The Leon Sinks Geological Area lies in a small corner of the eastern border of the Apalachicola National Forest — the largest in Florida.
With five miles of well-kept trails and just 10 miles south of downtown Tallahassee, Leon Sinks is the perfect destination for a day hike year around.
At “the Sinks,” you’ll experience a geologic landscape that is unique to the karst topography of northern Florida. This area of the state lies on top of formation of porous limestone that formed over millions of years from compressed remains of ancient coral reefs and other organisms.
As rainwater seeps underground it slowly dissolves the limestone, forming vast networks of connected caverns underground (home to the Floridan Aquifer). When the tops of these caverns that lie near the surface collapse, we get sinkholes. You’ll see at least eighteen of these at Leon Sinks –- eight wet and ten dry — along with a natural bridge and a disappearing river.
This network of sinks is part of a larger system that feeds into Wakulla Springs. The connection between the Wakulla Springs caves and the Leon Sinks system was documented in 2007 by members of the Woodville Karst Plain Project. This effort established the Wakulla-Leon Sinks Cave System as the longest underwater cave in the United States, and the sixth largest in the world, with 31.99 miles of surveyed passages.
On the 2.5-mile Sinkhole Trail, you’ll see nine dry sinks (Gopher Hole, Cone, Dry, Palmetto, Back, Far, Tiny, Big Eight, and one unnamed) and seven wet sinks (Hammock, Big Dismal, Magnolia, Black, Lost Stream, Duckweed, and Fisher Creek Rise).
On the 1.7-mile Gum Swamp Trail, you’ll pass the wet Fisher Creek Sink, as well as Bear Scratch Swamp, South Swamp, and Shadows Swamp. Both trails share a 0.5-mile stretch called Crossover Trail that connects the two to form loops.
Big Dismal Sink is definitely the most spectacular feature here. You can climb the hill around it and peer into a crater that drops over eighty feet to the base of the sink. You’ll hear the constant sound of dripping water here, caused by water filtering through the limestone and hitting the surface of the sink.
The cypress and gum swamps also offer great views, but the boardwalks that lead to a few vantage points are currently closed. Otherwise, the site is very accessible, even in poor conditions.
Make sure to keep an eye out for snakes sunning themselves on the trail, and make some noise as you hike to scare the critters. You don’t want to sneak up on any bears.
NOTE: As of September, 2022, the Leon Sinks Geological Area is undergoing construction during site improvements. Trails are open until visitors approach trail blockers, after which conditions are unsafe while construction takes place. Area is subject to unscheduled closures.
The entrance fee is $5.
From Tallahassee, take US 319 south about 7 miles and turn right at the sign for the Leon Sinks Geological Area.
Campgrounds and Lodging Near Leon Sinks
Historic Wakulla Springs Lodge (9 miles from Leon Sinks) Located at Wakulla Springs State Park. Built in the 1930s, features 27 guest rooms, each with a spacious marble bathroom, walk-in closet, and antique or period furniture. Try the fried green tomatoes in the Edward Ball Dining Room. 550 Wakulla Park Drive, Wakulla Springs, FL 32327
Newport (Wakulla County) Campground (18 miles). County-run campground with 26 sites, including eight with full hookups ($27/night), six with water and electric ($22/night) and 12 primitive sites ($11/night). Bathhouse and dump station. Call (850) 925-4530 for more information. 8046 Coastal Highway (U.S. 98), Crawfordville, FL.
Shell Island Fish Camp (18 miles). Sites include water and electric, covered picnic table and dump station on site. We welcome motor homes, campers, and tents. Rates are $30 per night for campers; $15 per night for tents. Cabins and motel also available. Call (850) 925-6226 for availability. 440 Shell Island Road. St. Marks, Florida 32355
Big Oak RV Park (19 miles) Private RV Park with 117 spaces available for overnight camping, gravel base, 30/50 amps, WiFi at site, restrooms, showers, laundry. Open all year, pets welcome, no tents allowed, folding tent campers OK. Reservations online or call (850)562-4660. 4024 N Monroe St, Tallahassee FL 32303.
Tallahassee RV Park. (19 miles) Private RV Park with 66 spaces available for overnight camping, gravel sites, grass sites, 30/50 amps, WiFi at site, partial handicap access, restrooms, showers, laundry, table at site. Good Sam. Reservations online or call (850) 878-7641. 6504 Mahan Dr. Tallahassee FL 32308
A little further away but worth considering:
High Bluff Campground, Lake Talquin State Forest (27 miles from Leon Sinks) Semi-private campground with 32 primitive campsites with no electric or water. Most sites are tent and RV accessible. All sites have picnic table, fire ring/grill. Horse camping is allowed. (Bring your own portable corral). Recreational activities include fishing, boating, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, picnicking, bird watching, wildlife viewing and photography. Located on the north side of Lake Talquin, about 20 miles west of Tallahassee. $9/night plus tax and reservation fee (1st night free). 2725 High Bluff Landing, Midway, FL.
Ochlockonee River State Park. (29 miles) 30-site campground with three disability accessible sites. 28 sites offer 30 amp service only and two sites have 50 amp service. All sites have water hookups, fire ring, picnic table and clothes line. A dump station on site. Restrooms with hot showers. Reservations may be made up to 11 months in advance by calling (800) 326-3521 (8 a.m. to 8 p.m.) or TDD (888) 433-0287. 429 State Park Road, Sopchoppy FL 32358.
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Notes from the editor:
The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning visits.
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Matt Marino is an archaeologist and Florida native who writes about Florida history and culture at FloWriter.net. His Twitter handle is @wellitsMatt.
Wednesday 30th of June 2021
I don’t think the Leon Sink are open. They have been completely shutdown for months or over a year. I live near and was told by a park ranger they would be off limits for a long time.
Thursday 1st of July 2021
Many thanks for the alert. We'll follow up.