OK so let me start off with an explanation about the location of our latest adventure. The Devils Millhopper Geological State Park sounds much more ominous and creepy than it really is. It has nothing to do with horror movies, the occult, or anything else that may send your imagination into over drive. So what is Devils Millhopper? It’s a small state park that celebrates a geological phenomenon from the 1800’s!
In a nutshell, the Devils Millhopper is an ancient sinkhole that has attracted visitors for years! When the family and I were in the Gainesville area, we decided to check out this rather interesting state park. I’m not big into geology or anything, but I’m from the North where we have mountains and elevation changes. Here in Florida we don’t have that, so the other option is to go down!
After paying a small fee to enter the Devils Millhopper Geological State Park, the Mrs. strapped in our littlest and I grabbed my back pack ready for quite an adventure. I had read that there were 236 steps down to the bottom of this sinkhole and was prepared for some really strenuous activity. I packed a few bottles of water as well as my radio so my oldest and I could keep in touch with the Mrs. while we were on our vertical hike. She didn’t dare take our newest addition up and down all those stairs!
So we split off at the gazebo which housed a video and multiple interpretative exhibits on the Devils Millhopper including an explanation of the name. A mill hopper is the piece of a grinder that holds all the stuff to grind up. Sorta like the part of a paint ball gun that holds all the paint balls. Years ago, early visitors thought this sinkhole reminded them of a mill hopper and since it was going down into the earth, they nick-named it the Devils Millhopper. Logical I suppose, if nothing else. So she stayed above ground with the baby while my two-year old and I took our sweet time descending the stairs. He did about 10 stairs in all, and I had to carry him the rest of the way!
I took my sweet time descending the winding staircase with a toddler in tow. As we strolled down we were passed up by a local who was actually using the stairs for exercise. I swear she must have gone up and down five times in the time it took us to get down! With an annual pass that would be better than a gym membership if we were local! As we made our way down it was pretty cool to see small waterfalls and really soak up the surroundings.
At the bottom of the Devils Millhopper, you can see a few of the larger water falls as well as a pond that collects all the water. There is a small sitting area that gives you a chance to take a breather and relax a bit before the upward trek. It was surpassingly cool at the bottom, but I suppose that was all the water flowing around me. My little guy seemed uninterested, but I was still glad we made the trip. On the way up, he was much more excited about going up the stairs and surprisingly did about 50 or so steps. I had to carry him the rest of the way which really slowed me down. Not too big of a deal though.
Once we got to the top, I decided to really press my luck and roll the dice on cardiac arrest. There is a short nature trail that goes around the rim of the Devils Millhopper. Measuring about a half mile, it was a nice stroll through the woods. My little guy was much more interested and walked the entire distance with me. Remember that woman who was going up and down the stairs? Well it turns out she was also running around the nature trail as well. She must have done more exercise while we were there than I had done all month! The nature trail was nice especially since my little guy is in the “What’s that?” stage. He kept asking me with the leaves were, but at least he was pointing at different leaves. There were quite a few resting spots, so I guess they planned ahead for exhausted visitors.
Whole we were going up and down the stairs and walking around the sinkhole, my little guy was playing with the radio talking to his mom. That was actually pretty cool. On the way back to the car we spotted quite a few picnic tables, but not much else. The Devils Millhopper is all about the geology. There is no playground, grills, or other fun things to do there. Was it worth it? Absolutely! I had never been to the bottom of this particular sinkhole so I thought it was pretty cool. It’s the same general concept as the Ravine Gardens State Park, but with fewer bells and whistles. If you must choose, then you’ll definitely want to head over to Ravine Gardens instead of the Devils Millhopper. If you happen to be in the area and are looking for a great bolt-on activity to fill in your afternoon, then checkout the Devils Millhopper. If you’re expecting a full afternoon then this is really not the adventure for your family.
Devils Millhopper Details:
|Date(s):||Wed-Sun||Time(s):||9am to 5pm|
|Address:||4732 Millhoppper Road Gainesville, Florida 32653|
|Estimated Cost For A Family of 4:||$4 Per Car Load (Exact Change)|