You’ll never run out of hiking on this shaded, 4.4 mile there-and-back trail. That’s because Longleaf Pine Trail at Etoniah Creek State Forest is part of the Florida Trail system, currently at about 800 miles.
Parking and Kisosk
After turning onto Tinsley Road, you go 50 or 100 yards and are greeted by off-road parking and a kiosk with brochures including maps. You’ll find pine and oak growth with few sunny areas and plenty of deer. You won’t get lost here as the narrow trail is well-maintained with Florida Trail blazed in orange and Longleaf Pine blazed in blue.
Hiking the Trail
Early in, you’ll reach a flooded sinkhole on your right for animal spotting, and the next open area doesn’t come along until you reach a rugged, no-facilities campsite a little under two miles in. Campfires were built here, but you won’t find much else in the clearing.
The next stop is the turnaround, where you’ll find a stone picnic table. I met a gentleman here who says he’s hiked all of the Florida Trail. We spoke only for a few minutes. I assume that anyone who hikes these trails is looking to get in touch with themselves, their thoughts, and nature rather than banter, so I choked down the dozens of questions I had for him.
He did say two things. The first was, “Never pass up a bench, picnic table, or any other place to rest because you never know when the next will come along.” The second is regarding his hiker’s meal of choice: peanut butter and chocolate frosting wrapped in a tortilla. “It’s all the flavor, protein, carbs and sugar I need to keep going.”