Cathedral of Palms

By Harry Smith

The title says it all. It’s exactly what you would expect. You’re walking through a forest of nothing but Cabbage Palms (also known as Sabal Palms) for as far as the eye can see, staring aimlessly through the ancient, old growth palm forest. It’s still, dank and quiet. The mud squishes beneath you as you stumble down the trail, forever looking up. It’s something out of a fairytale, and gives you a glimpse into ‘old Florida’.

Photo Credit: Kris Petersen

My first attempt at hiking this trail did not go as planned. It took place during a period of abundant and heavy rainfall. As with most areas in Florida, the low-lying ground quickly becomes a wetland with any significant rain, but I wanted so desperately to experience this unique area. After trudging through shin-high water and being peppered with mosquito bites, I quickly determined that this particular day was not the day.

I have witnessed large, thick palm groves before, but nothing of this magnitude. The Cabbage Palm is the official state tree of Florida, and never has it been as impressive as it is along the ‘Cathedral of Palms’ hike. My second attempt at this magnificent hike was much more successful. I waited for a small dry spell and set out along the same route that got the best of me before. I quickly reached the cathedral. I stood in silence, in awe and marveled at what surrounded me. There were fresh pig tracks in the mud and a slight breeze rustling the upper reaches of the palms. After taking many pictures, I continued on, still engulfed in palm trees, and casting a mold of my tread into the mud.

Photo Credit: Kris Petersen

In another half mile or so, I came across a boardwalk that takes you over an always wet portion of the trail. The wooden path was choked with foliage. I squeezed my way through as I spooked a flock of red-winged blackbirds that chattered and darted off. I soon found myself at a fork in the road, one way continuing along the Florida Trail, and the other being a small spur path leading to another North Florida favorite; a freshwater spring. This particular spring is known as Shepherd Spring. If you’re out experiencing this portion of the Florida Trail, I highly recommend you check out Shepherd Spring.

Cathedral of Palms is a must see, but I recommend planning your visit between October and April. The area is open to hunting during the season, so be sure to check with local regulations. Heavy rainfall can also make this trail impassable, so consider local rain amounts when planning your trip.

This trail is accessed on Wakulla Beach Rd. off of US Hwy 98. There is a kiosk about a mile or so down on your right. You can also access http://www.floridatrail.org/ for detailed directions and maps.

Harry Smith

As a Tallahassee native, Harry has always appreciated the great outdoors. Now as a guide and long time avid kayak angler, he takes great pride in opening the eyes of veteran residents as well as newcomers to the state to all of the wonders that north Florida has to offer. Whether it is by foot, bike, or kayak, Harry never turns down an adventure and is always eager to share ideas among fellow enthusiasts. As the owner of Harry Smith Outdoors, and an ambassador for the state, he can always be found with a smile on his face and the outdoors on his mind.

You can find Harry on Facebook at www.facebook.com/hsmithoutdoors or come by and see him in Railroad Square Art Park at 694-4a Industrial Dr. Tallahassee, FL 32310.


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