Ravine Gardens State Park
In fall of 2017, our oldest began college in Palatka, Florida. We didn’t know much about the area, but she did some research to find fun things to do around Palatka. Ravine Gardens State Park was one of the places she was most excited about exploring. Sadly she was so busy with school, theatre, and work, it took almost 2 years before we actually went to the park. Now it’s one of the most favorite places I’ve been in Florida. If you are ever close by, I hope you get the chance to visit.
Video from our first visit in April 2019
History of Ravine Gardens State Park
Over thousands of years Whitewater Branch, the spring fed creek, has been carrying sand to the St John’s River, creating the two ravines. Up to 120 feet deep, with steep banks, this terrain is unlike any other park you will visit in Florida. I tried to take pictures to show looking down into the ravine, but it just does not do it justice.
In the 1930’s, 59 acres surrounding these ancient ravines was transformed into a tropical state park. The idea was to help boost tourism to the area during The Great Depression. Azaleas bloom during tourist season, which is why the flower was chosen to be the theme flower for the park. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration planted over 95,000 azalea plants by the end of 1934. How crazy is that?
Ravine Gardens State Park has received considerable recognition for its beauty. Such as “Nation’s Outstanding CWA Project” in 1937, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999, and “National Landmark for Outstanding Landscape Architecture” by the American Society of Landscape Architects.
Amphitheater in Ravine Gardens State Park
The amphitheater was built in 1939 for the Miss Azalea Pageant, and has been used for various events since. It’s located along the loop, and includes a gazebo with picnic tables.
Ravine Gardens Loop Trail
Visitors can drive along a 1.8 mile paved scenic loop, winding above, and through the ravines. We were able to do this when we went in 2021. Prior to that, it was closed for a couple years due to damage from several hurricanes. There are several places to stop along the drive. Including covered picnic areas with grills.
Are the Azaleas Blooming at Ravine Gardens?
What does peak bloom of azaleas look like at Ravine Gardens?
Azalea season is late January through March. The hundreds of azalea bushes have what is considered a “rolling bloom” and peak at around 50% to 60% of the plants simultaneously blooming. Our first visit we were too late, our second visit we were too early. Finally, third time was a charm. We hit peak season and it was so beautiful!
A survey was recently conducted and eighteen different types of azaleas were documented.
Ravine Gardens Azalea Festival 2022
I am currently working to find out if the festival is happening this year. I have surfed all over the internet, and can’t seem to find any information about it. The first weekend of March is when it has been held in the past.
Ravine Gardens Hiking Trails
Ravine Garden State Park is most notably known for its 2.5 mile Azalea Trail.
Check out some of these stairways along the trails. You can see why it’s considered strenuous, with these uneven, broken steps.
Video from our second visit in February 2020
Ravine Gardens Suspension Bridge
Suspension Bridge #1
Our trail walking began at one of the two suspension bridges.
The trail we followed led us down to the bottom of the ravine, and to Whitewater Branch, the spring fed creek.
Heading upstream, Emma decided to put her feet in the water and take a break.
Going back upstream, we ended up back under the suspension bridge we walked across.
Suspension Bridge #2
During our second visit, we walked more trails we missed the first time, so we came across the second suspension bridge.
The concrete stairway leading down to the bridge is pretty steep. Azaleas of many different colors were abundantly in bloom, and close together. Bridge pictures were a must here too.
After walking across the bridge, we hiked along the trail for a bit. These trails are very narrow and slanted.
We were also able to access a walkway to the drive through loop road that was closed. We walked a little up there, and got to see more fully bloomed azalea bushes.
Ravine Gardens State Park Springs
After a little walking, we came to the springs, the source of Whitewater Branch Creek.
Are dogs allowed at Ravine Gardens State Park?
Dogs are allowed in Ravine Gardens, but please follow the rules. Pets must be on a leash at all times, behave, and please pick up after your dog. Just to warn you, we did take both our dogs in 2021, and walked along just about all the trails. A couple days later, we found over 10 ticks between both of them. It was horrific, and we don’t plan to take them back.
Where to Eat in Palatka
Having been to Palatka several times, we’ve been able to eat at some of Emma’s favorite places. They’ve become some of our favorites too.
The Magnolia Cafe UPDATE: They are currently closed in the process of finishing a remodel.
One of Emma’s more recent finds. This is where we had brunch before heading to Ravine Gardens State Park.
Only open for breakfast and lunch, but we love the southern farm feel, and home cooking. Totally worth checking out.
Leo’s Sushi/Palatka Buffet
Leo’s is where my love of sushi began. Not only do they have a full sushi menu, but they also have an all-you-can-eat buffet.
