Deep Creek Trail (12.3 miles) and Stoney Bayou Trails (6 miles)
By David Yon
If you want to see some of the best of Florida’s outdoors, these trails will take you there. Admittedly I ran the Deep Creek Trail on a near perfect day – sunshine, 50 degrees and no wind or bugs. The only negative was the high grass on some parts of the trail and the fact that you have to drive a little ways to get to this trail. Oh, yeah you will have to pay a $4 dollar per car entry fee (unless you buy a one year pass for $12), but it goes to a great cause protecting wetlands. What a great way to get outside; I lost count of the deer, birds and other wildlife I saw on this run. You have a great chance of sharing space with alligators, ibis, egrets, heron, eagles, osprey and more.
The trail is located in the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, 30-40 minutes and about 25 miles south of Tallahassee. The National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1931 and now stretches from the Aucilla River to the Sopchoppy River. To reach the wildlife refuge head south from the center of town on Monroe Street and continue past Capital Circle through Woodville. The road becomes highway 363 and Woodville Highway. Approximately 15 miles south of town turn left (east) on highway 267. This will end at highway 98 after about 3.8 miles. Turn left on highway 98 and continue for about half a mile, just past the St. Marks River. Turn right on state road 59 and continue south for about 4 miles where you will see the entrance to the park. Just after you enter the park you will see the visitors center on the right. If you have trouble finding the trail this is a good place to ask for directions. The trail is about .9 miles past the visitors center on the left. It is well marked and there are trail maps at the head. There is a sign that says St. Marks Wildlife Primitive Walking Trails.
There are two overlapping trails: Deep Creek, which is 12.3 miles according to the park service, and Stoney Bayou Trail, which the park service says is 6 miles. They start and end at the same place and are marked by signs that make them fairly easy to follow. The trails begin on Aucilla Tram Road, a narrow dirt road with a heavy forest canopy broken here and there by coastal marsh. Stoney Creek Trail takes a right at about 1.9 miles, while Deep Creek takes you out about 4.5 miles before it winds around to the right. There is a lot of variation in the vegetation and somewhere around mile 6-8 the forest gives way completely to marsh and you find yourself running atop dykes with water on both sides.
Continue on the Dykes toward the road and you will pass a trail that leads off to the right at about 8.5 miles. If you had turned right on the Stoney Bayou Trail this is where it rejoins the Deep Creek Trail. If you continue past this turn, you have two choices. You can continue all the way to the paved Light House Road (the main road through the park) or you can turn right at the 9.8 mile mark on the Deep Creek Trail. There is a white arrow marking the trail. You can follow this trail all the way back to Aucilla Tram Road. Turn left and you have approximately .5 miles back to the start. You will see a sign that says 11.8 miles at this intersection. At about the 10.6 mile point there is an intersection. Continue on the middle path; there should be another white arrow pointing the direction. If you turn left, it will take you back to the lighthouse road or dead end at the water. If you bear back to the right, it will take you to the Stoney Bayou Trail.
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