Time often gets away from us so quickly. It’s hard to believe our oldest is nearing the end of her college time in Palatka. We had so many aspirations of all the visits we would make to see her, and the new places we would get to explore. One of those places is Ravine Gardens State Park. Finally, after almost 2 years, we decided to head there, since Emma’s friends were going there for a photo shoot. We’re so glad we did!
UPDATE: Be sure to look for all our updates from our visit in February of 2020.
Entrance to the State Park
As we entered the 146 acre state park, we were greeted by these beautiful stone pillars, and monument. This is the only parking area, due to the 1.8 mile “drive through” being closed. The park has a lot of damage from recent hurricanes, so there are still some areas too eroded and dangerous. UPDATE: The drive through is now back open!!
That was fine with us, since we planned to walk some trails, and enjoy the beautiful day. Our walk started out in the garden, built in the 1930’s to help boost tourism to the area during The Great Depression.
I tried to get some pictures to show the 120 feet deep ravines, but you can’t really see how it goes down.
There are several American Rustic architectural stairways, arches, and landscape enhancements that lead down toward the ravine, suspension bridges, and the hiking trails.
UPDATE: We returned for a visit in February 2020, and it was closer to peak azalea blooming, therefore we got more pretty pictures.
Ravine Garden State Park is most notably known for its 2.5 mile Azalea Trail. 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?
Sadly we just missed peak bloom, which tops out with about 50 – 60% of the plants blooming simultaneously. There were only a couple stray, late bloomers left for us to see. A survey was recently conducted and eighteen different types of azaleas were documented. We will definitely keep this in mind for next year!!
UPDATE: During our February 2020 visit, it was much closer to peak bloom of the azaleas. Below you can see the difference from our video.
Suspension Bridge #1
Our trail walking began at one of the two suspension bridges.
Of course, we had to stop and get some pictures.
Check out some of these stairways along the trails. You can see why it’s considered strenuous, with these uneven, broken steps.
We made it another picture stop.
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
UPDATE: 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.
Over thousands of years, it has been these springs feeding the creek, and carrying sand to the St John’s River, creating the ravines. Pretty amazing!!
Some of us were starting to get hangry, and too sweaty, so we headed back to the bridge and up the pathway.
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.
Now Emma can’t believe it took her so long to get to the ravines, but she looks forward to spending more time there before moving away. As for me, I hope to get back soon. Such a different state park in Florida. Not what you would think to find with deep ravines, and steep walking trails.
Amphitheater in Ravine Gardens State Park
UPDATE: In addition to seeing more azaleas during our second visit, we also walked some new areas we didn’t get to the first time.
The amphitheater was one of the new areas we hiked. It was built in 1939 for the Miss Azalea Pageant, and has been used for various events since.
Where to Eat
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 moving to a new location
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.
Ravine Gardens State Park
1600 Twigg Street
Palatka FL 32177
8 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year
$5 per vehicle, please use honor box. Correct change is required.
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: