(Santa Rosa Beach, Florida)
Another runner-up for Good Morning America's The Most Beautiful Place in America was Destin, Florida. Your dog can't experience the beaches at Destin but Topsail Hill Preserve State Park next door is the best place that you can take your dog for an extended hike along the Gulf of Mexico. Topsail Hill is the most intact coastal ecosystem in all of Florida. The state moved to protect this unique natural area by purchasing 1,637 acres here in 1992. There are 14 identifiable ecosystems, including freshwater coastal dune lakes, wet prairies, scrub, pine flatwoods, marshes, cypress domes, seepage slopes and 3.2 miles white sand beaches - the remnants of quartz washed down from the Appalachian Mountains. Topsail Hill gets its name from the landmark 25-foot high dune that resembles a ship’s topsail.
The trail of choice is the Morris Lake Nature Trail, a 2.5-mile balloon route laid out through ancient coastal dunes. The dunes trail is wide open and exposed to the elements so bring plenty of water for your dog on a hot day and since every step of the way is across glistening white soft sugar sand, your dog will get a workout any time of the year. In fact, look for iron tracks laid down during World War II that allowed heavy trucks to travel across the thick sand when these dunes were used as a bombing range. Morris Lake is one of three freshwater coastal dune lakes on the property. These rare oases are found only along the Gulf Coast in America and while tempting to visit for your dog, are inhabited by alligators. The trail climbs briefly into a Florida shrub community where your dog can find some shade among the sand pines and shrubby oaks before finishing along the Gulf of Mexico beach. If your dog isn’t spent from an hour on the Morris Lake dunes there is more hiking available in the other direction to Campbell Lake. This trail can also be accessed from the main entrance and campground and your dog won’t be allowed to finish the entire 5.2-mile loop (it tracks along the beach) but she can reach the broad, flat lakeside.
Topsail Hill Preserve State Park
RETURN TO DECEMBER 2011 NEWSLETTER
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