Cross Florida Greenway Overview
A Brief HistoryThe Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway has long been one of our favorite destinations for outdoor recreation in Florida, and that’s partly because we were involved with the arc of its story. As a teen, Sandra was aware of the environmental disaster that completing the Cross Florida Barge Canal would cause, slicing through the aquifer and potentially destroying Silver Springs. One of her high school teachers was part of a group fighting this Federal project with scientific studies, and eventually, with lawsuits. In 1971, President Richard Nixon agreed to stop the digging. The land that the canal would be built on was turned over to the State of Florida.
The corridor was designated Florida’s first greenway in 1998, and then named for the environmental advocate who founded the Florida Defenders of the Environment, the group instrumental in stopping the canal project. Helping to build and maintain a new route of the Florida Trail along the Greenway, Sandra was among those who cut the ribbon on the Land Bridge over Interstate 75 when it opened in 2000.
The Office of Greenways and Trails was instituted to oversee Florida’s first greenway. While it is now headquartered in Tallahassee, it maintains an office along the Cross Florida Greenway in Silver Springs. It is now part of the Florida Park Service, and the Cross Florida Greenway is considered a unit of Florida State Parks.
Land Manager: Office of Greenways & Trails
Address: 8282 SE Highway 314, Ocala
Their office is open weekdays
Our videos of outdoor recreation along and adjoining the Cross Florida Greenway
Trails along the Cross Florida Greenway
There are more than 300 miles of trails on the Cross Florida Greenway, according to the Office of Greenways & Trails, which was originally founded to manage this greenway and is based along it. Hiking trails along the Cross Florida Greenway include a portion of the statewide Florida National Scenic Trail (which we also break into day hiking segments) as well as several shorter day hiking loops and a few interpretive trails.
Cyclists have the famed Santos Trails, a nationally-renowned set of technical off-road trails accessed from Santos, as well as paved trails at Inglis, Silver Springs Shores, Dunnellon, and between Santos and Ross Prairie.
Equestrians have extensive riding and carriage trails between Santos and Dunnellon, connecting with the Florida Horse Park. Guided trail rides are available from Cactus Jack’s, based at the Land Bridge trailhead. The Land Bridge trailhead, Shangri-La trailhead, Ross Prairie trailhead, and Pruitt trailhead are optimized for equestrian use, with large dedicated parking areas for horse trailers, watering troughs, and hitching posts. Shangri-La Campground was originally equestrian-only but is now open to all. It, along with Ross Prairie, are the best places to camp with your horses.
Paddlers can put in at Withlacoochee Bay, Inglis Lock, or Blue Run Park in Dunnellon to paddle the Withlacoochee River. Rainbow River access is also available at Blue Run Park. Ray Wayside Park and Gore’s Landing, both Marion County Parks, provide access to the Ocklawaha River. Ray Wayside also is an access point for the Silver River, as is Silver Springs State Park. Eureka West and Rodman Recreation Areas provide put-in for the Ocklawaha River where it is dammed up to create the Rodman Reservoir. When drawdowns of the reservoir occur, paddlers flock to this area to find the springs that are exposed when the river’s normal flow towards the St. Johns is temporarily restored.
Camping along the Cross Florida Greenway
The Cross Florida Greenway has campgrounds at several locations that work well for base camps for outdoor recreation. At Ross Prairie Campground and Shangri-La Campground, facilities include special corrals and horse trailer parking for equestrians. At Santos, mountain bikers and hikers will appreciate the easy access to the trail systems. The Rodman Campground near Rodman Reservoir is very close to put-in points for paddlers and boaters on the Ocklawaha River, and is right along the Florida Trail. It is a safe location to leave a car when backpacking across the Ocala National Forest; a small daily fee applies.
If you are backpacking the Florida Trail along the Cross Florida Greenway, you are permitted to use the primitive campsites along the route if you are a member of the Florida Trail Association. If you are not, contact the Office of Greenways and Trails during office hours to let them know your planned itinerary and stops. There is no fee for primitive camping. Each of the primitive campsites includes a picnic table and a fire ring. They are suitable for only a few tents, not large groups. See our Florida Trail info for the Cross Florida Greenway for more details.
Towns along the Cross Florida Greenway
We’ve spent a lot of time in towns along the Cross Florida Greenway to grab a meal or kick back in comfort in a hotel room after a long day out in the woods or on the water. These are the communities you’ll find, west to east, near the Cross Florida Greenway. Of them, Dunnellon is our very favorite. That’s partly because Sandra used to live there, but also because it has great local eateries and several options for affordable hotel and motel stays. And Rainbow Springs!
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