Grayton Beach State Park
For information about location and the other amenities available, see the official site of Grayton Beach State Park.
While vacationing on the Florida panhandle, we went on the search for some easy dog-friendly hiking trails to let our corgi clan expel some energy. We decided to check out Grayton Beach State Park since there seemed to be some shorter hiking paths that promised some beautiful scenery!
While the scenery was beautiful, it was a hot hot HOT Florida day. The safety and comfort of our dogs are top priority when we take them out with us, and since we're no strangers to hot weather, here are some tips we follow to make sure our babies have fun and stay safe!
1. Water, water, water. You should always have water for both you and your dogs at all times. We carry a special thermos of water just for the dogs as well as extra for us. We have this awesome canvas travel bowl that goes with us everywhere when we have our dogs with us. We stopped for several water and shade breaks along the path.
2. A short leash. Our dogs love freedom, obviously, but when in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar wildlife, vegetation, and trail features, you never know what they might get into, step on, eat, etc. Keeping a short leash will help prevent a nasty unexpected trip to the emergency vet when you're supposed to be enjoying a nice day outside!
3. Ground Temperature. A good rule of thumb is that if the ground would be too hot for your own bare feet, it is too hot for your dogs to walk on comfortably, and can even end up burning them! Be aware of the surfaces your pooch is being asked to walk on for any length of time, and choose shaded areas as much as possible.
3. Know your dog's limits. Most dog owners are in tune with the individual body language of their dogs. We can instantly tell when our dogs are running low on energy, when they need water, and when they have just flat out had enough and need to take an extended rest. During this hike, we realized quickly that the combination of the heat, deep soft sand, and odd trail features was just too much for our stocky short-legged babies, and we cut our hike a little short so we could get them back to the car and into some air conditioning. Then remember to give them their flea treatment, my dog's favorite are the Nexgard Soft Chews.
Dexter is ready to go!
The area certainly had some beautiful features, but be aware that the trails are not well-marked, and it's very easy to wander right off the path!
Dewey doesn't look too sure about all of this!
Hey mom, why don't' we have all this white stuff on the ground where we live?
Be aware of stagnant water covering the trails as well as low, spiny cacti. There were areas we had to navigate very carefully to make sure our puppies didn't pierce their little feet!
Taking the first of many shade breaks! This is Dash, Dewey's biological brother.
Another shade break. The lil guy on the left is Dodge, and he spent a lot of the time in Kara's arms since he was a bit too young to complete the walk all by himself.
All in all, it's a pretty area, but even though the trails are touted as being dog-friendly, I would leave them at home for this one. I would even go as far as to recommend skipping the trail altogether and spend your time elsewhere in the park, like on the beautiful beaches or bike trails.
Topsail Hill Preserve State Park
For information about location and other amenities available, see the official site for Topsail Hill Preserve State Park.
A couple of days later we hit up another state park, this time leaving the corgis at home to chill in the air-conditioning. We learned about some hiking trails that were supposed to be pretty cool, so we picked one out and headed to the park entrance to do some exploring.
We were a little worried when the rangers in the parking area seemed a little surprised that we wanted to utilize the trails. While asking for directions and for a map, a ranger said, "Oh, you're wanting to go there?" This caused the four of us to exchange some worried glances at each other as we continued into the park to find space to leave our car. Nevertheless, we pushed on and took a shuttle from the parking area to the trail head.
The first part of the trail was well-marked and flanked by towering pines.
16 weeks pregnant and still hiking, though I went easy on myself and went at a much slower pace. See all of the water? A couple of weeks before our trip, the area experienced some significant flooding and there was still quite a bit of standing water in the low lying areas.
There were signs all over the place warning of alligators in the area, especially with still water like this. We kept an eye out, but never saw any green scaly friends, thank goodness.
Awesome long boardwalk over a swampy area.
Tons of lily pads!
There were lots of interesting aircraft flying low over the beach, headed to and from the base in Pensacola.
Dunes as far as you can see. Are we in Florida or did we wander into a desert? I'll warn you again about poorly-marked trails here... we lost our way more than once because there are few signs or markers about where to go, and in places there really is no visible trail to follow. I was planning on this post being much more informative about how to follow the trail, but I have to be honest, most of the time I had NO IDEA where we were or where we were going, and neither did the rest of the group. So the best I can do is just show you the pictures! I guess we have been spoiled by the beautifully maintained trails of the Smoky Mountains that we have at home!
Get a load of that massive dragonfly!
Being so near the water reassured us that we weren't actually lost, as there were visible condos on either side of us - it was just frustrating that we had to spend so much of our time trying to figure out where the heck to go (we wanted to respect the dunes and stay off of them and on the "trails") instead of just enjoying the area!
So we survived, our sanity and our skin intact thanks to many generous applications of sunscreen, but again, this is another trail that I can't completely recommend. Maybe we'll stick to our gorgeous trails at home for hiking and just lay around on the beach with a book and a fruity drink when on vacation. 🙂
I agree these were not the most well-marked trails by any stretch - we were certainly frustrated at multiple points - and would definitely recommend against taking doggies on them due to the heat. BUT I have to admit, having done them/ seen the beautiful scenery, I would regret having missed it if we hadn't gone.
I'd say leave Grayton State Park for canoeing or paddling the coastal dune lakes and find a way to do the second half of that Top Sail trail only - the dunes were the most scenic part (but the worst for following the trail)!