Location: Northwestern Florida
Trip Starts: Visitor’s Center
Trip Ends: Visitor’s Center
Total Distance: 0.8 mile
Hike Type: Roundtrip, Loop Hike
Hike Difficulty: Easy
Trails Used: Brackenridge Nature Trail
Trail Traffic: Light
Trip Type: Day Hike
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Gulf Islands National Seashore
1801 Gulf Breeze Parkway
Gulf Breeze, FL 32563


Gulf Islands National Seashore has a long history of settlement, conflict, and abandonment. When Europeans first visited the northern Gulf of Mexico in the early 1500s, they found Native American settlements that were populous and thriving.

In 1559, Spain quickly gained control over the natives and the country established a settlement here on Pensacola Bay. The site was soon abandoned, however, and eventually lost to the French in 1719. The Spanish regained the territory by treaty in 1722, ceded it to the English in 1763, and repossessed it by force in 1781.

By the 1800’s, the park had changed hands again and was controlled by the U.S. government. It served as a tree farm to grow and harvest timber for the ship industry which was building for a young U.S. Navy. Oak trees were a major source of wood for these vessels and slaves played a major role in the processing of this material.

This hike along the Brackenridge Nature Trail starts at the visitor’s center and makes a mile loop through a forest that still hosts some of these massive and tangled oak trees. Many are covered in Spanish moss, and the trail takes you right through some remaining strands near the water. The Santa Rosa Sound can be seen from a platform that looks out to Pensacola Beach and out to the busy condos across the waterway. If you are looking for a break from the beach, this is a great way to spend a few hours.

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