We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.
The latest reviews. The lowest prices. The perfect place to shop for hotels.

“Still a great weekend getaway with family and friends!” 4 of 5 bubbles
Review of Gold Head Branch State Park

We can't find prices for this accommodation
Our online travel partners don't provide prices for this accommodation, but we can search other options in Keystone Heights
Check In mm/dd/yyyy Check Out mm/dd/yyyy
Gold Head Branch State Park
Level Contributor
101 reviews
11 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 75 helpful votes
“Still a great weekend getaway with family and friends!”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed February 8, 2012

Yes, the lakes have all dried up with the exception of Sheeler Lake. It's crystal clear and stocked with small fish. However, just like in what used to be the other water filled lakes, there is no swimming or canoeing allowed at the time of this writing. They are currently trying to refurbish the lake. Although the printed literature suggest that you can do all of these things, you definitely can't. It's best to call ahead and confirm this info, as a few big tropical storms or hurricanes could change all that. Regardless of the lack of water, it was still a great weekend get away with the family!

I visited this camp as a small child in the mid-late 60's and remember vividly swimming in the lakes and sitting on the beach among crowds of people. I have to admit, it's beyond depressing to realize that my children will most likely never share those memories. However, I think it is SO important for them to hear my stories and see first hand, the results that over development, lack of government funding, drought, pollution, etc. has on our ecosystem.

In regards to the facilities, this is not Trump Towers! It's camping people! You're supposed to rough it a little bit, commune with nature and all that stuff! We stayed in a one bedroom (full bed) cabin with twin beds and a futon located in the main room. We didn't feel like we were roughing it at all. There was no fireplace in this unit, but there was a pit (no Bar-be-Que) outside, where we roasted hot dogs and marsh mellows. (Bring wire hangers or skewers for this). Our friends stayed in the cabin next door and we made a rule from the get-go that all meals would be shared and eaten outside with the exception of breakfast (bring folding chairs). We stayed outside most of the night and took moon light strolls through the camp grounds, (fun but a little creepy if you fear snakes like I do!). We shared jokes and scary stories in the amphitheater by flashlight. We also took long hiking trips and a picnic during the day. WE HAD A GREAT TIME, that my kids will remember forever, despite the lack of water in the lakes!
I would definitely bring your own towels, as theirs are more like dish towels. I'd also bring plenty of bottled water and other typical items that you'd bring camping (flash lights, bug spray, sun screen, hat, etc). I suggest wearing pants or high socks as the brush can tend to scrape your legs when walking off trail (I don't really think you're supposed to do that, but we did it anyway, under a little protest on my part with my Yankee friends). If your not from the south, you have to understand that there are poisonous snakes in Florida (big ones!). I've seen Rattlers and Moccasins as big as my legs in Florida woods. Thankfully, we didn't see any this trip and I didn't see any warnings around the campsite, but I'd be on the look out all the same. Someone did spot a brown bear, which is for the most part harmless I'm told, if you back away and leave it alone. We also had visitors at our picnic table at night who apparently enjoy a little Merlot on occasion. Someone accidentally left a cup on the table and all that was left the next day was an empty cup and deep red paw prints. We didn't see any Raccoons swinging upside down from the trees, so we assume they survived with only a slight hang over. I was kind of disgusted to see that people had thrown trash a long some of the trails. I mean, really? As if the dried up lakes weren't depressing enough...
The only time we saw a park ranger was when we checked in and when we called someone to check our refrigerator, which they did promptly. He was extremely friendly and helpful. I have T-mobile and had no reception. My husband had bell-south with limited reception. I would suggest bringing crafts, board games and such if you plan to stay in at night. We met up with campers on one of our moonlit strolls who hung a sheet and used a projector to play movies. That was a pretty cool idea, (if you absolutely can't separate you self from technology for one weekend! )
We had a great time and would definitely go again!

Room Tip: We're city slickers and selected a cabin instead of using a tent.
See more room tips
  • Stayed February 2012, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
12 Thank sightseeker29
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Write a Review

50 reviews from our community

Traveler rating
    24
    16
    3
    2
    5
See reviews for
24
13
4
Business
0
Rating summary
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    3.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    4 of 5 bubbles
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (5)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Jacksonville, Florida
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
1 of 5 bubbles Reviewed February 7, 2012

this is a 1st hand travel report. the state of florida has allowed another beautiful lake to be sucked dry. let them know what YOU think, and let this website know how important it is to allow accurate reviews, even when they report changes in the terrible direction.

  • Stayed February 2012, traveled with family
    • 1 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 1 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
9 Thank debNsonya
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Jacksonville, Florida
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed September 13, 2011

I've stayed at Gold Head in both the cabins and the campsites more or less yearly for the past 20 years. My reasons for continuing to go back are:

The rolling hills, winding trails, and ravine give me the feeling that I'm up in the north Georgia mountains... without driving 10 hours to get there. Granted, these are NOT mountains, but the whole park has an enjoyable "mountainous" atmosphere. There are lots of trails to explore, a playground area, a ball field, a lakeside sandy beach area, and the ravine trail hike is always enjoyable. Like a creek in the mountains.

