One Of The Most Underrated, Lesser-Known Florida State Parks Is A Camper's Paradise

If you love camping, Florida is one of the most wonderful states to do it, as it's bursting with incredible natural areas. One epic place to pitch up is the Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park in Keystone Heights. This perfect blend of habitats is a one-hour drive southwest of the underrated city of Jacksonville. It is also one of the oldest state parks in Florida yet still delights guests to this day.

According to the SavingSpot website, Mike Roess Park is one of the "most underrated state parks in America." To make this determination, they considered reviews on Tripadvisor and Google Maps, the park's natural beauty, and things to do at each park. With a 4.7- and 4.5-star rating on Google and Tripadvisor, respectively, this state park offers opportunities for water sports, hiking, watching wildlife, and stargazing. It also has a wonderful selection of places to sleep within the park.

Staying in the park

There are three main campgrounds in the Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park: Sandhill, Turkey Oak, and Lakeview. In total, there are 73 sites across them, and they have spots suitable for RVs, tents, and trailers. Each site has a picnic table, grill, and drinking water, and most also offer electricity hookups. Each campground loop features a shared bathhouse, and there's a central dump station. Sandhill and Lakeview both offer laundry facilities. If you want something less basic, there are cabins, too. You can book a historic, block, or modern cabin, ranging in cost from $65 to $100 per night. The main campgrounds and cabins can be reserved almost a year in advance via the Florida State Parks reservation service.

There are also two primitive campsites available to everyone and three primitive sites for group use only. These campgrounds do not offer access to electricity and are hike-in only. If you're just visiting for the day, you can also book your pass online. Whether you spend one day or several nights here, you'll be persuaded that this is one of Florida's most underrated parks.

Things to do in Mike Roess Park

There is plenty to do in Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park, during the day and night. Outdoor lovers will enjoy the various hiking routes, which include 5.4 miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail that intersects with the park. While out walking, you can search for the geocaches hidden within the natural areas. There are also three miles of paved biking trails in the park, and another track from the Gold Head entrance joins with the Palatka-to-Lake Butler State Trail if you want a longer trip. Horse riding is another great way to see the landscape.

Little Lake Johnson offers opportunities for water fun like swimming, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. For those who are into wildlife, keep your eyes peeled for wild turkeys, quails, kestrels, snakes, tortoises, lizards, gophers, deer, and squirrels. If you're staying overnight, head to the picnic area for some stargazing. Due to the park's remote location, it is dark enough to see stars twinkling above you. After a night under the stars, you may start to believe this underrated park is also one of the best state parks to visit in Florida.