Encompassing almost 14,000 acres, Torreya State Park is known for its 16 miles of hiking trails. The park includes high bluffs and steep ravines that pathways with more altitude change than is typical in the generally flat state of Florida. Because of the unique topography, rare Florida plants grow here in the relatively lower temperatures and wetter conditions along hill slopes. Spruce pines in particular are impressive, towering above many other tree varieties. The park itself is named after Torreya taxifolia, a rare species in the yew family. The trees were once common within its boundaries, but they have declined as a result of a fungal blight.
Starting on the Weeping Ridge Trail, hikers leave from the park’s main campground. Following the undulations of the trail, hikers should first bypass the trail connector and take Weeping Ridge until a small waterfall at its terminus. The waterfall is a result of a seepage spring, and the water itself is clear and cool. Listen here for the reverberations of woodpeckers from the tiny downy species all the way to the largest pileated variety.
From the connector the main trail arcs in a loop that touches the Apalachicola River. Beginning in Lake Seminole, this river flows 106 miles until it reaches the Gulf of Mexico. Fishing is permitted, and anglers can hope for bass, bluegill, and sunfish. This section of trail runs 7 miles.
A second hiking loop, known as the Torreya Challenge, is 6 miles in length. Both trail loops include access to primitive campsites known for their tranquility and beauty. The trails are hotspots for bird species, from neotropical migrants to year-round residents.
Torreya State Park is one of the oldest sites in the Florida State Park System. In the 1930s original park structures and trails were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, a public work-relief program that operated during the Great Depression. Buildings in the campground are legacies of that program, as is the historic Gregory House on the property, which was moved from the shoreline of the river piece by piece to where it currently sits atop a tall bluff. The plantation home is open for daily tours.
The park has some of the most unique camping opportunities in the Florida State Park system. In addition to the traditional campground and primitive sites, the Torreya offers a Cracker Cabin and a yurt for nightly rentals. In the fall, the campsites are particularly beautiful as the forest changes to multicolored hues.