It's a short drive from just about anywhere in north Florida. My trips tend to be weekend getaways so this lets me spend my time relaxing and enjoying nature instead of driving.

The rates are reasonable - campsites are fine (larger and more "privacy" than many parks) and the cabins are priced well for what they are.

About the campsites & cabins:

The campsites:
I've been doing the cabins lately but have stayed in both campgrounds "Sandhill" and "Lake View". Note only the cabins have actual lake views, none of the campsites do. The "Lake View" campsites have a trail that leads down to what's left of a former lake but it isn't visible from the sites. I believe the park alternates use of the campsite areas on an annual basis, so you'll either find availability in one or the other. That's been my experience anyway.

The campsites are actually nice, very wooded, comfortable, not just an open dirt field with 500 camper trailers sandwiched together like some campgrounds. As with any camping you're kind of at the mercy of the neighbors you get, but these are above average campsites.

Note the position of the bathrooms on the campsite map if you're going to need them, the camping areas are large and would be quite a walk from the far side up to the facilities.

The cabins:
The 4 person rustic cabins are extremely rustic. Yes they have power and a kitchen and a bathroom, but if you picture what a cabin would have been like back in the 1930's - that's what you're going to get. The beds are "tiny". A double bed is more like a twin than a queen. As others have pointed out the bedding and bathroom towels are minimalist. I once joked I'd be better off drying off with paper towels than with what's provided. That being said, they have a nice fully screened porch, and a working fireplace (you can buy firewood at the ranger station). There are no separate bedrooms, it's basically 2 beds + a couch + a fireplace in one room, with a separate small bathroom and basic kitchen. Outside is a fire pit, a charcoal grill, and a picnic table.

The 6 person rustic cabins are essentially the same (slightly larger) but sleep 6 and have a bedroom separate from the living area. Since the price is currently only about $10 more, you may want the 6 person cabin just to have a separate bedroom. Otherwise the same. I seem to remember there are no fireplaces in these cabins. They do have central AC/heat unlike the 4 person which has window units.

There are just 2 modern cabins (built in 2002). The modern cabins are more like staying in a house. They are really nice and large with 2 separate bedrooms. Although they only sleep 6, the rooms are large and you'd be really comfortable. You probably won't feel like you're camping as they are quite modern. The fireplace is gas and one year I went it wasn't working although they nicely gave us 3 bundles of firewood for free to burn in the fire pit outside. Central AC/heat. Dishwasher. These units are handicapped accessible with a ramp. Strangely, the beds are still small even though the cabins are much larger. The price is currently about $25 more than the 6 person rustic. If you want to take someone "camping" who's never been camping, this is probably what they would expect. The rustic cabins would probably scare them. When you're staying in the modern cabins and look over at the folks staying in the rustic cabins, you may feel sorry for them. Or they may look at you and know you're from the city.

Now the things everybody should know:

The ranger station is at the entrance of the park. Then you drive several miles down to the camping area or cabins. It's a great scenic winding drive, one of my favorites. But be aware the park is miles from the nearest city, and they padlock the main gate at night (yes they'll give you the combination). The park closes at sundown and the gates are locked, so if cabin check-in starts at 4pm and it's dark at 5:30pm on the day you're arriving that gives you a narrow window to arrive.

There are no TV's in the cabins. Your kids may drive you nuts after the first hour. There are limited things to do in the park other than trails and a playground, so make sure you bring plenty of fun things to do. I recommend biking in this park. There are lots of dirt trails and miles of winding hilly paved roads within the park. There are no dedicated bike trails, so you must share with pedestrians and/or cars. Be aware in Florida there is a law that requires kids under 16 to wear a bike helmet. Some people canoe in the small lake. The park is about exploration, nature, relaxing, grilling food outdoors, sitting in a rocking chair on your screened porch, looking for wildlife, enjoying your family, that sort of thing.

NO PETS ALLOWED. This is pretty well stated in all the literature and website, but people still try to bring pets. The ones that get away with it cause problems for the others. Please find a pet friendly park if you want to bring your pet. At night this place is quiet!* If your dog barks once you'll have a mob with torches and pitchforks at your camper door. *Quiet=after those campers who are there to party finally pass out for the night. Which can range from 8pm to 3am. I think this is fairly typical for public camping anywhere. Like other Florida State Parks, this is an "alcohol free" park.

You may have no cell phone signal. At all. This can be a good thing. Also there are no phones in the cabins. If you have to make a call you may need to drive back toward the park entrance, to the ranger station, or farther.

The staff is typical of every Florida State Park I've visited. They are marginally friendly, sometimes surprisingly courteous, but they always seem to be one step away from jumping down your throat about something. Imagine Post Office employees running a campground. Remember the State operates these parks, so they really don't have any incentive to go out of their way to be pleasant as opposed to a privately owned park. Over the 20 years I've gone to Gold Head I've found that if I leave them alone and follow the basic rules, that they leave me alone as well, it's fine.

If you've never been to Gold Head, I think you should go and try it at least once, regardless of how the reviews have made you feel about the place. It's truly a really nice park and many times of the year it's one of the most peaceful, uncrowded parks around Florida. If you enjoy nature and like things "laid back" (I would say "peaceful") then Gold Head Branch State Park should be on your list of places to visit. Do what I've done - stay in both camping areas and all of the cabins and over the years you'll find your family's favorite spot.

  • Stayed January 2011, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 2 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
15 Thank advisorbob2112
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sarasota, Florida
Level Contributor
14 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed June 18, 2011

We stayed in one of the rustic cabins and it was great. This is a park for those who understand they are getting away from it all and it is for those who want to relax/hike- not those who want to fish. The newly installed air conditioning system cooled the entire cabin down quickly and was very quiet. The rustic cabins are very well kept for being nearly 70 years old and I think that if you are visiting with up to 4 people I would rent them for their charm rather than the newer cabins that are more like single family homes ( one had a large family reunion taking place the first night we stayed with loud music until about 9 pm but then things were quiet the rest of the trip. With it being summer we basically had the entire park to ourselves the next two nights- only 3 other cabins were rented and the 2 campgrounds were nearly empty. This allowed us to enjoy the hiking trails and nature. Due to low water levels the swimming area was closed but the park did a good job notifying via website and signage at the front gate so we already knew that. The only issue we had was the smoke from the wildfires nearby outside the park. Though clearly not the fault of the park, during fire season in North Florida beware if you have allergies etc as the cabins (at least the rustic ones) are not airtight and the smoke works its way in. Also realize that the lake levels are very low (as they are throughout the region). Fishing here is almost non existent- a sign at the former boat ramp explains the reasons that have caused the low water levels. Do make sure to take the ravine walk as you will not believe the difference from the top of the ravine to the bottom. Make sure you do not plan on checking in before 4pm as the park rangers enforce it. Also renters are asked to sweep/clean the cabins at checkout.

  • Stayed June 2011, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
2 Thank Mjt072387
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Atlanta, Georgia
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
1 of 5 bubbles Reviewed May 23, 2011

After driving 8 hours only to find out dogs were not allowed in the cabins, we boarded our small poodle at a kennel 30 miles away. Upon check in we find that the group renting the two cabins next to us both had large dogs(one was a Rottweiler). We immediately called the ranger? to complain. Eventually a ranger came, told them they were not allowed dogs, and left. BUT DID NOT MAKE THEM REMOVE THE ANIMALS!!! So our entire time was miserable, I have a 2 and 3 year old, which could not play outside with dogs running loose. Feces everywhere, including the beach. We will NOT BE RETURNING here even though the park is beautiful,(despite the ravine burn) This park seems to have no supervision at all, which was apparent at midnite, with loud music and partying till the wee hours, Such a disappointment. :(

  • Stayed April 2011, traveled with family
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 1 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 2 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 1 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 1 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
7 Thank Angelientica
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Lady Lake, Florida
Level Contributor
22 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed April 17, 2011

This is a great park to stay at to getaway and relax. We stayed in one of the original cabins and enjoyed it very much. The cabins were very nice and clean, although our shower was only 3' wide.The staff was cheerful and very helpful. The only drawback was a prescribed burn that shut down the ravine trail during our stay. We will definitely be back in the fall.

  • Stayed April 2011, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
3 Thank nerk59
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Austin, Texas
Level Contributor
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed February 20, 2011

My wife and I took a trip to this park for a Valentine's day getaway from the city. This place was exactly what we were looking for. Now, I was a little skeptical about the "rustic" cabins, but as you can see in the photos, we were pleasantly surprised. If you are looking for some quiet time with nature this is the place for you.

  • Stayed February 2011, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
6 Thank anyadots
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hotels you might also like...
Also consider these accommodations in or near Keystone Heights
12.6 mi away
BEST WESTERN Waldo Inn & Suites
Show Prices

Been to Gold Head Branch State Park? Share your experiences!

Write a Review Add Photos & Videos

Additional Information about Gold Head Branch State Park

Property: Gold Head Branch State Park
Address: 6239 State Road 21, Keystone Heights, FL 32656-9707
Location: United States > Florida > Keystone Heights
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 Specialty Lodging in Keystone Heights
Number of rooms: 16
Also Known As:
Gold Head Branch State Park Hotel Keystone Heights

Is This Your TripAdvisor Listing?

Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.

Claim Your Listing