Despite its humble origins as a dedicated water reclamation site, Panama City Beach Conservation Park has become a go-to spot for outdoor recreation and nature appreciation activities.
Through a joint collaboration between the city and local environmental protection agencies, this park sprung to life with over 24 miles of trails with eight boardwalks for taking in amazing views. Along the outer trail loop, you can find access to the Watersound Trail, which stretches five miles to Watersound Origin’s Village Commons.
The trails range from short walks of about a half mile to long, 11+ mile treks. You can choose between 12 distinct paths to experience this park anew each time you visit. Depending on your ideal outdoor activities, you can come down to the running loops for a quick jog or spend the day meandering through the entire park on the longest trails.
No matter what you choose, domes of the Cypress trees shield most of the pathways from the sun, often helping to keep you cool and comfortable along the way. However, depending on the weather, the trail condition can take a quick turn. As the land is really flat, heavy rains leave large puddles to navigate around on most paths, making galoshes a necessity some days.
As you travel through the park, you will come across many different ponds in the form of marshy areas. In these ponds are where you will find the most wildlife activity.
The views are best from the boardwalks, which help keep you from getting too muddy during your visit. While sightseeing, you might spot alligators, bobcats, deer, wild boar, lizards and birds galore.
Most wildlife can be spotted year-round, but the cold weather tends to make the gators less active. Despite that, it is wise to be cautious at all times. As you navigate through the park, look for educational signs along the trails to learn more about the plants and animals found throughout the conservation area.
Near the main parking lot, you will find picnic areas, restrooms and a large pavilion, which are all kept clean and in good condition. You do not have to pay anything for admission or parking while visiting this conservation area. People regularly come here to ride their bikes and walk their dogs, but the trails are wide enough to accommodate everyone and their preferred outdoor activities. Dogs are limited to two per person and must always remain under control of a leash to protect the local vegetation and wildlife.
-The main trails in this park are color-coded. Trail markers lead the way, but there are paper maps available to help you find your bearings and learn the layout of the park. These maps also show the newer pathways that have not been assigned a color, such as the John Muir trail.
-As most paths are unpaved, they do get quite muddy through the rainy season. Strollers with large, knobby tires are a must during this time, as is waterproof footwear.
-Plan to pack out whatever you bring in as there are no garbage cans along the trails.