A hike at Wakulla Springs is centered around one of the world’s largest springs, where a swimming area and diving platform awaits. So build up a sweat on a hike, and cool off with a swim.
Starting prominently at a kiosk at the parking area for Wakulla Lodge, the Wakulla Springs Trail begins as a boardwalk connecting two karst features – de
pressions in the limestone bedrock known as sinkholes. Interpretive displays explain how water moves through karst to emerge as Wakulla Springs. Benches provide overlooks into the sinkholes. Leaving the boardwalk, the blue-blazed trail meanders along a nicely graded footpath beneath tall loblolly pines, crossing the park road.
The trail is varied in difficulty, ranging from easy to moderate. It runs about 9 miles though several types of environments. Shorter hikes can be done, just look at the map at the start of the trail to plan your walk.
The trail changes with the seasons. In spring, the leaves are falling from the live oaks and the colorful pinkish-purple blooms of the eastern redbud stand out in the otherwise sparse canopy. Enormous southern magnolias add their deep greens high above. The understory is full of young spring greens, shoots and sprouts pushing through the leaf litter and young leaves emerging along the yaupon holly and catbrier. A hint of violets kiss the forest floor. In the fall migratory song bird can be heard and often seen in flocks along the trail.
The elevation will drop noticeably as you draw closer to the floodplain forest that surrounds the Wakulla Springs basin. The forest becomes thicker as you reach a boardwalk that leads you through the floodplain forest. In spring, you can see quite a distance between the trees, primarily red maple and sweetgum, which have lost their leaves. Water sits in large puddles, surrounded by mucky spots. Strewn by the wind, the yellow blooms of Carolina jessamine decorate the forest floor. As the boardwalk ends, you rise back up into a forest of tall oaks, southern magnolia, loblolly pine, and eastern redbud. Birdsong fills the air. This is the home to birds like the Pileated Woodpecker.
The trail continues as a boardwalk over the broad floodplain of the spring run, a cypress swamp with several side channels that water rushes through when the spring is overflowing. Due to the nature of karst, heavy rains in Tallahassee can cause these springs to gush. In this part of the forest, cypresses are of notable size, some with trunks that would take several people holding hands to encircle. The broken-off stumps of even larger cypresses speak to an era long past, before loggers found these ancient trees and floated them away.
This is a spectacular example of a hardwood forest in North Florida, with a nice variety of trees and surface limestone breaking through the forest floor. Jutting from fallen logs, giant shelf fungi and delicate oyster fungi add their scents to the mix. Southern magnolias rise tall against the blue sky.
Take a short or long walk. The Lodge can prepare a boxed lunch for your day out. Just ask at the front desk.