Cool Day Trips

Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park

Tarkiln Sign


As we were researching state parks to check out while we are on the panhandle, Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park popped up. Located in Pensacola near the Alabama state line and just about one hour away from where we were staying in Milton, we decided to check it out. 

Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park sits on over 4000 acres and features 4 species of endangered pitcher plants.

Where’s The Sign?

We knew we were getting close when we turned onto Bauer Rd. (our GPS said so…lol) so we started looking for the big state park sign that is usually at all the state park entrances. As we drove by the entrance we caught a small sign with the name of the park on it. So, after our u-turn, lol, we went back to the entrance.

No Booth

Instead of the usual long drive with a booth type entrance that we are used to, it was just a small dirt parking lot. It actually looked like more of a trailhead than a state park entrance. We looked at each other and thought this is going to be a quick day…lol.

Iron Rangers

One thing we learned a long time ago is when you visit a state park in Florida you need to bring one-dollar bills. Many of the state parks we visit in Florida have “self-pay” stations. The park provides envelopes to put the fee into. Then you tear off your receipt and hang it from your rearview mirror and drop the envelope with the money into the slot. 

This was no exception. The park fees were $3 per vehicle and $2 for pedestrians. As we usually do,we had packed our own lunch and snacks for the day ahead. It was about lunch time upon our arrival so we looked around for somewhere to eat. 

The Lone Picnic Table

From the parking lot/pay station as you look into the entrance there is a long ramp that leads to a composting toilet. To the right of that on the walkway leading in was a covered picnic table and bench. Since we came by motorcycle and not truck that was the only place we could eat. This park does not have any common areas other than this covered picnic table.

We found the area where the covered picnic table was located literally on the entry path to the park. Everyone coming in had to walk right past us. Oh well, we just ate our lunch and greeted everyone coming in…lol. 

3 Trails

Once lunch was done it was time to hike. It turns out this park has 3 different trails you can hike. The main path, the Tarkiln Bayou Trail, starts out with a cement walkway and then turns to a mostly wooden boardwalk. That is the one we decided to hike first. It leads directly to the bayou. It is a great trail for a leisurely paced easy hike. It had a couple of benches along the way. There was even a Geocache to be found!!!

Dolphins

At the end of the boardwalk, it opens up a bit to a platform overlooking the water. It was quite peaceful. As we chatted with another couple that was standing on the dock, a dolphin started jumping out of the water. Check out our video at the end of the article for the section on the dolphin.

Heading Back

After being entertained by the dolphin for a while we decided to head back and see if we could at least start the second trail. If you are coming from the main entrance to the park, as you walk down the cement walkway of the trail you will come to a fork. The main trail (the one we just did) is straight ahead and the second trail goes off to the right. Since we were heading back from the Bayou Trail we made a left onto the Perdido Bay Trail.

A 6.5 Mile Loop

As soon as you head off the cement to the right you will be on dirt for the remainder of the trail. This is the most challenging trail in the park. It is a 6.5-mile loop trail that at one point has you on a beach overlooking Perdido Bay. This is the Perdido Bay Trail.

Bring Your Boots

This trail has numerous spots that get flooded and/or very muddy especially if you are there after a rainy day. There are also sections that have deep ruts so even on a dry day you will need to navigate those. You might want to make sure you are using appropriate footwear and a walking stick.

Enjoy The Water

On this day we only did a small section of the trail as it was getting late. We never made it to the beach. On our second trip, we were able to complete it and even spend some time on the beach. There are some cement pylons that we were able to sit on and just relax while we had a little snack and listened to the water and took in the views. For those who Geocache, there might even be one along the trail. Ok, there is one…lol.

One Trail Left

There is one more trail left in the park. Well, it’s actually across the street from the entrance. It is the Wet Prairie Trail and it is a very wide loop trail. It is not shaded and looks like it might even be used for horses as there was a lot of “piles” on the trail…lol.

After you walk in about a quarter mile you have the choice of making a left or continuing straight. Geocacher friends, your going to love it. Yes, there is another cache in this area!!!

Wrong-Way?

As we usually do, we went to the left which was technically the wrong way. There really is no official wrong way as it loops but the arrow signs were all facing the opposite way. So, our advice is to stay straight at the fork. That way the arrow signs will make sense to you.

Pros

  • 3 Different Hiking Trails
  • Restroom
  • Only $3 per car
  • Pet Friendly (Designated Areas-On Leash)

Cons

  • Only 1 Covered Picnic Table
  • Parking Lot Is Very Small
  • No Benches Along The Perdido Bay Trail
  • The Perdido Bay Trail Floods With Wet Weather

Final Thoughts

This park is more for hiking than get togethers and BBQing. There are no common areas for that. It offers different levels of hiking all of which are fun. Most people we saw were content to do the main hike/stroll along the boardwalk and enjoy the bayou. We enjoyed that but also enjoyed the more challenging hike to Perdido Bay.

If you enjoy hiking, water, and Geocaching this would be a great place for you. Just bring some snacks, water, some good hiking boots, walking stick, and a camera and you could easily spend all day here. It took us two separate times to finish all the trails but we enjoyed each time and would recommend this park.

Have you been to this park? If so, tell us your experience. If you have not been to this park, does it sound like someplace that would interest you? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.







2 thoughts on “Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park

  1. Hello there. Thank you for the review of this park. The Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park seems like an amazing place to visit. There is so much to see in this kind of environment. It seems like a great place to spend some quality time just to have internal peace and explore.

    Thanks for sharing this information. I look forward to visiting this park.

    1. Awinikistevie- This park was a classic example of the saying “never judge a book by its cover” because when you first pull in all you see is a dirt lot. Most parks have some kind of “fancy” entryway with big signs and paved lots. This park offered a variety of trail hike difficulties, water views, and vegetation. We hope you get a chance to visit if you are ever in Florida… Dennis

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