Field trip: Ralph E Simmons State Forest

Join the Florida Wildflower Foundation on Saturday,
Oct. 15 at 9 am for a guided hike in Ralph E. Simmons State Forest, Nassau County.

Foundation staff member Emily Bell will lead a hike down a hilly powerline row that alternates between sandhill and wetland habitats. The low-lying areas are full of Hooded and Parrot pitcherplants (Sarracenia minor, S. psittacina), Pine lilies (Lilium catesbaei), and two different Honeycombheads (Balduina uniflora, B. atropurpurea)! The trail then curves along the St. Marys River before turning back and winding through the floodplain forest that gives way to a Turkey oak-Longleaf pine savanna. Expect lots of blooming Vanillaleaf (Carphephorus odoratissimus) and Florida paintbrush (Carphephorus corymbosus) covered in butterflies, and beautiful waves of Lopsided Indiangrass (Sorghastrum secundum).

Previously known as the St. Marys State Forest, this area was renamed the Ralph E Simmons Memorial State Forest in recognition of a former member of the St. Johns River Water Management District who was integral in its acquisition. The property was purchased by the Water Management District through the Preservation 2000 and Save Our Rivers programs and is managed by the Florida Forest Service.

Pipevine Swallowtail on Carphephorus corymbosus_Emily Bell
Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) on Florida paintbrush (Carphephorus corymbosus). Photo by Emily Bell.

This hike is about 4 miles long and will take 3-4 hours to complete. The first half of this hike is hilly, but the terrain flattens out in the last half.  

To prepare for the day:

  • Bring water, snacks and whatever else you need to stay comfortable and hydrated in an outdoor setting. You are welcome to bring a picnic lunch and stay after the hike.
  • Sunscreen and bug spray may be necessary. If using aerosol products, please be mindful of others and apply before you arrive.
  • Wear weather- and environment-appropriate clothing. Typical forest hazards such as roots and soft sandy areas are present, so closed-toe shoes are recommended. A portion of hike will be exposed (no tree cover), so a hat may also be preferable.

Registration is free for Florida Wildflower Foundation members and $10 for nonmembers.

Register for the Ralph E Simmons State Park field trip here.

Contact Rose Kinane at to find out if your membership is current or needs to be renewed. To join as a member, visit