The Apalachicola National Forest is the largest of the four national forests in Florida, and the only one located in the Florida Panhandle. The park was established in 1936, with its boundaries expanded in 1938 to its current size of 567,742 acres, which includes 32,726 acres of wilderness.
It’s an often overlooked fact that national forests are an important part of the surrounding area’s economy. The Civilian Conservation Corps performed much of the original development work of the Apalachicola National Forest as our nation recovered from the Great Depression. Recently, several restoration projects have been undertaken at the park as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The Apalachicola National Forest is located directly southwest of Tallahassee, and approximately 30 miles east of Panama City. This convenient location offers a wide range of recreational opportunities—including hiking, camping, ATV riding, and touring historic sites—making it a popular destination.
Located on the eastern side of the forest, on U.S. Route 319 south of Tallahassee, the Leon Sinks Geological Area has several unique geologic features accessible via five miles of hiking trails. Multiple water-filled sinkholes in the area are visible signs of the effect of rain and groundwater on the underlying limestone.
Beneath the ground are natural tunnels that channel water south to Wakulla Springs State Park. Spend some time off your motorcycle, and you can witness natural bridges and a stream that disappears underground.
On the western side of the forest, this route takes you through the Apalachicola Savannahs—sub-tropical grasslands with scattered stands of longleaf pine trees.
Heading south from Bristol on State Road 12, this scenic byway starts about nine miles down the road. The byway turns onto State Road 379 toward Sumatra, where it turns onto Florida State Road 65 toward the coast at Apalachicola Bay. Along State Road 65, you’ll find Fort Gadsden Road—home to another siteseeing stop.
This National Historic Landmark is the site of two consecutive historic forts on Prospect Bluff. The British constructed the first fort overlooking the Apalachicola River, which was an important “trade highway” in 1812. The U.S. Navy destroyed the British fort in 1816.
Fort Gadsden was constructed in 1818 on what was still Spanish territory. The fort was active until Florida became a U.S. territory in 1821. There are information kiosks on site, with artifacts and interpretative displays.
If you’re riding in the panhandle of Florida, there’s plenty to see and do in the Apalachicola National Forest.
Till next time, enjoy the Florida sunshine and ride safe!