This week for Tinsel’s (our pup) birthday we decided to take a short weekend trip to Tallahassee. We planned on hitting up the State Capitol, The State Supreme Court House, Florida Caverns State Park and camping at Falling Waters State Park in the Panhandle.
We packed our camping gear, filled our cooler with sandwiches and started driving at 7:00am (headed from Orlando to Tallahassee). Our camping gear included our tent, two chairs, a basket full of camping supplies (lighters, candles, fire starters, food utensils) our cooler and our sleeping bags. The weather called for a VERY cold night (51 is cold for us Florida kids) – we made sure to pack an extra thick quilt too.
The drive took us about four hours and thirty minutes to reach the State Capitol Building. We stopped at this INCREDIBLE build-your-own stir fry joint downtown called 1Fresh.
Parking was a little tight at the State Capitol Building, but being around lunch time, we were able to parallel park right in front of the Capitol. Tinsel was not impressed by the building at all (but we had a great time). We visited the Florida Supreme Court House right across the street as well. Pretty neat for a quick road trip pit stop! (The stir fry was the best part though)
From the Capitol Building we started driving straight towards the Florida State Caverns Park; about a 45 minute drive. Our game plan was to explore the caves and do some light hiking to stretch our legs before we had to check into our campsite at 3:00PM. Arriving around 1:30PM; we reached the park entrance and the line of cars was out onto the main road. Waiting for about 25 minutes, the Park Ranger then informed us that they no longer allow citizens into the caves unattended but they had several “Nature Trails” we could visit – he tells us this after he takes our $5 entrance fee. He then told us the next available tour was at 3:00PM but was full……
Disappointed we decided to make the most of it and headed into the park. We followed the main road straight down to the end; where we ended up in a large open field. We got out and explored a bit; but we saw no trail heads or even remote paths to follow. Spending a few moments camped under a tree, we hoped back into the car to drive around to see if we could find anything else to do in this park.
Driving around a bit, we made it the Visitor’s Center. Boy let me tell you – there was no parking, there were people everywhere, there were dogs running around and children screaming. The “Nature Trails” (the Park Ranger told us about) was just one single ¼ mile paved loop around the Visitor’s Center….
This was a HUGE disappointment. My suggestion for next time is to go on a day that there are no crowds; call ahead to see about appointments and scheduling. There is nothing posted on the Caverns State Park site about booking a tour and is VERY misleading on the “Nature Trails.” CALL AHEAD.
We ended up staying an hour and leaving. It was a complete waste of our money and time.
Thirty minutes away from the Florida Caverns State Park was our final destination the Falling Waters State Park. We checked into our campsite a bit early around 2:30PM, set up camp and took a quite nap in our tent.
Our tiny little Coleman tent has a small tent “pop out” where the roof is mesh/see through. We normally roll out our sleeping bags under the pop out so we can see the stars as we are sleeping. (We took a long, needed nap underneath the trees)
My one complaint about Falling Waters State Park – The campsites are REALLY close together and every campsite was full. We had some troubles with our pup barking and wanting to play with the neighbors. For those of you with anxious or fearful dogs, there are two campsites along the edge of the campsite. Sites 20 & 18 are completely alone and even have a step down into the campsite; so there is more privacy.
Firewood is also available at the front entrance for $5; be sure to pick this up on your way in. The State Park does not allow you to pull wood from the surrounding forest.
We decided to forgo hiking to see the waterfall that evening; the crowds were unbelievable. We thought it would be best to hike out in the morning so we can see the sunrise through the forest. (Our best plan yet). We stayed at our campsite through the evening. I packed us fresh lemonade and adult “lunchables” (summer meats, cheeses and crackers).
Adult “lunchables” are the PERFECT road trip lunch or dinner, we pre-slice the meats and cheeses and store them in our cooler and are able to pull over quickly for a bite. Occasionally we even pop open a bottle of white wine at our campsite to enjoy with our dinner.
We also gorged ourselves on delicious dark chocolate s’mores; while our pup napped in the tent (it was a long day for her!) There are sooo many incredible options for s’more’s! My favorite includes filling up a waffle cone with bananas, dark chocolate and mini marshmallow, wrapping them in tinfoil and letting them melt over a campfire. YES PLEASE!
Besides being camped next to a family with an ungodly amount of rambunctious children; we had a beautiful night camped underneath a blanket of stars and a warm fire.
It was a rough night sleeping on the ground in our tent; we REALLY need to invest in an air mattress or sleeping pads for our next trip!
5:45AM came quicker than we imagined, we took turns using the restrooms at the campsite (surprisingly super nice bathrooms!!) and then we headed off on the trail head adjacent from our campsite. Barely light out, we took our time down the hill about a mile, when my husband took a spill down the flight of stairs. (He’s fine now) but he sprained his ankle and I had to leave to find him help. We made it back to the camp after a mile trek carrying Andrew back up the hill with the help of our camp neighbor.
Disappointed in not being able to see the caverns or the falls; I reluctantly packed up our campsite. (It is VERY exhausting packing up an entire campsite by yourself) I finally got everything packed into the car, along with my pup and my husband. We decided that we did not want to waste our five hour drive and we wanted to see the falls. I parked our car near the playgrounds at the end of the main road and my husband used my trekking poles to walk himself down to the waterfall. (What a champ! I KNOW)
Parked in the lot we headed straight down the main path towards the waterfall; just about 100 steps down a paved walkway and two flights of stairs down. We made it and it was INCREDIBLE. Water was falling off the side of a cliff into a 100 foot deep sink hole! It was just breath taking; there were no crowds of people or dogs and there was no noise other than the water falling into the well. Absolutely worth the trip!
Although my husband ended up getting hurt and we missed out on seeing the caverns; we still had an unbelievable road trip. I will defiantly be camping here again in the fall!