Take a Hike: Fall in Love with Falling Waters State Park
By Ashley Hopkins
When one thinks of waterfalls pouring over mountainsides, few think of finding such a natural wonder in the ever-so-flat Sunshine State. You can imagine my delight when I found out we actually do have a waterfall that is just as stunning and awe-inspiring as those you’d find in a more mountainous region: Falling Waters Falls in Falling Waters State Park near Chipley.
Falling Waters is located a short hour and twenty minute drive from Tallahassee and is well worth it! Upon entering the park, you will reach the parking lot nestled in a pine forest. Immediately to the right of the playground, you will see a butterfly garden and the trail head. When water flow is good, you can hear the falls as soon as you get out of your car.
When walking down the trail head, you will shortly come to a fork. For the falls, turn right. For a quick 0.3 mile boardwalk tour of the other sinks, take a left. We usually take a left first to build up the anticipation and to see how the falls started out. The sinks are fascinating to see. Huge sloping holes jutting into the earth. With tall, established oaks and magnolias surrounding them, it’s so odd to see the forest floor just disappearing in spots under a blanket of thick leaves. It’s impossible to see a bottom in a handful of the sinks!
After the short tour of the sinks, you loop back around to the fork and this time, take the right and walk towards to rushing sound of the falls. In a few yards, you come to the falls and they are just stunning. The fall is fed by a small creek on the forest floor but the result is a cascade of water into the cylindrical sink, down to the bottom, where the water then flows to where? No one knows. There are steps that lead down from the boardwalk down to the falls and steps that lead up to a higher viewing area and more trails. It’s fascinating to walk down to the falls viewing platform and to look far down into the sink that swallows up the water from the forest creek. You will likely get a light dusting of falls water on your skin from the water rushing down. The sound is so soothing!
After taking in the falls close-up, you can make your way back up to the higher platform to see the falls through the trees from more of a distance. If you follow the boardwalk, you will continue on what is called the Wiregrass Trail. It is aptly named for the boardwalk is lined with a wiregrass floored longleaf pine forest on one side, with a dense forest on the other. The longer portion of the Wiregrass Trail was closed for boardwalk construction when we visited on April 20th so we just followed the trail to the right where it looped back around, behind the falls, and back to the parking lot. The whole trip was rather leisurely and filled with delightful sights and sounds! If you’d like to take a cool dip in the park lake after your hike, be sure to bring your bathing suit and a towel!
For more details on Falling Waters State Park and to see what other services are offered, visit the park site here.
A trail map can be found here.
Located at 1130 State Park Road, Chipley, Florida 32428
Phone number: (850) 638-6130
Park entrance fee: $5 per vehicle (2-8 people), $4 per single occupant vehicle
Park rangers are available for group tours - be sure you call ahead!