A new month and a new park. We headed about three hours north of Orlando this month to visit Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park. The park is located northeast of Gainesville, and southeast of Jacksonville near a town called Keystone Heights. Since there were a number of ways for us to get there, we decided to make a grand circle trip and went to the park by traveling up the Turnpike from Orlando to I-75 and then jumping over to US-301 and finally to State Road 21. For the trip home, we came down State Road 100 to Palatka and visited Ravine Gardens State Park before heading down to Deland and I-4 for the trip home.
The park is one of those where you go in the front gate, and then drive for about a mile and a half to get to the Sandhill camping loop. If you are in the Lakeview loop (which doesn’t have a view of the lake), then you drive another mile and a half or so. There are a total of 70 or so sites in the park, but less than half are RV sites. After driving through both loops, and staying in the Sandhill loop I think that is the better camping loop. The sites were all fairly large, and in the Sandhill loop the road is paved. All of the sites on the outside back up to undeveloped area, and the road and sites are roomy enough that we just pulled into our site so that the windshield view would be of the woods rather than the campground road.
There are a number of trails in the park. One of the best runs along Gold Head Branch, the spring fed stream that the park is named after. It starts in the ravine near the park entrance and runs down to Little and Big Lake Johnson. There are parts of the trail running right along the stream where you can just hop into the stream and walk along in the cool water. The lakes are apparently not what they used to be. You can still swim and canoe in Little Lake Johnson, but as you drive along the road to the boat ramp, you can tell the big lake is not what it used to be. The boat ramp is blocked off, and if you climb over the chain, you can walk to the end of the pavement without getting wet. It’s still a good ways from the end of the boat ramp pavement until the water starts. Based on other reviews of the park, it’s probably been a few years since the lake was high enough to launch a boat.
The only thing I didn’t like about the park was the dump station. We stayed in the Sandhill loop which was the first loop you come to after entering the park, and the dump station was much closer to the Lakview loop which was about a mile further into the park. So when you left your campsite, you had no idea how many folks are in front of you at the dump line, and you’ve got people coming from two directions lining up for the use of the dump station. We didn’t have a problem, but I could see this being a problem on a busy Sunday with lots of folks leaving.
Our pictures from the trip are here and Mrs. CurbCurushers review is here.