In Milton, just northeast of Pensacola, the nearly 10-mile Blackwater Heritage State Trail is the rewarding result of a partnership between Florida's Departments of Transportation and Environmental Protection and the U.S. Navy. Its northernmost 1.5 miles are officially dubbed the Military Heritage Trail.
Five convenient trailheads provide access, while a smooth asphalt surface promises an enjoyable ride through flat rural and urban areas. The Milton trailhead offers parking and restroom facilities, nearby restaurants and even a bicycle shop for last-minute gear and supplies.
The trail follows the route of the old Florida and Alabama Railroad, operated by the Bagdad Land and Lumber Company and used to ship milled lumber from Bagdad to Whitley, Alabama. The railroad stopped running in 1939, but when America entered World War II, the rails were rebuilt and used to ship aviation fuel to Naval Air Station Whiting Field.
A mile up the trail, local citizens staff a visitor center and provide information about this and other area parks and attractions. As the route streaks north, the surroundings become increasingly rural. Telltale signs that you're leaving Milton behind include trailside pitcher plants and rabbit sightings.
By the time you reach the Munson Highway parking area, just under 3 miles along the trail, the rural setting dominates. Munson provides the only horse trailer parking, so expect to spot more equestrians on the adjacent trail and at the seven nearby shared stream crossings.
The trail ends abruptly at the gates of Naval Air Station Whiting Field. Before September 2001, the trail continued west to an active airport runway, but national and local security precautions now prevent that. Shutterbugs take note: while the military embraces the trail, security officers at the base entrance may be uncomfortable with your snapping pictures of this area.
From Interstate 10, take State Route 87 toward Milton. The trailhead is on the northwest corner of the SR 87/US 90 intersection. The trailside visitor center is at 5533 Alabama Street, 1 mile north of the Milton trailhead. Parking is available.
To reach the Munson Highway parking area and its equestrian parking, head north from Milton about 3 miles on County Route 191 to the trail intersection.
The Whiting Field trailhead is a few miles north of the CR 87A/CR 191 intersection, just northeast of Milton.