Established in 1908 as the first National Forest east of the Mississippi, the Ocala National Forest is a mecca for hikers as the birthplace of the Florida Trail.
The Florida Trail began here in 1966, and now offers nearly 100 miles of unbroken backcountry backpacking through the world’s largest scrub forest. But there are many easy day hikes that offer briefer glimpses of the beauty of the Big Scrub and its crystalline first-magnitude springs, including Juniper Springs and Alexander Springs.
Get Outdoors in the Ocala National Forest
- Bear Swamp Trail - Little known except to those who frequent this beautiful campground in the Salt Springs Recreation Area in the Ocala National Forest, the Bear Swamp Trail provides a glimpse into the ancient forest that undoubtedly crowded the shores of Salt Springs when botanist and explorer William Bartram visited the “amazing crystal fountain” in 1774. The easy […]
- Clearwater Lake Loop - Most hikers headed for Clearwater Lake in the Ocala National Forest are looking for the Florida Trail, which starts its northbound journey of 70 unbroken miles just north of SR 42 in Paisley. But the original segment of the Florida Trail blazed by Florida Trail Association founder Jim Kern and his first work crew in […]
- Davenport Landing Trail - The most obscure interpretive trail in the Ocala National Forest is well off the beaten path along the Ocklawaha River, accessed via a narrow dirt road. Why here? Location, location, location—in the 1800s, Florida’s rivers served as highways to the interior. During the steamboat era, Davenport Landing was the last high bluff that steamboats would […]
- Florida Trail, Alexander Springs to Farles Lake - Get acquainted with Big Scrub on this 8.4-mile stretch of the Florida Trail in the Ocala National Forest as it rises through longleaf pine forests to meet the world’s largest sand pine scrub, punctuated by a variety of ponds and prairies. Connecting a first-magnitude spring with one of the more beautiful lakes in the Ocala National Forest, it’s a delightful immersion into the woods.
- Florida Trail, Buckman to Rodman Dam - Paralleling a segment of the Cross Florida Barge Canal, the Buckman Lock to Rodman Dam hike on of the Florida Trail sticks to a high berm for most of the 5.3 miles.
- Florida Trail, Clearwater Lake to Alexander Springs - The oldest section of the Florida Trail is one of the prettiest, as well. First blazed in the Ocala National Forest in 1966 by a hardy crew of trail maintainers led by Jim Kern, the Florida Trail between Clearwater Lake Recreation Area and Alexander Springs Recreation Area traverses beautiful, moderately hilly stretches of longleaf pine […]
- Florida Trail, Delancy to The 88 Store - An immersion in both sandhills and scrub awaits on a walk along the Florida Trail between Lake Delancy and Lake Kerr. Amid the tall longleaf pines of Riverside Island and the diminutive oaks of the Big Scrub you’ll find a parade of wildlife. Florida black bear sightings are most common along this segment, and plenty […]
- Florida Trail, Hopkins Prairie to Juniper Springs - Long referred to as the “jewel of the Florida Trail,” Juniper Prairie Wilderness in the Ocala National Forest is a complex mosaic of ancient scrub forests, pine islands, and broad, open prairies where wildlife thrives. The heart of the world’s largest sand pine scrub is also one of the state’s most flammable habitats. Hidden Pond […]
- Florida Trail, Hopkins Prairie to Salt Springs - While the Ocala National Forest is best known for having the largest expanse of scrub forest in the world, a lesser known facet of the forest – unless you hike the Florida Trail – are its wide, open prairies fringed with scrub forest. Here, sandhill cranes gather in groups, kingfishers buzz above small ponds, and […]
- Florida Trail, Juniper Springs to Farles - For a real blast, hike south on the Florida Trail from Juniper Springs in the Ocala National Forest. Back in the 1940s, Jimmy Doolittle and his squadron trained here for their bombing runs on Japan; today, you’re still likely to see or hear low-flying bombers on their practice runs throughout the bombing range that this […]
- Florida Trail, Ocala National Forest - The top destination for backpackers in Florida is the Florida Trail, Ocala National Forest. This 70-mile section is the oldest section of the trail, easy to follow.
