top of page

Camp Helen State Park: Oak Canopy Trail

Updated: Sep 27

If you’re looking for a walk in the woods, somewhere to launch your kayak, or a picnic spot for the family, Camp Helen is the perfect place. This natural escape from the traffic and tourists-traps is a perfect way to spend a day with lakeside activities, a secluded beach, and beginner-friendly hiking trails.

Camp Helen State Park was once a summertime getaway for textile mill workers. This state park is home to Florida's largest coastal sand dune lake, Lake Powell. Typical lakeside activities including saltwater and freshwater fishing, boat launches, and kayak/paddleboard rentals are available here. Camp Helen has numerous historic buildings and two nature trails.

Where is Camp Helen State Park located?

This state park is located in Panama City Beach, Florida. Camp Helen State park is 180 acres,

Visit the website below to download a map of Camp Helen

Oak Canopy Trail

A majority of this trail is shaded by densely growing tall-leaf pine trees, with clusters of spikey sawmill palms poking out from the underbrush. In springtime, you can expect to hear squirrels leaping through the foliage and birds chattering all around you. There are signs explaining the presence of black bears in this area, and in the visitor center, more information on wildlife and fauna is happily given to anyone who steps in the door. Once you're on the trail, the old buildings and beach looking onto the Gulf of Mexico feel far away.

The Oak Canopy Trail starts either past the historic stables or upon crossing a small bridge over Phillips Inlet. Following a steep hill, the trail can consist of two 0.4-mile loops which create a figure 8 shape.

Although the trail is relatively flat, there are two small hills which may be difficult for people with disabilities or older individuals. This trail includes rubber mat material over sand and a well-defined gravel path littered with leaves and seashells. There are two benches along the trail to stop and take in the view.

If you walk past the historic buildings and then onto the Oak Canopy Trail, it will be around 2 miles. The pristine beach area is half a mile long, and the sound of gulls and crashing waves from the Gulf of Mexico will certainly draw you in. Although the Oak Canopy trail is dog-friendly (leash required at all times), the beach is not.

It is hard to imagine that much of the Florida Panhandle used to look like this, as the timber industry has been prevalent since the late 1500s. Thankfully, the state of Florida has an extensive state park and state forest program, with 38 total forest areas under its management.

Our Tips:

  • Be prepared with the correct footwear for the seashell and gravel paths

  • As of spring 2023, the park is undergoing construction on the boat launches and boardwalk leading to Lake Powell. Currently, the boat launch and walking trail along the lake are not operational.

  • If you're interested in a 1.8-mile trail with a self-guided plant tour, stop by the visitor center before heading down the kayak launch path toward Phillips Inlet! The North Trail is located north of the parking lot and follows Lake Powell along a wooded loop path.

  • Don't forget sunscreen & bug spray, as well as adequate water for the sunshine state's warm days.

  • Remember that dogs are allowed on leashes throughout the park, except on the beach for the protection of wildlife habitat in the sand dunes.



24 views0 comments
bottom of page