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Reported: November 2022

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, FL... Best with Bikes

Biking, Hiking, and a Pristine Beach in the Florida Panhandle

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is located near the western end of "Scenic Route 30A" in Santa Rosa Beach. The State Park is primarily defined by white sand beach, towering dunes, coastal dune lakes, and camping. Motor vehicles are restricted to the visitor parking lot and campgrounds only. Thus, bicycles are an ideal way for campers, beachgoers, and day explorers like us to get around. There are two paved trails leading to the two most popular Park features; over 3 miles of pristine Gulf beach, and a "coastal dune lake" with kayak rentals and a viewing area. Bike rentals are available on-site. The visitor parking lot also serves as a trailhead for the 18.5-mile Timpoochee Trail, across the road from the State Park entrance. (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 miles paved, 15 miles unpaved, 18.5-mile Timpoochee Trail runs outside Park
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

Bike Shops/Rentals:

State Park Store
30A Electric Bike Co.
Big Daddy's Bike Shop
Butterfly Bike & Kayak
Reef Beach Service & Rentals

Support and Advocacy:

Friends of Topsail Hill Preserve State Park


Eco-biking and Hiking at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park... Comments and Photos

Starting at the visitor parking lot, we explored mostly riding on the paved bike trails - short, easy rides through natural areas - to the main State Park features. While there are miles of unpaved trails in the Park, they are best for hiking, and perhaps even for some strenuous "mountain biking," but mostly we found the trails to be too sandy to recommend for our style of less strenuous "eco-biking." A Park Trail Map (available at ranger station) came in handy.

As the name implies, bikes and pedestrians share the Beach Tram Trail with the Park tram, which runs from the visitor parking lot for just over a mile to the beach entrance. Near the halfway point, the Campbell Lake Multi-use Trail splits off (bikers and hikers only, no tram) and runs for about a mile to the kayak launch on Campbell Lake. The paved trails run mostly through long-leaf pine flatwoods with limited shade, so bring a hat, sunscreen, and water. We don't rate this as an eco-biking "destination," but it's an enjoyable and easy State Park to explore by bicycle, while also using the visitor parking lot as a trailhead for the 18.5 mile Timpoochee Trail.

Beach Tram Trail - 1 mile

Starting from the day-use parking area (parking, restrooms, picnicking), the Beach Tram Trail begins at the tram station and runs about a mile to the beach. Go past Tram Stop #2 (serving the campgrounds) and in about a half-mile, watch for 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 below). The beach entrance is at Tram Stop #3, with restrooms, outdoor shower, and bike parking. The boardwalk from the tram stop to the beach offers some great views of the towering dune "mountain range."

Along the Trail


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. A bench is located at a nice viewpoint. No swimming due to alligators. Unlock your rental kayak, canoe or paddleboard here 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

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 coastal dune lake, we recommend Western Lake at nearby Grayton Beach State Park (link below).

Hiking Trails

There are about 15 miles of hiking trails in 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 to No Name Lake Trail, and explored 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 3 coastal dune lakes within the park. The surface alternated between sand and pine needles, but with many roots we only biked a short distance 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. Very 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 we didn't go that far on this day.

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.

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