Hiking in August in Florida is not for the faint of heart. The key is to go early in the morning before the heat of the sun turns the humidity into a steaming sauna. On this visit to Leon Sinks located south of Tallahassee on Hwy 319 my adventure started a bit later than planned, but it was also just after a large thunderstorm had rolled through the area providing some relief from the heat.
Upon arriving at Leon Sinks and paying the $3 entry fee, hikers will want to orient themselves to the trail map and apply a good bug spray. The sinks and swampy areas that visitors will hike near provide the perfect breeding ground for all manner of biting insects including disease carrying ticks and mosquitoes. Be sure to bring a camera and take plenty of water for this hike.
Leon Sinks trail gives hikers a choice of taking either a 3 mile hike along the Sinkhole trail or a 4.2 mile hike by adding on the Gumswamp Trail. Either trail will loop back to the trailhead at the parking lot. Signage along the trail is excellent and there are benches and scenic overlooks where visitors can take a break.
There are at least 17 sinks along the Sinkhole trail beginning in the shaded forest, crossing the pinewoods flats and returning to the forest again. At 2.5 miles into the trail hikers can choose to push onward to the Gumswamp trail or take the Cutoff trail back to the parking lot.
Due to the timing of this hike, right after a heavy rain, there were scores of tiny frogs hopping across the easily traveled trail. Mushrooms of all varieties lined the forest floor giving an enchanted feel to the experience. Other animals made their appearance as well, including a white-tailed deer and a large cottonmouth moccasin that was making its way through the swamp well away from the raised boardwalk. Common to the area but not seen on this trip is the Florida Black bear.
The sinks in this area are created by rainwater eroding away at the limestone karst providing literal windows into the Florida aquifer below. One of these sinks, Hammock Sink, has been surveyed by certified cave divers and found to connect with Wakulla Springs some ten miles away. This also explains why, after heavy rains, the water in the springs often appears tea-colored from leaf tannins instead of clear.
To visit Leon Sinks Geological Area take Hwy 61/Crawfordville Hwy south in Tallahassee. Hwy 61 becomes Hwy 319. Beat the heat by going early in the morning or arrange to hike in late afternoon, allowing plenty of time to exit the park before dark.