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 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.
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: