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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.
In town for a meeting decided to ride the trail. Parked at the trail head behind the Spokin' Bike shop. Not exactly a safe feeling, and we were panhandled on our return. Better to park at the Milton library (although when we rode by the Visitor Center it was closed where I suspect you'd find restrooms). The trail is very nice and well maintained. Yes, there are several small road crossings and one major one before you get to the more rural area (the stop sign for bicyclists was down here--very dangerous! We righted it but it needs to be repaired). For a short (9 miles each way) ride it was quite pleasant.
Started at the parking area on Tar Plant Road on the south end. Very quiet and off the beaten path. Restrooms are there and are very clean. Rode south about a quarter-mile before it ended and had to turn around and go north.
The ride through Milton is slow as there are several road crossings as has already been stated. The one at highway 90 can be a bit challenging. All the other crossings are mainly side streets with less traffic. I did see a few of what appeared to be homeless people around Milton, but never felt threatened.
The trail farther north gets less busy the farther out you go. By the time I got to Whiting Field, I really didn't see anyone using it (although it was a Tuesday morning). I saw some guys with the base preparing to do some work on the path, so maybe the areas where the tree roots were tearing up the asphalt will get repaired.
It's a nice ride. There are restrooms along the way. I think I saw 3 or 4 of the latrines. It is fairly shady most of the way except the northern 2 or 3 miles. I'm sure that can get very hot in the summertime! It was also well maintained, grass cut, etc. when I went.
On the way back, I detoured off the path and rode down to the riverfront in Milton. They have a really nice boardwalk that's worth taking a look. You can return back to the parking area via Pine Street and Old US 90.
I ride this trail often with friends. We park at the turnaround behind the Truly Spokin bike shop. We ride low and slow as this isn't really an ideal setup for people on high zoot road bikes wanting to maintain speed. It's more of a trail for the leisurely crowd, families, kids and the like. That's not to say there aren't sections when you can get up to pace, there are, but most people wanting to ride for sustained levels won't like all the road crossings they'll have to stop for. The trail is maintained well enough and has restrooms about midway and at the Whiting Field end. Also at the Whiting end is a covered picnic table where you can rest and recharge for the ride back. All in all a very nice trail to have in our area.
A group of us ride along this trail. The weather was very pleasant and the trail was clean and dry. Room for three people to ride across the trail. Not too busy; the most annoying part was having to wait to cross the main road at the lights.
Other roads did cross the trail, but the traffic was so minimal that this was not a concern.
We started at the Old Tar Road end. Not a difficult trail although towards the end, where the Military Base is, there are troublesome tree roots trying to break through the pavement.
Recently rode this trail on our thin tire road bikes. Good trail for riding at a nice clip once outside of Milton. Several locations for parking but the best is at the Milton library and Tourist information center. Only one small section is in need of repair and that is at the very start of the military heritage trail. Tree roots are upheaving the sidewalk. Slow way down here!!! Saw two deer and an armadillo out by the military base.
This trail is serene and rural. Our preferred parking area is the trailhead near the Milton Library. Very well kept trail with water fountains, benches, restrooms. Love it!
I was walking on the Blackwater trail with my family in Milton and could not help notice how poorly MAINTAINED the trail looked. The grass is over two feet tall in most areas, around the trees looks like they have never seen a weedeater. Tree branches left alongside the trail to rot. It's to bad it looks like this, it is a very nice trail to walk, bike, etc. I had to keep my children away from the trails edge for fear of snakes hiding in the long grass, very disappointing.
I was under the impression that there are state paid employees to take care of the trail.
Love this trail! Very well maintained! Plenty of rest stops & bathrooms along the way- I try to ride 2-3x a week. Meanders through residential neighborhoods & farmland- if you start at old tar plant rd & go all the way to Whiting Field gate it's about 10 miles one way. Makes for a great workout!
Rode this trail today and it was very enjoyable. Warm, sunny December day. Trail is slight up hill from south parking going north. Saw whitetail deer and beautiful country views once out of town. Will return for spring ride.
parked behind Sun Trust bank (near Berryhill St and Hwy 87), trail runs right behind. A lot of cross streets early on, but only a few had traffic. Would have been hot in summer as a lot of trail is in open...I don't chose trails by this criteria, but if you're looking for majority shade, this ain't it. Trail was well maintained, except for heavy pine straw and small limbs, a few rough asphalt patches all right at the north trail head paking area. Otherwise, a decent flat trail. Not bad scenery, just no features of any note.
