Back in August the family and I were looking for something to do one weekend. It was a rarity that we didn’t have anything planned for my wife’s day off so we were going to be spontaneous. As it turns out one of our readers submitted a great recommendation for place to visit. (Thanks Amyie W.!) We had never heard of Ravine Gardens State Park, but it turns out it was amazing!
Since we had never been there before, it actually took a bit of research to find out where Ravine Gardens State park was located. Not a big deal really, a quick trip to the Florida State Park website and we has an address for Siri to guide us to. You know how sometimes actually getting to a location is part of the adventure? Well Ravine Gardens State Park was no exception! It was over an hour on a nice Sunday afternoon drive and we had no where else to be. When we got closer to the park, that is where our adventure almost took a strange turn. Siri guided us down a very wooded back road on the outskirts of the park. Then Siri said, “Park Your Vehicle Be Prepared To Walk”. That seemed a bit strange as this was supposed to be a very large state park. We could see on the Apple maps that the park was literally just a few hundred feet away, but we have never heard the “be prepared to exit vehicle command”. We knew something wasn’t right, and if we had followed her directions, we would have gotten lost in the woods with a toddler. Not to mention probably parked our car on private property. A quick turn around and searching for the entrance and we found what we were looking for. Ravine Gardens State Park was in fact a few hundred feet away, but the entrance was a block or to West of where we were directed. You have heard me mention “the brown signs” before and thankfully this trip was no exception, they showed us where to go.
When we finally got to the entrance, I could tell this was one of the older state parks. It was built in a rustic style by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and they entrances always reminds me of old school camp grounds when I was a kid. When we drove inside an unmanned pay station assisted park guests with their admission. They do not accept credit cards, and I would be reluctant to leave a check behind so be sure to bring a few dollars cash to get in. Once we entered the park we stopped by the welcome center and found a very modern local meeting hall. There were rooms to rent complete with a full kitchen, meeting spaces, and of course lots of information about the park. It somehow felt strange to see someone having a baby shower at a state park, but Ravine Gardens State Park seems to be an anchor for the local community.
When walking around Ravine Gardens State Park, it was amazing to see that the terrain seemed more mountainous that I was expecting. Formed from an ancient sink hole, many of the steps, gardens and fountains have been in place since the park’s construction in the 1920’s! Wandering around outside the welcome center, it was easy to notice that not much of Ravine Gardens State Park is handicapped accessible. It is certainly not stroller friendly! Remember this park was constructed long before any accessibility laws, and I’m guessing that they have exemptions. The steps are different sizes, shapes, and heights, so it’s important to watch your step. That’s not to say that anyone with small children or handicapped party members wouldn’t enjoy the park. It’s just that they wouldn’t be able to go on the trails. If you decide to hike through the park, be sure you’re ready to take on some major stairs!
So after exploring a few pavilions and gardens we decided to drive the loop around the park. All long this paved path were little spots to pull over and take pictures. There were even a few picnic spots here and there. We found a nice playground as well as a few places that offered scenic overlooks. It was a beautiful drive that reminded me of the mountains of Massachusetts, instead of Florida. I just had to keep thinking that this was a huge sink hole that we were driving around. While exploring Ravine Gardens State Park, we stopped to take a look at a huge pedestrian suspension bridge that spanned the entire sinkhole! At one time there were three of these bridges that spanned the park but when you consider they are now almost 100 years old, they didn’t make it.
In addition to some beautiful scenery, I also discovered that Ravine Gardens State Park is home to a Geo Trail. I did some research, and it turns out that each of the 10 or so state parks that were constructed in the 1920’s have stationary Geo Caches. That pretty much means that there are no little boxes, but instead a permanent location that you get to find. There is no prize, but each of the locations offers a puzzle piece. When you find all of the geo caches at all of the parks, you will have all the clues to find the coordinates of the final geo cache. Once you find it, you’ll be given a Geo Coin at the final park. This sounds like a great Summer family adventure! Think “National Treasure” meets your boy scout navigation training! When my little guy gets old enough to really head out on adventures, we are so going to complete the entire Geo Trail starting at Ravine Gardens State Park!
Overall, we had a great time at Ravine Gardens, and really appreciated the scenery and atmosphere! This park would make a great location for you and your family to enjoy an afternoon with a picnic lunch and an adventure to boot! There are multiple trials you can enjoy at the park, and since you’re pretty much in the bottom of a huge pit, you really can’t get lost. I think this location would be a great way to introduce your family to hiking, as you are close enough modern park facilities, and is just enough wilderness to get a feel for the outdoors!
Ravine Gardens State Park Details:
Address: 1600 Twigg Street Palatka, Florida 32177
Phone Number: (386) 329-3721
Hours: 8am till Sundown – 365 Days A Year
Ravine Gardens State Park Fees:
- $5 Per Vehicle 2-8 People
- $4 Single Occupant Vehicle
- $2 Pedestrians, Cyclists, Extra Passengers