Falling Waters State Park Hike Route Map

Falling Waters State Park

Florida is known for a stunning variety of natural wonders. Pristine beaches, turquoise springs, coral islets, and vast swamplands...all are likely conjured when imagining an excursion into the backcountry of the Sunshine State. Waterfalls though? Not so much. In which case it may surprise you that Florida is indeed home to a handful of cascades…one of which measuring a very respectable 73 feet in height! Tucked just off Interstate 10, about midway between Tallahassee and Pensacola, the aptly-named Falling Waters State Park is where you’ll find this unexpected wonder. The waterfall itself is unnamed and owes its existence to the porous limestone bedrock of the region. Over the millennia subterranean erosion has resulted in numerous sinkholes and caverns forming across the landscape. At some point in the past one such sinkhole, 20 feet wide and 100 feet deep, opened up directly in the path of Branch Creek resulting in the delicate but impressively tall cascade you see today. In addition to the waterfall the State Park encompasses 170 acres of pine forest, swampy lowlands, and a man-made lake. Agreeably, a small but adequate network of trails crisscross the park as well…one that can accommodate all skill levels. Though a short handicapped-accessible trail provides the quickest route to the waterfall, on this visit we managed to plot a route a bit longer and more comprehensive.

We decided to start from the north end of the park where the Terrace Trail departs the Pine Ridge Campground. Unfortunately there’s not much in the way of parking at this trailhead, which leads me to believe it may not be one the park intends for use by anyone other than nearby campers. Either way, make sure to not block the road when you find a spot to pull off.  The trailhead is clearly marked with a large wooden kiosk with a map and info on the park.  The Terrace Trail quickly enters a pure stand of pine with clear signs of recent fire interspersed among the widely spaced trees.  The trail makes a winding journey down a fairly significant hillside before arriving at the north shore of Turtle Lake about a quarter-mile later.  The trail then veers around the east side of the lake and passes by the small beach area at around the 1/3-mile mark.  Turtle Lake is a small man-made body of water that not only serves as a recreational focal point for the park but its spillway assures a steady and reliable flow of water for the cascade downstream.  It's here alongside the beach where the loop portion of this lollipop-style hike begins.

From the beach continue heading south as the path, now called the Wiregrass Trail, curves around the lower end of the park.  You'll start seeing signs pointing you towards the waterfall at this point which should help keep you heading in the right direction.  Leaving the lake the trail now begins to follow a long series of boardwalks which lead to and around the nearby waterfall.  Another quarter-mile from the lake a series of steps is reached which lead down to a short spur into the sinkhole where the falls are located.  Even if you've seen pictures I doubt you'll be prepared for what you see.  The delicate strands of water tumbling from the shear sides of the sinkhole deep into the earth below is an incredibly beautiful and almost bizarre sight.  It's certainly not your typical Florida scene.  Once you've enjoyed the waterfall for a while the loop continues by climbing up around the wide rim of the sinkhole containing it and soon comes to a potentially confusing junction.  To the right, upon arrival, the short Sinks Trail leads over to a pair of large neighboring sinkholes...though these are very much dry.  Walking uphill form the junction you'll soon arrive at the main parking area for the waterfall.  To continue the loop bear left and follow the dirt road back north towards the parking area for the Turtle Lake beach.  Upon arriving at said parking area a quarter-mile later, follow the winding concrete (ADA accessible) path back down to the beach to complete the loop.  A right turn will take you the 1/3-mile back uphill to the campground.

Overall this was a fantastic little hike.  There's a decent amount of elevation change along the way, which provides a mild workout, and the variety in scenery along the way is impressively varied.  Even if you don't have the time to do the entire hike described here you should definitely still stop and make the quick jaunt down from the main parking area to see the falls.  There's quite literally nothing else like it in the state!  With that said it's now my great pleasure to present you with a quick walk around Falling Waters State Park, home of the tallest waterfall in Florida...as always I hope you ENJOY!!         

Trailhead GPS Coordinates:  30.730188, -85.532845

Route Type:  Lollipop                 Difficulty:  MODERATE  (Petzoldt Rating:  2.65 )

Hike Length:  1.6 miles                Hike Duration:  1:00

Trailhead Temp:  70'F                 Trail Traffic:  10-25 people

Min. Elevation:  2,700'                  Max. Elevation:  3,114'

Total Vertical Gain:  525'             Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile:  147'

Trails Used (blaze color):  Sinks (unblazed), Terrace (unblazed), Winegrass (unblazed)


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