiful sink at the end of the trail, this trail is ideal for running. 

Edwin Ball Wakulla Springs State Park
A generational favorite among locals, known for its chilly springs and its high dive, this park offers a restaurant, a lodge, a bathhouse, and ice cream counter, a cafe, a store and even boat tours. Highly recommended if you have time for only one site in Wakulla. See Tallyhops blog post here.

San Marcos De Apalache Historic State Park
A generational favorite among locals, known for its chilly springs and its high dive, this park offers a restaurant, a lodge, a bathhouse, and ice cream counter, a cafe, a store and even boat tours. Highly recommended if you have time for only one site in Wakulla. See Tallyhops blog post here.

Wakulla Beach, Mashes Sands
Although Wakulla Beach is mentioned as a spot that’s good for fishing (and not swimming), Mashes Sands is a wonderful place to wade and play in the water. With a wide, shallow beach, my kiddos have spent many an hour building sandcastles or digging up cocina shells when we needed to get out for a bit. There is a restroom (if I remember correctly). But be sure to check water quality before you go.

Georgia Parks & Trails

Decatur * Grady * Thomas * Mitchell

Decatur County (Bainbirdge Area)

List of Parks in Grady County

Here is a list that I am eager to dive into on our next visit to Pope’s Museum or Camp Crosspoint. We love Birdsong for nature study (especially the birding window!!) 

Thomas County (Thomasville Area)

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