The Western Gate Chapter builds and maintains the trails within the Florida Trail System that are located in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties in the Florida Panhandle. These trails are managed under four sections: Seashore, Weaver Creek, Yellow River Ravines, and Blackwater River State Forest. The Chapter also maintains the Garcon Point Loop Trail where spectacular fields of carnivorous pitcher plants grow.
SEASHORE The Gulf Islands National Seashore is the northern terminus of the Florida Trail and home to the only National Scenic Trail beach hike in the nation. Get immersed in colonial history at the trailhead at historic Fort Pickens. Take in the sights of our Florida Trail Gateway Community in Pensacola Beach. Travel through the unique ecological environment of pine trees, yucca plants, sea oats and dunes while seeing the many raccoon tracks and osprey nests and searching for the elusive Santa Rosa Island Beach Mouse. Or, simply enjoy a walk along the beach through sparkling white quartz sand beside the beautiful emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico. A backcountry campsite is located along the Dunes Trail area facing Santa Rosa Sound.
WEAVER CREEK Weaver Creek Trail is located on the western edge of Eglin Air Force Base (AFB), stretching approximately 14 miles between Navarre and the Yellow River. Hikers meander through upland pines and oaks, cross a beautiful spring-fed stream and pass through a large, picturesque steephead. Other points of interest include enjoying the shady coolness of titi swamps, crossing lichen-covered hillsides, and two backcountry campsites: Dean Campsite in the south and Buck Pond in the north. Since this trail is located on Eglin AFB, recreational and camping permits are required (contact Eglin AFB -Jackson Guard at 850-882-4165 or go to https://eglin.isportsman.net for permit purchases).
YELLOW RIVER RAVINES This section, which runs in a mostly northeast/southwest direction between Log Lake Road and State Road 87, passes through a variety of terrain along the north side of the Yellow River. Near the northeast end, Guest Lake Park provides a camping opportunity. Reaching Deer Lake Junction, hikers may choose to head to Ft. Pickens in Gulf Islands National Seashore on the main trail, with the Wild Azalea backcountry campsite along this route. There is, currently, a six-mile road walk on the western end of this section that connects with the Weaver Creek Section. New trail is currently under construction to replace the road walk. Hikers choosing to head north from Deer Lake Junction, toward Alabama, on the blue-blazed side trail can camp at Burnt Grocery Creek backcountry campsite.
BLACKWATER RIVER STATE FOREST Heading north from Yellow River Ravines, hikers enter one of the largest state forests in Florida named after the Blackwater River. Trails maintained by the Chapter include the Hutton Unit, Juniper Creek, Jackson, and Wiregrass. The Juniper Creek Trail provides access to Blackwater River State Park, while the Jackson Trail provides access to recreation areas at Bear, Krul, Karick, and Hurricane Lakes and links to the Wiregrass Trail, which continues north to the Florida/Alabama state line. The state forest is home to a longleaf pine/wiregrass ecosystem. Blackwater River and Juniper Creek, with their white sandy beaches and river bluffs, are accessible at many spots along the trails. Other special features include pitcher plant bogs, blueberries, mountain laurel, rhododendron, and wild azalea. Wildflowers can be found blooming at many spots along the trail in the spring and fall.