- Florida Trail, Pat’s Island to Hidden Pond - One of the most popular hikes on the Florida Trail is also one of the most interesting. Hidden Pond is an oasis in the middle of the Juniper Prairie Wilderness, a designated wilderness area in the Ocala National Forest, and it lies nearly halfway between the two access points to the wilderness area – at […]
- Florida Trail, Rodman to Lake Delancy - Providing a fine balance between the Big Scrub habitats and breathtaking old-growth longleaf pines, the Florida Trail from Rodman to Lake Delancy is simply superb.
- Florida Trail, Salt Springs to The 88 Store - Amid a patchwork of scrub ridges and longleaf pine islands, the Florida Trail makes its way northwest around the vastness of Lake Kerr on this 10.1 mile section. It’s accessible to day hikers via two connector trails – blazed in blue – that attach at Salt Springs and from behind The 88 Store, a popular […]
- Juniper Creek Nature Trail - Surrounded by the dryness of the Big Scrub, the world’s largest scrub forest, Juniper Springs is a playground of hydrological wonders, the center of a jungle-like oasis of riotous growth. Here, you’ll find every sort of Florida spring imaginable: a massive outpouring from a cavern at the headspring, tiny bubblers along the bottom of the […]
- Lake Eaton Sinkhole Trail - In the heart of the Big Scrub of the Ocala National Forest, the Lake Eaton Sinkhole is a relatively young phenomenon compared to the other large sinkhole in the region, Devil’s Millhopper. It punctured the ancient dunes with a massive collapse, which, when stabilized, formed a cool bowl in which a hardwood forest took root. […]
- Lake Eaton Trail - Two trails, one trailhead. The Lake Eaton Trail is in the heart of the Big Scrub, part of the “Lake Eaton Trails” on the northeast side of Lake Eaton in the Ocala National Forest, halfway between Salt Springs and Nuby’s Corner along CR 314. From the air (or satellite photo) you can see Lake Eaton […]
- Lake George Trail - Connecting Silver Glen Springs with the river it feeds, the Lake George Trail provides an easy day hike to picturesque views of Lake George on the St. Johns River.
- Salt Springs - One of the most famed first magnitude springs in Florida, Salt Springs was first written about in 1774 by botanist William Bartram.
- Salt Springs Loop - For a hint of fall color in the Ocala National Forest, the Salt Springs Loop trail just south of the town of Salt Springs showcases a variety of habitats, among them a floodplain forest along Salt Springs Run. Here, the cry of osprey reflect off placid waters as the leaves of sweetgum and red maple […]
- Silver Glen Springs - With a strong aquamarine hue accented by refracted rainbows as sunlight plays across the ripples on its sandy bottom, Silver Glen Springs is a first-magnitude spring in the Ocala National Forest.
- Spring Boils Trail - A delight to visit, the Spring Boils Trail showcases bubbling springs both big and small, starting within sight of the main springs at Silver Glen Springs before it leads you to coves of tiny bubblers.
- St. Francis Trail - It’s hard to believe, as you walk under bowers of live oaks and cabbage palms, that a town once crowded the wharf where the St. Johns River turns away from the St. Francis Dead River, where growers loaded boatloads of citrus, watermelon, and cabbages onto steamships for markets up north. Bustling in the late 1800s, […]
- Timucuan Trail - In less than a mile, you experience all of the major habitats of the Ocala National Forest—and can cool off with a swim. Noted for its clarity, Alexander Springs gushes out of a subterranean crevice to quickly form a broad waterway, Alexander Run. Down near the headspring, your adventure begins. Although it’s short, the Timucuan […]
- Yearling Trail - In the fall of 1876, Reuben and Sara Jane Long established a homestead on Pat’s Island, a high spot in the Big Scrub. Shaded by longleaf pine and turkey oak, they grew sugar cane and corn, peas, beans, and watermelon, a frontier existence for a hardy family. Their son Melvin found and adopted a fawn […]