Pine Log State Forest covers over 7,000 acres of sandhills, cypress ponds, titi swamps, and flatwoods that are located approximately 30 miles north of Panama City on the panhandle of Florida. Sand Pond Campground, in the eastern portion of the forest, provides 20 campsites of varying sizes, many of which are on the shores of Sand Pond. The covered dock that extends out into the pond is a great place to sit and fish for pickerel and bass. The many trails provide a fantastic option for exploring the various environments that are found throughout the forest, no matter how you prefer to explore. This state forest boasts trails specifically designated for horseback riding and mountain biking, as well as trails that allow only foot traffic. There is a wide range of wildlife that makes Pine Log their home, from fairly common animals such as coyotes and raccoons to rare and threatened species like the eastern indigo snake or gopher tortoise. The Pine Log State Forest is also considered to be part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. It is a great site for birdwatching enthusiasts to spot all sorts of birds, including ospreys, herons, hawks, woodpeckers, owls, and several varieties of songbirds. No matter what brings you to Florida in your RV or campervan, Pine Log State Forest is a scenic spot to stop and camp.
Sand Pond Campground is situated in the eastern portion of Pine Log State Forest, just a little over 30 miles from Panama City. It can be approached from either the north or the south along Florida State Highway 79. Highway 79 is a wide, paved thoroughfare that is typically quite easy to navigate from either direction. Those who are coming from the north will need to cross traffic to get to the gate, while those coming from the south will not need to cross traffic. Once you turn off Highway 79, the roads change drastically. Inside the forest, there are narrow, dirt roads that have several twists and turns which often develop ruts in them. While these roads are safe enough to be navigated by big rigs or by those who are towing trailers, it is a bit of a challenge and drivers should be cautious and take their time when driving on them. There are not many areas for you to park your camper other than the campsites themselves. The closest town is Ebro, FL, just two and a half miles to the north of the campground.
The Sand Pond Campground boasts 20 sites with 30 and 50 amp electrical and water hookups that are available for reservations. Each sites comes with a grill, a fire pit, and a picnic table or two. You will want to pay attention to the driveway length when making your reservations, particularly if you have a larger vehicle. While there are a few sites that have large enough pads for rigs up to 42 feet long, others are listed as only being big enough for a 23-foot camper or trailer. The sites are fairly flat and roomy, and many of them are directly on the water. A few of them have trees or rocks that may make backing into the site a challenge, particularly in larger rigs. Reservations for the campsites can be made anywhere from the date of your stay to 11 months in advance. Pets are permitted in Pine Log State Forest but must be restrained by a six-foot or shorter leash at all times. They are not allowed on designated swimming beaches, however.
Make sure you bring your camera in your campervan if you are visiting Pine Log State Forest. There are several different types of natural environments, including sandhills, cypress ponds, titi swamps, and flatwoods areas, each with their own type of beauty. Unique flowers, such as the southern red lily, Chapman’s crownbeard, and the white-top pitcher-plant, also make excellent subjects for photographs. If you are lucky and patient you may even manage to snap an image of coyotes, water moccasins, gopher tortoises, or many other animals that call this forest home.
There are several miles of hiking trails that meander through Pine Log State Forest, so you will want to be sure to pack your hiking boots, sunblock, and bug spray in your trailer when visiting here. The four-mile Dutch Tieman Trail and the nine-mile Crooked Creek Trail are multi-use trails that allow both hikers and cyclists. The two-mile Campground Loop Trail, which loops around a nearby cypress pond and includes a wooden boardwalk that goes right through the middle of the cypress swamp, is for foot traffic only, as is the eight-mile stretch of the Florida Scenic Trail that traverses the forest.
The Sand Pond Campground and Pavillion in Pine Log State Forest is situated on the banks of Sand Pond, the small lake that the campground took its name from. The lake has a fairly robust population of chain pickerel and largemouth bass. There is a wooden fishing pier with a roof that extends out into the pond, making it more comfortable to fish in either rainy or sunny weather. It is important to remember that Florida swamps, lakes, and ponds are often the territory of wild alligators, so keep your eyes open for these freshwater predators, particularly when using topwater lures or when reeling in your catch.
Pine Log State Forest is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. There are a large variety of species that either migrate through or make their homes here. Around the water, you can find herons, wood ducks, and ospreys, while the forest itself is populated by purple martins, mocking birds, quail, woodpeckers, and chickadees. Birds of prey are in abundance here as well, with hawks hunting rabbits and mice during the daytime hours, and several species of owl doing the same after the sun sets.
Cyclists who are planning on visiting Pine Log State Forest will want to ensure that their bikes are in the camper or trailer before they leave. The four-mile Dutch Tieman Trail is a smooth, fast ride that should be suitable even for novices. It has some soft, sandy corners and a few large logs covered by sand that are used as fun jumps as well. Crooked Creek is a longer ride at around ten miles, and while most of the ride seems fairly flat and sandy, there is an overall elevation gain of 538 feet.
The Old Sawmill Trail, which is situated on the opposite side of Highway 79, is designed to be used only by visitors on horseback. This 12.5-mile loop weaves through the southern region of the park and follows several roads and firebreaks as well as crossing the Crooked Creek hiking and biking trail in several spots. All horses are required to have proof of negative Coggins Test results when visiting Florida state properties, and all riders under the age of 16 must wear a helmet.