November 17, 2023
Florida’s First State Park: Mike Roess Gold Head State Park
Known as one of Florida’s First State Parks, Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park, located six miles north of Keystone Heights is home to 2,000 acres with 5.44 miles of trails along the Florida National Scenic Trail.
The Civilian Conservation Corps developed the park during the 1930’s with a majority of the park’s facilities being built during this time period. In fact, some of the CCC cabins are still being used today as lakefront cabins for campers.
Hiking at Gold Head State Park
Whether you are looking for an easy hike or one that’s a bit more difficult, you’ve got options at Gold Head State Park. The Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST) passes through 5.4 miles of Gold Head State Park connecting to other public lands in the region. The park is also home to seven miles of equestrian trails.
The Loblolly Loop is a one-mile high that begins and ends at the park’s mill site while winding through the largest loblolly pine trees inside the park. The park’s Ridge Trail is 1.1 miles along the upper ridge of the park’s ravine. This hike provides a unique hiking experience transitioning between the sandhill and ravine ecosystems found within the park.
Fishing at Gold Head State Park
Bring your gear and get ready to wet a line as Little Lake Johnson is the popular fishing spot inside the park. The most common fish caught at the lake include pan fish, catfish, bluegill bream and small bass. Due to low water levels, large boats are not permitted, however canoes and small boats are welcome. Fishing is also allowed from the shore. Canoes are available to rent at the park’s ranger station.
A fishing permit may be required with all fishing conforming to state regulations regarding size, number, method of capture and seasons.
Camping at Gold Head State Park
As a full-facility campground with 73 camp sites, overnight accommodations are available for RVs, tents and cabin rentals. Each camp site includes a picnic table and fire ring. Three campground loops – Sandhill, Turkey Oak and Lakeview – host their own bathhouse facility with hot showers. Reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance. Visit the Florida State Parks reservations website or call 800-326-3521.
Activities at Gold Head State Park
In addition to hiking, fishing and camping, the park is also a popular destination for birding enthusiasts, as the park is a designated portion of the Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail. Other popular activities include geocaching with experienced geocachers hiding small trinkets and treasures throughout the park. At night, the sky comes alive thanks to the park’s absence of light pollution, making it a great spot for star gazers.
Plan Your Visit to Gold Head State Park
Ready to visit Mike Roess Gold Head State Park? Admission is $5 per vehicle (up to eight people) while camping and pavilion rental rates vary depending on location and season. The park is open 365 days a year, from sunrise to sunset. For the latest information on events and activities, visit www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/mike-roess-gold-head-branch-state-park