I feel there needs to be more restrooms. Atleast every 2 miles...even if they are the outhouse type.
Started at the Whiting Field gate end of the trail (gate was locked, so couldn't do any of the trail actually on the base). Trail needs some maintenance at that end, where there are roots/potholes and branches hanging out over the trail. At the very least, someone needs to trim back the branches so you can use the whole trail.
The rest of the trail was open and smooth and a very nice ride. We went a bit later in the day (11am-1pm) so it was quite hot. But there was enough shade on the trail to make it not so bad. Carry water though.
Did not attempt the part where the trail went thru town as we did not want to have to deal with the multiple traffic crossings.
Very nice trail, wish we had something similar closer to home so I could go out riding more often.
It is a great trail. 9 miles. I loved it. It can be a little busy in the Milton section but no big deal. Just slow down, be nice, be careful, relax and you will have the trail to your self for the most part in about a 2 miles. Crossing a couple of small roads is no big deal. Parking at Milton TH is good and in a good area. Nice neighborhoods and nice homes right next to trail. No fencing. There is a Burger King, Shell station, bicycle shop and other places. Take something to drink with you. Sunscreen and bug repellant is advisable in the summer. A library and visitor center is right next to the trail. Bathrooms, water, tables and maps available at the Milton trail head. When you get into the more rural areas it is nice, peaceful, scenic and pretty. You might get to some horses and goats. I have never had a problem with dogs, snakes, bees, wasp, flies or anything else. It is just plain great.
I found this to be a very nice experience and the trail was in great condition. It is mostly flat with a very manageable incline, good places to stop as needed. Had to turn around at the Whiting Field section as my friend did not have a helmet and that is a requirement for that part. Several stop signs startinfg out but once past those, you can turn on some speed. Will definitely ride again.
I started out outside the gates of Whiting Field and rode into Milton. You can get some nice speed through this area. At the end of the heritage trail portion, as another reviewer stated, pine needles, branches, very narrow in some spots, but the worst were the roots breaking up the trail. On the way back, I elected to ride the main road that paralleled the trail for the 1/4 mile or so and then hopped back on. As for the rest of the trail, very nice and scenic until you reach town. I had to stop at every block looking for cars. I went to the south trailhead and returned. Other than the Milton town area, it was nice.
We parked at the Milton Trailhead on Elva St. and headed north. Once you get past all the intersections in the city, you can pick up some speed and a steady pace. It's beautiful, flat, about 5 ft. wide and well-kept except when you get to the Military Heritage part. For about 1/4 mile the trail was strewn with leaves, pine needles, branches, trees uprooting through the asphalt, pot holes. Then it cleared up. If you have a military or government issued employee ID, you may be able to get into the Whiting Field NAS. South of the Milton trailhead, the trail continues for only about 2 miles. It's a great trail for all levels of bikers, especially beginners or non-aggressive riders b/c it is flat, rural and not crowded (in November).
I, along with a group of friends rode the trail on Sunday, Aug 12, 2012. We found it to be very nice and well kept! Was a pleasure to see benches and a restroom on the trail in case a break is needed. Will certainly go back for another ride in the future. Allen S. Opp, AL
I found the trail to be very clean and well keep. It's good for bikes or walking for people of all ages. No hills but you do have to cross some streets. The beginning in Bagdad was to say the least a little odd, out in the midle of no were. All the trees help keep it cool and in Florida you need that. Will ride again.
We rode the Blackwater Rail Trail on Friday April 27, 2012. Started at Minton FL trailhead. Good parking for a narrow, Roadtrek, 20 foot motor home but probably not for anything bigger. Agree with the other posting that there are several stop signs and road crossings as you head north but once you get out of Minton it is smooth riding to the military base. The trail gets a little rough and narrow at the military base. We turned around due to time constraints but it looked like you could easily ride the remaining 1-2 miles. There is a bike shop by the trail head which came in handy as we had a glass puncture on the trail and had to replace our tube. There must be only one piece of glass on the trail but we managed to find it. The trail was in good shape. The trail was nice, tree signage along the way was helpful as we don't live in the area.
