South Walton County is home to an abundance of conservation land accessible to visitors and locals to explore. Hiking, biking, horseback riding, are a just a few ways to enjoy the great outdoors.
Located in Santa Rosa Beach along the U.S. Hwy. 98 corridor, Point Washington State Forest boats more than 15,000 acres of recreation opportunities.
The Forest was purchased under Florida’s Conservation and Recreation Lands (CARL) program in 1992. Using an ecosystem management approach, the Florida Forest Service provides for multiple uses of the forest resources. The forest is managed for timber, wildlife, outdoor recreation and ecological restoration. Most of the forest consists of sandhill, basin swamps/titi drains, wet flatwoods, wet prairie and cypress swamps.
During the fall months, the array of wildflowers in bloom offer the explorer a colorful journey. Some of the native flowering plants include wild buckweat (Eriogonum tomentosum), hairy jointweed (Polygonella basiramia), senna symeria (seymeria cassioides), goldenaster (Chrysopsis sabrella), goldenrod (Soldago tortifolia), figwort (Agalinis satacea) and blazing star (Litatris champanii) to name a few.
Several plants and animals that are listed as threatened, endangered or species of special concern exist on the Point Washington State Forest. Some of these rare species include: American kestrel (Falco sparverius), gopher tortoise, flatwoods salamander, white-topped pitcher plant (Sarracenia leucophylla) and the world’s largest population of Curtiss sandgrass (Calamovilfa curtissii).
There are four trail systems in the forest offering more than 30 miles of trails; Eastern Lake Trail, Longleaf Greenway Trail, Cassine Trail are south of U.S. Hwy. 98. The trail systems are popular with both hikers and mountain bicyclists with the majority of the trail systems offering flat, sandy soil.
The McQuage Bayou Horse Trail is located north of Hwy. 98. Currently McQuage is under restoration and will be reopened as a multi use trail in the summer of 2017 offering two 4-mile trails.
The Eastern Lake Trail System was the first trail established on the forest. This trail system consists of three double-track loop trails. The hiker or bicyclist can travel the 3.5-, 5- or 10-mile loop. The Eastern Lake Bike/Hike Trail is included in the Florida Forest Service’s Trailwalker Hiking Program. The trail system can be accessed at the parking lot and trailhead on County Road 395.
Hikers note: Point Washington State Forest is part of the Point Washington Wildlife Management Area. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regulates the hunting seasons in the forest. Visit MyFWC.com/hunting for information.
During hunting season be sure to wear bright colored clothing when hiking.
Download Point Washington State Forest Map
The Forest offers camping opportunities near Eastern Lake. Four primitive sites boast a 14’x20′ tent pad, picnic table, barbecue grill, fire ring, lantern hanger, and a self composting toilet serving the campsite area. Four more campsites will be available in the summer of 2017.
The sites are nestled in a high and dry area of sand pines and palmettos; just a few steps away a stunning view of Eastern Lake.
Cost is $10/night with an honor box at the gate accepting cash or personal checks. To make reservations click here.
To access the campsites, enter across the highway from the Forestry office on U.S. Hwy. 98. Follow roads 11, 2, 7. There are directional signs along the forest road.
Hunting is available in Point Washington State Forest and is part of the Point Washington Wildlife Management Area. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regulates the hunting seasons and game
In keeping with its mission to protect and manage Florida’s forest resources, the Florida Forest Service has developed rules that apply to all state forest visitors. Find out more about state forest fees and rules.
For local information contact:
Division of Forestry
Point Washington State Forest
5865 East U.S. Hwy 98
Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
Telephone: (850) 267-8325
For a detailed list of trail locations throughout Walton County, click here