We always get our sushi and these yummy Golden Shoes!!
Emma used to work at Corky Bell’s, and we finally went there to celebrate her birthday.
They have both indoor, and outdoor seating, and great seafood.
Sumi Japanese Restaurant
Since Leo’s is closed on Sundays, we ate at Sumi after our visit to the ravines. Another one of Emma’s sushi places. A full menu of sushi rolls, and Japanese dishes, including Hibachi. Loved the Golden Hearts, and the Crispy Rice Cakes.
Palatka is another great historic town with lots of murals, so if you have the extra time, take a stroll around town.
Is Ravine Gardens Open?
Yes, Ravine Gardens State Park is open every day from 8:00am until sundown.
Where is Ravine Gardens State Park?
Ravine Gardens State Park
1600 Twigg Street
Palatka FL 32177
How much does it cost to enter Ravine Gardens State Park?
$5 per vehicle, please use honor box. Correct change is required.
Tips for visiting Ravine Gardens State Park
Notice from the website: Please remember that you are entering a hurricane disturbed area. Potential hazards include falling trees and limbs, blocked routes, eroded trails and unstable and uneven surfaces.
For more Florida outdoor fun near Palatka:
42 thoughts on “Ravine Gardens State Park”
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I didn’t realize how pretty the trails are in Florida. Our family loves walking in creeks too.
Same here. Totally did not feel like we were in Florida.
It looks like a great trip! I need to get up there. It is pretty close to me!
Palatka really is a cute town, and making a comeback.
This looks like a great hike! I love exploring new places!
Us too!! Now that it’s cooler, I would consider doing the longer hike.
What a pretty park. I’m sure you are inspired to go back when all the azaleas are in bloom. I know I would be in heaven walking through that trails. Your food finds look amazing. My daughter would head straight for the sushi.
We definitely are planning to return for peak bloom.
So much information here! Looks like a great time.
Thanks!! It was just what I needed that day.
Beautiful park and the food looks delicious!
It’s so pretty and different for Florida.
I love in Florida and I’ve never heard of this place. It looks like a lovely place to visit. Thanks for sharing ❤️
There is so much more to Florida than theme parks!! Hoping to share more of this beautiful state.
What a beautiful location! After a “strenuous” hike I would for sure need a stop at The Magnolia Cafe. That food looks so good!
That’s one of my daughter’s favorite places!!
I love dayhikes and would love to hike here during bloom season. Simply gorgeous and love those arches and stairs!
I want to be there for the bloom too!!
What a fun day with your girls. The good looks amazing and the photos are making me wish for warmer weather here. LOL!
Happy we got there before the really hot weather started!
We have not been to Ravine Gardens State Park yet. Thank you for the suggestion. We love hiking and this park looks like one we would love to visit soon.
Yes, with all your hiking you would love Ravine Gardens. Especially since it’s so different for Florida!
I’ve never heard of Ravine Gardens State Park. We will for sure check it out next time we are in FL. Looks like a great park.
The girls would love it! And you are right close to St Augustine!!
How very nice! Had no idea this was in Florida. The stone pillars threw me off. I’d totally hike here, good to know!
It’s so completely different than most of Florida. It makes it a special place!
What a great place for a photo shoot! The park is gorgeous and I love the hiking trails.
My daughter and her friends found some great places to take photos!!
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Ravine Gardens State Park looks awesome! Love all of your pictures, especially of the suspension bridge.
Thank you! It was tough to sift through all the pictures and choose which ones to share.
Ravine Gardens State Park looks like such a cool place to hike. I am a sucker for a cool bridge, as they make for such amazing photos. Oh, and the mural! Love it!
I’m drawn to bridges too. These ones are pretty cool.
I would love the Azalea Trail. Not too long, but strenuous (which made it sound interesting). Thanks for the great info about Ravine Gardens State Park!
Funny that it said strenuous, when I’ve been on trails much tougher with signs stating “easy”
Ravine Gardens State Park looks like the perfect place for a day trip with some awesome sushi afterward! Yum! I love those beautiful azaleas too!
Not like anything I ever expected to see in Florida.
I need to go hiking at Ravine Gardens State Park! Would love to check out the azaleas, suspension bridges and love all the rock stairs.
All the parks you’ve been hiking, I think you’d really like this one.
The Azaleas look so pretty in the Ravine State Park. I like the look of the suspension bridge, it’s so different.
Oh, Florida! I had to read to the very end of the article to discover where Ravine Gardens was – I was about to google it!
Looks gorgeous – I miss azaleas; they don’t grow in New Mexico, as they need acidic soil. They are so beautiful.
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