Autumn is an extraordinary time to explore the outdoors in South Walton. The forest trails are awash in a colorful abundance of seasonal wildflowers and migrating butterflies. We are fortunate to have several State Parks along with the Point Washington State Forest in our own backyard. The pine flatwoods, coastal dunes, and salt marsh, our area of the Florida Panhandle is a magnet for migrating butterflies heading south for the winter.
A few of the native wildflowers in bloom this time of year are wild buckwheat, hairy jointweed, aster, goldenrod, figwort, liatris, agalinis, milkweed, and saltbush.
It’s only natural butterflies arrive, and savor the nectar of area wildflowers. Some of the flutterbys you may encounter are eastern tiger swallowtail, Palamedes swallowtail, Gulf fritillary, and monarchs.
There are several choices available where you can hike, bike, or even drive to appreciate the benefits of the season:
If you don’t wish to lace up your hiking boots or tool around on a bike, the Point Washington State Forest has several drive-through areas. One located on CR 83 that goes west to CR 283, or CR 283 to CR 395. There are also a few access points located off of U.S. Hwy. 98.
Point Washington State Forest offers several options for the hiker or biker. A variety of trail lengths from easy 2 miles, to moderate/difficult 7 miles are offered. The trails span across South Walton with accesses off of U.S. Hwy. 98, Satinwood Drive, CR 83, CR 283, CR 395.
Hikers note: A large portion of the Point Washington State Forest is a Wildlife Management Area and open to hunting during certain times of the year. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regulates the hunting seasons in the forest. During fall and winter months it is advisable to wear hunter orange vests or bright colored clothing to be cautious. Visit MyFWC.com/hunting for information on when hunting season is open. ::Download MAP::
Topsail Hill Preserve State Park offers several miles of biking/hiking paved and dirt trails. Morris Lake Nature Trail meanders 2.5 miles through ancient dunes and scrub communities. Hikers can also enjoy miles of sandy trails within the park. Along Campbell Lake Nature Trail, enthusiasts may discover a diverse array of plants covering an area of more than 5 miles.
Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is located at the western end of Scenic Hwy. 30A. ::MAP:
Grayton Beach State Park has a one-mile nature trail accessed at the east end of the beach parking area. This trail takes park visitors through the dune ecosystem, along the salt marsh, and circles back through the pine flatwoods. For the more adventurous, the park has a 4.5-mile (9 mile round trip) hiking/biking trail that traverses through the forest and around the backwaters of Western Lake.
Grayton Beach State Park is located on Scenic Hwy. 30A just east of CR 283. ::MAP::
Deer Lake State Park offers an easy boardwalk with panoramic views of ancient sand dunes within the southern portion of the park. On the northern side, a choice of two easy trails; one-mile and half-mile brings you through a moss lined easy trail to the headwaters of Deer Lake.
Deer Lake State Park is located approximately 5 ½ miles east of Seaside. ::MAP::
Greenway Trail meanders around the government center complex just north of U.S. Hwy. 98 off the western side of U.S. Hwy. 331. Close to four miles of walking/biking trails take you trough wetland and hardwood canopy areas. A portion of the trail offers interpretive signs providing wildflower identification. ::Download MAP::