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May 1, 2023

How to Hike the Suwannee River Trail and Other Hotspots: A Guide

From sun-soaked rivers and glistening turquoise springs to dozens of musical birds and lush flora, the individual hiking trails that intertwine through Suwannee County each have elements of beauty and adventure. Whether you want a short stroll to feed your inner historian with sites of Civil War-era remains or an escape from the hustle and bustle to immerse yourself in the quiet and wonder of nature, there’s a trail made for you.

Suwannee River State Park

In addition to camping, paddling, birding, and fishing, Suwannee River State Park offers six hiking trails from the leisurely Earthworks Trail to the more strenuous Big Oak Trail.

Suwannee River Trail

A couple walks the Suwannee River Trail
A couple explores the Suwannee River Trail at Suwannee River State Park

The Suwannee River Trail is a .7-mile walk directly on the riverbank that leads to the Little Gem Spring overlook. Close your eyes and listen for the songs of the birds that call the Suwannee River home like herons, egrets, wood ducks, red-tailed hawks, warblers, wrens, swallows, and thrashers. 

Balanced Rock Trail

The Balanced Rock Trail is a three-mile trek along the shimmering Suwannee River. Formed over millions of years and carved by sediments in the river, a 20-foot limestone tower once stood – giving the trail its namesake before erosion caused the iconic landmark to fall in 2015. 

Lime Sink Run Trail

A couple stands on the bridge looking over lime sink run
A couple takes in the view from a bridge over Lime Sink Run Trail at Suwannee River State Park

In the 1950s, Lime Sink Run was set to be an up-and-coming swimming area for visitors, but due to flooding the concept didn’t last. Nevertheless, hikers can follow the .75-mile trail, which meets the Suwannee River Trail and the Balance Rock Trail.  

Sandhill Trail

The Sandhill Trail is a .8-mile trail that leads hikers to the historical Columbus Cemetery. In addition to being one of the state’s oldest cemeteries, this portion of the park, which features 23 graves, serves as a symbol and, frankly, one of the few remaining treasures of the town of Columbus, which was initially founded in 1841 and thrived from the river steamboat traffic before becoming a notable ghost town. 

Earthworks Trail

At .25 miles, the Earthworks Trail is the shortest hike in the park. The earthworks mound dates back to 1863 when Civil War Confederate soldiers built the structure to defend the railroad bridge in Columbus against the Union soldiers. The trail ends at the ferry landing and confluence overlook where the Withlacoochee River meets the Suwannee River.

Big Oak Trail

Clocking in at a whopping 12.5 miles, the Big Oak Trail is the longest trail at the park and is notable for being part of the Florida National Scenic Trail. This more rigorous hike follows the Withlacoochee River down to the Suwanacoochee Spring before turning to outline the Suwannee River making for a breathtakingly scenic adventure.

Suwannee River State Park
3631 201st Path
Live Oak, FL 32060

Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park

Boardwalk leading to Peacock Springs
Follow this boardwalk through the trees to Peacock Springs

Renowned for its vibrant water and having one of the longest underwater cave systems in the continental United States, Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park also enchants above water with a 1.2-mile award-winning interpretive trail. The trail begins at the parking area and welcomes guests with interpretive displays, photographs, and glimpses of what lies below the surface. Rather than gear up and dive into the spring itself, visitors can follow its path above ground while learning about the formation of the caves and witnessing unique features like sinkholes, floodplain forests, sparkleberry bushes, frogs, white-tailed deer, magnolias, and more.

Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park
18081 185th Rd
Live Oak 32060

Ichetucknee Springs State Park

Ichetucknee Springs State Park is noted for its relaxing kayaking opportunities and tubing ventures, but for those who prefer staying dry, the park has three hiking trails that are easily accessible from the north entrance and four trails located at the south entrance.

Blue Hole Trail

Pedestrian bridge on Blue Hole Trail at Ichetucknee Springs State Park. Picture courtesy of Michael Rivera.

The Blue Hole Trail is a .4-mile walk to the picturesque Blue Hole Spring – the largest spring in the park. Following the unpaved trail through the Ichetucknee forest eventually opens to Blue Hole Spring, which beyond beauty is also an excellent spot for experienced swimmers and scuba divers.

Trestle Point Trail

Trestle Point is a pet-friendly trail that’s also shaded from the hot summer sun. The unpaved path follows the river where wildlife like wading birds, river otters, and the occasional manatee may be spotted. Keep Fido on a leash and be sure to take time to stop and smell the wildflowers.

Pine Ridge Trail

Pine Ridge is another pet-friendly option with a 1.25-mile loop outlined by longleaf pine. Being part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, look out for sightings of the American kestrel, Northern bobwhite, or Bachman’s sparrow. 

Midpoint Trail

The Midpoint Trail is a .75-mile hike from the Midpoint kayak launch to Dampier’s Landing where visitors gather to either start or finish their kayaking, paddleboard, or tubing journey down the river’s current.

Dampier’s Trail

Named after the Dampier family – one of the original settlers along the river – this quarter-mile trail is the only paved trail in the park and leads guests from the general store located at the south entrance to Dampier’s Landing.

South Takeout Trail

The South Takeout Trail is a .75-mile road from the parking and picnic pavilion at the south entrance down to the South Takeout drop-off point. This winding trail features shaded canopies with portions of wide-open countryside.

Education and Discovery Center Trail

The Education and Discovery Center Trail is a short, .3-mile, pet-friendly loop located behind the visitor’s center. The education center houses interactive and interpretive displays designed to help guests learn more about the spring and its water’s journey. 

Ichetucknee Springs State Park
12087 SW US Highway 27
Fort White, FL 32038

The Florida National Scenic Trail

A tree on the left of the trail shows an orange blaze
The orange blaze guides the way along this section of the Florida Trail

The Florida National Scenic Trail spans approximately 1,500 miles across the beautiful Sunshine State and a portion of this trail, which is one of only 11 National Scenic Trails, just so happens to cut through Suwannee County. Encompassing Lake City, Live Oak, and Madison, this part of the trail covers 74.8 miles of rugged terrain. Sinkholes, waterfalls, springs, and sightings of the Suwannee River are just a few highlights of the trail.

The trek begins at the Deep Creek trailhead in Lake City in the Osceola National Forest and ends at Winquepin Road in Madison. Landmarks along the way include:

  • Bell Springs Trailhead
  • Big Shoals State Park
  • Little Shoals Trailhead
  • Deep Creek Conservation Area
  • White Springs Tract
  • Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park
  • Swift Creek Trailhead
  • Suwannee River Wilderness State Trail
  • Holton Creek Trailhead
  • Gibson Park
  • Suwannee River State Park
  • Twin Rivers State Forest

Written By Hayli Zuccola

Author Hayli Zuccola sitting with her dog in a field of flowers

Hayli Zuccola has been a freelance writer for the last eight years for both digital and print publications across north central Florida. She enjoys traveling, finding the best food spots, and spending time with her pets. You can find her latest adventures on Instagram @hayztravels.

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