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Reported: November 2022

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park... Santa Rosa Beach, FL

Eco-Biking and Hiking in the Florida Panhandle

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is located near the western end of Scenic Route 30A in Santa Rosa Beach. The park is mostly defined by the beach, towering dunes, and camping, but having a bicycle here is a good idea since driving is only allowed as far as the parking lot and to the campgrounds. A shuttle runs on the paved Beach Tram Trail from the parking area about a mile to the beach, shared with bikes and pedestrians. The paved Campbell Lake Multi-use Trail then continues for bikers and hikers another mile to Campbell Lake. (Map link and photos below.)

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, Santa Rosa Beach

Map Link... Topsail Hill Preserve State Park
Santa Rosa Beach Eco-biking


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Location: South Walton County (Santa Rosa Beach)
Mileage: 2.25 paved miles, 15 unpaved; connect to 18.5 mile Timpoochee Trail
Trailheads: Topsail Hill Preserve State Park parking lot
Surface: Paved, sand, dirt, pine needles..
Nearby Points of interest: Grayton Beach State Park, Deer Lake State Park, Camp Helen State Park, Eden Gardens State Park, Point Washington State Forest

 
 

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park... Comments and Photos

Start at the day-use parking area to access all trails, they branch off as you proceed into the park. Helpful signs along the way give directions at the crossroads, and the park trail map available at the ranger station was handy. We focus on paved eco-biking on the Beach Tram Trail and Campbell Lake Multi-Use Trail - easy rides through natural areas. While there are miles of unpaved trails available, we generally found them too sandy and better for hiking. The paved trails run mostly through long-leaf pine flatwoods with limited shade, so bring a hat, sunscreen, water, and bug spray. The parking area also serves as a trailhead for the Timpoochee Trail, which runs 18.5 miles along CR 30A (link below). State park day-use fee applies.

Beach Tram Trail - 1 mile

Starting from the day-use parking area (parking, restrooms, picnicking), the Beach Tram Trail starts from the tram station and runs about a mile to the beach. Go past the Tram Stop #2 serving the campgrounds, then watch for the signs pointing to the Beach and No Name Lake - turn left. Along this leg, the trail crosses the Turpentine Trail, then No Name Lake Trail (more information below). At the beach are Tram Stop #3, restrooms, and bike parking. There's also an outdoor shower for rinsing off. The boardwalk from the tram stop to the beach gives some spectacular views of the towering dune "mountain range." The trail ends here, go back to return to trailhead or to continue to Campbell Lake.

Along the Trail

Beach

Campbell Lake Multi-use Trail - 1 mile

From the Campground Tram stop, the trail continues straight for biking and hiking on the Campbell Lake Multi-use Trail. Along the way, it crosses Gopher Tortoise and Turpentine Trails. At 100-acre Campbell Lake are restroom, picnicking, and trails access. Across the lake you can see the dunes on the southern shore (the beach is just beyond). A bench provides a viewpoint. No swimming due to many alligators. Unlock your rental kayak, canoe or paddleboard to paddle around the lake. Continuing past Campbell Lake are Deer Track, Old Growth and Morris Lake Trails. The paved trail ends here, return the same way.

Along the Trail

Campbell Lake

Hiking Trails

There are 15 miles of hiking trails at the park, winding past dunes, lakes, pine forest and cypress swamp. A trail map is posted at intersections, or a copy is available at the ranger station. We biked/hiked No Name Lake Trail, and portions of others. Mixed pine needles and sand. Serious mountain bikers may enjoy riding here, but we found it generally too sandy for us even with fat tires. Hint: If the trail runs through pine, it will be more bikeable. Closer to the lakes and Gulf is much more sandy.

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, Santa Rosa Beach

No Name Lake Trail

The short (1/10 mile to the lake) trail branches off the Beach Tram Trail along the leg to the beach. No Name Lake is the smallest of the coastal dune lakes in the park. The surface alternated between sand and pine needles, but with many roots we only biked a short way and walked the rest. This is a scenic small lake with a bench for viewing. Birdwatching and fishing are popular, we've heard of alligators here but saw none.


Turpentine Trail

The trail runs between the Beach Tram Trail and Campbell Lake Trail, about 1 mile. It includes remnants of the turpentine industry (late 1800's-early 1900's), with interpretative signs and a ranger-led educational hike available.

Gopher Tortoise Trail

The Gopher Tortoise Trail loops off and back onto the Lake Campbell Trail, cross over to the Turpentine Trail. Gopher Tortoise Trail runs for one mile through saw palmetto and long-leaf pine habitat. Sandy, we just viewed from the paved trail.

Deer Track Trail

Deer Track Trail starts at Campbell Lake and runs lakeside, then loops around to the Campbell Lake Trail - 3/4 mile. Sandy, some shade at the lake, otherwise sun. It also links to Morris Lake Trail, but trail, but we didn't go that far.

More Information and Resources

More About Topsail Hill Preserve State Park:

The 1,640-acre park, once a turpentine camp, today protects the most intact coastal ecosystem in Florida, with 3.2 miles of white sand beaches, towering dunes, 3 rare Coastal Dune Lakes (Campbell, Morris and No Name), old-growth longleaf pine forest, sand scrub and wetlands (14 ecosystems in total). Camping is popular at the Gregory E. Moore RV Resort, with 156 RV sites, 22 tent sites, 32 cabins/bungalows, and glamping (luxury tents) - reservations required. A coffee shop with light fare is located near the campgrounds. Fishing is available on the Gulf or at the dune lakes. Part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, a variety of wildlife may be seen including several endangered species. Seasonally, an array of wildflowers. Fun fact: The park is named for the tallest dune which resembles a ship's topsail when seen from the water.

A note about paddling: We were interested in kayaking on Campbell Lake, but personal watercraft are prohibited to avoid introducing exotic plants into the pristine dune lake - rentals are available at the park store but then you have to carry your gear to the launch (another good reason to have a bike, we saw people using bike trailers for their gear). To launch your own watercraft and explore a dune lake, we recommend Western Lake at nearby Grayton Beach State Park (link below).

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