Just moved back to town, and was happy to find this trail. I heard it was being built years ago, and I was honestly a little surprised at how well it has been maintained. Biked from the lot @ Hwy. 90 and rode up to Whiting and back in just under 2 hours.
If I were to have a complaint at all (which this is hardly a complaint), it would be that there are quite a few road crossings and stop signs with blind corners while you are in Milton. You have to get right up to the street, and definitely come to a stop to check for traffic. Not really a complaint. It breaks up the rhythm, which I guess can be good as a warm-up and cool-down if you are parked at that end of the trail. Once you are out of town there are far fewer road crossings and you can crank up the speed a little bit.
Didn't travel on the trail south of Hwy. 90. Didn't feel like trying to cross the highway as traffic was a bit heavy.
I will definitely do this one again. Nice ride.
"Blackwater Trail is perfect for a easy ride for anyone. The Trail is kept in excellent condition by very dedicated employees. I have spent some time talking with them and they truly love what they are doing and have plans for further improvements.
There is now a south part of the trail that runs approximately 1 mile south of Hwy 90.
If you stop in at Truly Spokin, the bike shop right across the street, they have maps that will allow you to get up to 100 miles of riding on the local roads that attach to the trail.
Truly Spokin is also a very friendly and well stafted bike shops if you need any repairs or a bike.
I have seen a large assortment of animals as well as varying plant life on the trail. I actually starting riding the trail when no one was on it. Now, if you do not arrive before 8 or 9 am you will not get a parking spot at the trail head. There is a church near by that does not seem to mind you parking there."
"We rode from Milton Trailhead to the Military property,line and back in the evening. It was an enjoyable ride and the facilities at the trailhead were excellent. We had alate dinner on their picnic table with freash water and restrooms available. Nice level trail with many shaded areas."
The biggest thing I noticed during my first two visits to this trail was that the locals weren't too friendly. The trail itself is very easy to navigate. Going north seems to be more of a gradual uphill.
Most of the trail gives you a country feel but not the sort of woodsie feel that I was expecting. The trail is very clean until you get into the military base where they haven't cleaned up from the hurricane yet.
"This is a nice easy trail. On the trail, I saw snakes, turtles, rabbits and deer. This would be a good trail to take the family out on."
"This paved trail starts in the City of Milton and eventually enters rural areas before ending at the east gate to Naval Air Station Whiting Field.
Over the course of some nine or ten miles, the trail increases in elevation from about 25 Ft ASL to 150 ASL... a gentle climb. Most of the climb is in the northern segments.
There are numerous street crossings in Milton, but northeast of the West Florida Library, the crossings become more distant.
An excellent family trail. Peaceful."
"I live near this trail and often ride it as a relaxing change of pace from riding on local roads.
The trail has only minimal inclines and is very easy for families with children to do. Plenty of shade for hot days also. But what I like best about it the trail is the wildlife you're likely to see there. I've seen several deer, raccoons, rabbits of course, and one early morning an owl. The flora is also interesting--in addition to the wildflowers, there are loads of pitcher plants, this area's indigenous carnivorous plant. The pitchers are tall plants, rising from a green stalk to a white, purple-veined, trumpet-shaped ""pitcher."" They have a delicate beauty that hides their gruesome way of life--luring and trapping unsuspecting insects inside the pitcher of fluid, where they first drown, then are slowly digested to feed the plant. Yikes! But their habitat is slowly disappearing, so see them soon.
Very friendly bike shop (Truly Spokin') and Tastee Freeze (ice cream stand) at the trailhead, for those who don't live on insects."
"In my other review, when I reread it, I felt that I had not made one point clear. The trailhead is at the intersection of higways 90 and 87, not 90 and 89. It is in Milton behind an ice cream/tastee freeze, not far from city hall. We enjoyed the trail and will do it again."
"I forgot to also mention in my review that there is a bike rental store at the trail head. My rental was a bit pricey, $12.50 for half a day but the bike was very good."
"The trailhead is a bit difficult to find. It's behind a Tastee-Freeze which is on 87North in Milton, less than a block North of the intersection of 87N and Highway 90. We saw two ""flocks"" of wild guineas and lots of wild azaleas, etc., in bloom. Very nice trail. We'd do it again."
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