I had been wanting to go to Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park for soooo so long. I can’t recall why I didn’t initially go months ago but I know after hurricane Irma I put off going because the trails were closed. The trails are the most popular aspect,specifically the Ridge Trail which follows a clear stream of water. There are concrete steps with a handrail leading down to these hiking trails but beyond that there isn’t much accessibility in that area. Next to the ravine is a sign saying that there was no wading in the ridge allowed…. but, he waded and splashed. I tried to coax him and get him out which he eventually did- but only because he wanted to follow a little girl further on up the Ridge trail. The Ridge Trail connects with the Florida Trail – which has 5.4 miles within this state park. Because this park is more North the terrain is a little different, definitely an incline but we passed a bench on the way so there’s at least one “designated” resting point…although you can sit literally anywhere 😛 We didn’t go the full 1.1 miles probably halfway is my guess.
After we left the parking lot located directly in front of the staircase we continued down to the main day use area where the lake, playground, bathrooms, campground, tons of picnic tables and field space. When I saw the lake it immediately reminded me of Clearwater Lake Recreation Area in Ocala National Forest. I like Clearwater Lake more however I also have spent more time there and have personal memories so my opinion is a bias one ! We swam for an hour or so then hung around the playground the rest of the time. The day we went there happened to be a haunted flashlight hike that was 1 mile long if memory serves right, many people started coming in costumes close to park closing time and there were decorations throughout the park as well 🙂 A little boy said that it was actually scary so I decided not to buy tickets and stick around for it. Before leaving we stopped by the sinkhole overlook which has a small parking area and picnic table. I can see why people would camp here with all the recreational options to enjoy while staying !
Personal from our experience here: I have no idea where the people that were there are from- whether they are locals or from another town/city..but whoa- bit my tongue on two occasions because they were children. One incident a little boy called my son “that brown boy” which is totally inappropriate and I really hope his parents talked to him about that. The other situation didn’t involve us at all and that’s probably why I didn’t say anything. A boy scout in his teens said “what are you, Autistic?” to another boy scout implying he’d only do something so stupid if he was Autistic…
We actually visited this park a few months ago but I still wish I’d said something because clearly he doesn’t have anyone in his life teaching him that it isn’t cool to say things like that and it’s just like hey look, that little boy running around playing next to you all IS Autistic.
Things offered/to do at this state park:
- horseback riding
- canoeing/kayaking (rentals as well)
Some of the park is accessible: concrete sidewalks and steps to the lake, the parking areas in front of the trail heads and overlook, and the stair case with the handrails. I do think the park is left in its natural state a lot as well though.