This past weekend my husband and I decided to take a short hiking excursion so we looked into local spots in the Pensacola area that we could get to easily. We were amazed to find all of the trails in Cantonment associated with the University of West Florida. I was always aware that UWF owned a lot of acreage in the area west of its campus but I had no idea that these wonderful hiking/mountain biking trails were there and open to the public.
The trails vary in length from the 1.75 mile ‘Yellow’ trail that we hiked all the way up to 9.75 mile ‘Red’ trail with several different distances and colors in between. The university has a downloadable map on its UWF Trails page that shows them all. They also have an interactive map that you can use once you are deep in the woods in case you are a hiking novice like we are and you’re scared of getting lost. Coincidentally someone has left little mounds of “cocaine”, as I called them, all along the yellow trail that guide you along your way. The trails are also well marked with the various colors of spray paint on the trees, however, there are some spots where you will want to use the interactive map if you are unfamiliar with the area, because there are some forks in the road that can be a little tricky. All in all, though, this trail was easy, taking us just over 45 minutes to complete at a leisurely walking pace, and we encountered only 3 people (2 mountain bikers and one jogger) during the entire hike despite the fact that the parking area was almost full. This is also a good spot to point out that the parking lot is not very well marked and has been filled with sand. The parking was not an issue, though, even for the small cars that were parked there. Everyone that we encountered was friendly and polite and did not put their own needs ahead of ours, although we did make haste in moving out of the way for the mountain bikers which they promptly thanked us for.
We also had an opportunity to see some of Northwest Florida’s more common wildlife including birds, butterflies (tons of beautiful yellow butterflies), squirrels and even a couple of gopher turtles. The walk was so serene and peaceful, which was surprising to me based on the fact that the trails are so close to housing developments and fairly well traveled streets. There are a few places where you can see and hear the cars passing by on Greenbrier Boulevard but it didn’t seem to take away from the nature the way that you might think it would. The trails are also fairly close to Gulf Power’s Plant Crist, however we did not encounter any noise from the plant. This could be, in part, because the yellow trail that we hiked is on the southwest end of Pate Street away from the plant. Despite all of the potential interruptions from the outside world, the woods were quiet and peaceful and made for a great hike. We will definitely be going back to hike some of the longer trails in the area very soon so check back for updates on those hikes. We also intend to hike the Edward Ball Nature Trail associated with UWF because it promises a boardwalk view of the hardwood swamp over Thompson’s Bayou and an opportunity to see a lot more wildlife. I encourage anyone who enjoys hiking that hasn’t visited these trails to give them a shot! It is well worth your time!
Check out some of the other pictures that I snapped from our trip below…