Staring over the lip of this impressive spring, it feels like you’re looking into a bottomless pit. Steep and broad, it drops 42 feet, which is why Suwannee County provides a high launch platform for jumping into the spring. Wrapped in ribbons of turquoise and blue, it’s a wild place, the natural shoreline accented only with a few staircases to help you get to the water’s edge. Royal Springs is a beauty, a rare natural swimming hole off the beaten path along the Suwannee River.
Hike: 0.5 mile double round-trip (horseshoe)
Fees / Permits: free
Bug factor: low to moderate
While there is no camping on the grounds, there are several private campgrounds not far away:
Cave Dive Camp
Ichetucknee Family Canoe & Cabins
Ichetucknee Springs Campground
River Run Campground
As well as O’Leno State Park, about a half hour away.
The park opens at sunrise daily except on Wednesdays, when it opens at 11am. There are portable toilets and picnic tables by the parking area.
From the intersection of US 27 and US 129 in Branford, follow US 129 north for 5.5 miles. Turn west on CR 349. Follow this rural road for 8.9 miles to the turnoff onto 198th Terrace, where there is a sign. Continue 0.7 mile to the turn onto unpaved 157th Lane, which leads right into the park.
A horseshoe-shaped trail wraps around the spring, providing access to the Suwannee River on either side. Walking down the sidewalk to the right of the dive platform, it leads you behind a screen of forest on the bluff to an observation deck with a prime view down into the spring and across to the platform.
After the developed path ends, you’re free to roam. A well-beaten but unmarked trail traces the outflow of the springs beneath ancient cypress trees and up along a hilly slope as it flows over rapids to meet the Suwannee River. Along the way, you circle a small spring in a tight spot.
Going the opposite way, the sidewalk provides an accessible route for visitors to get to two entry points to the spring. The first provides spring-level access to dive into the depths from a rocky ledge, and the second goes to a shallow shelf for a more gentle dip in the water. The paved path ends at an observation deck overlooking the Suwannee River next to a boat ramp.