Visit The Panhandle To See Florida's Largest Waterfall In This Serene State Park

Tropical beachscapes and oceanic wetlands are undeniably a highlight of southern Florida, but the northern part of the state boasts crystal clear rivers, thriving forests, and beautiful scenery that rival famous coastal spots. For a quiet getaway, venture to the Florida panhandle's Falling Waters State Park to take in picturesque views of the Sunshine State's highest waterfall. 

Spanning over 170 acres, Falling Waters State Park is a hidden gem with tons of sightseeing opportunities for nature lovers. In the park's pine forests, you'll discover deer, foxes, lizards, turtles, and the adorable fox squirrel. However, as the park's name implies, it is most well-known for being home to the breathtaking Falling Waters. The famous Florida waterfall feeds into a quiet stream, before dropping a sweeping 73 feet towards the bottom of the 100-feet-deep Falling Waters Sink. Varying weather and seasonal conditions can transform this waterfall from a small trickle to a booming cascade. Before visiting Falling Waters State Park, there are a few things you should know to make the most of your adventurous, water-filled trip.

Hiking to the falls

Though the park only has one mile of hiking trails and footpaths, it does not skimp on breathtaking views. To reach the waterfall, visitors must set off on the Sink Hole Trail. This short boardwalk leads to two different observation points that offer unobstructed, expansive views of the cascade. The lower overlook, which can be accessed via a paved path and set of wooden stairs, is close enough to the falls that you'll feel the misty air on your skin, while the upper lookout is more easily accessible from the parking lot and offers a bird's eye view.

Before reaching the falls, you'll pass other geological jewels that include lush woodlands and multiple fern-covered sinkholes. The park is an exceptional destination for birdwatching and wildlife viewing. So much so, that it is listed as part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, a network of paths highlighting the best places in Florida to spot diverse species. Bring along a pair of binoculars and look to the skies to catch a glimpse of over 100 types of birds.

Park activities for the whole family

Not only is the park home to a picture-worthy largest waterfall and nature trails, but it also has plenty of outdoor activities for the whole family to enjoy. The curated butterfly garden is a must-see; here, park visitors can spot both native and migrating butterflies. Moreover, the state park has a small freshwater lake with a white sand beach, making it the perfect place to cool off on a warm day. After hiking to the cascade and spending a long day on the lake, you can snag a picnic table nestled among the pine trees for a late lunch.

The park's Pine Ridge Campground is the highest in the state, sitting 324 feet above sea level, and boasts 24 fully-equipped sites suitable for RVs and tent camping. On the grounds is also a full-facility restroom. These affordable campsites — which begin at $18 a night — can be booked directly online through the Florida State Parks reservations website. Whether you're a solo traveler looking to camp and enjoy nature or taking a trip with the entire family, Falling Waters State Park is an ultra-tranquil spot to add to your Florida parks bucket list