The Big Bend Scenic Byway is made up of two outstanding corridors, the Forest Trail and the Coastal Trail. Back in the 1800s, the Forest Trail was truly the “Wild West,” with cowboys, rustlers, Indians, trappers, and hard-scrabble farmers. Start the day walking through a pioneer farm and stop later at Fort Braden, a military outpost during the Second Seminole War. See rolling sand hills and hardwood forests give way to extensive stretches of pine forests, wetlands, and river floodplains. Come to the Apalachicola National Forest, which features the best remaining example of a native Longleaf Pine and Wiregrass ecosystem in the United States, as well as the largest population of the endangered Red-Cockaded Woodpecker. See the mysterious Dwarf Cypress Dome, where trees over 300 years old are only 6-15 feet tall.
The Coastal Trail was first discovered in 1528 by Panfilo de Narvaez and was occupied by Spanish, English, American, and Confederate forces. In the 1800s, the rivers were full of ships with cotton and timber bound for foreign markets. Later they were replaced by sponge, shrimp, crab, oyster, and fishing boats, which still ply these waters. This rich heritage beckons you to explore barrier islands, sand dunes, beaches, bays, coastal marshes, and springs of the Coastal Trail. Visit the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, one of the world’s largest and deepest freshwater springs. If geology is of interest to you, the interpretive trail at Leon Sinks Geological Site is a must. Created over millions of years, its Karst Topography of mysterious underground caverns and magical subterranean lakes make this site of global scientific interest.