Set along the St. Johns River, Deland is surrounded by natural lands that protect the vast floodplain forests surrounding Florida’s longest river. Along this western edge of Volusia County are a nice variety of hikes, bike rides, and paddling trips to keep you busy for days. Just across the river is the southeastern corner of the Ocala National Forest.
Trails and Parks in Deland
- Black Bear Wilderness Area - North of Orlando, the Black Bear Wilderness Area offers some of the best wildlife watching in the region on its newly expanded 7.1-mile loop along the St. Johns River.
- Blue Spring State Park - Blue Spring State Park is well acclaimed for being the best place in Florida to see manatees in the wild, and we don't mean a dozen or two. Upwards of 200 crowd spring run each winter.
- Blue Spring State Park Boardwalk - If you’ve never seen manatees by the dozens, let alone over a hundred, there’s no better place to watch them than along the boardwalk at Blue Spring State Park in wintertime
- Bluffton Nature Trail - South of Astor along the St. Johns River, the Bluffton Recreation Area in Lake George State Forest paints a picture of Florida's prehistoric past, leading you through uplands habitats above the river basin.
- Clearwater Lake Loop - The Clearwater Lake Loop, which starts and ends at the day use area inside the Clearwater Lake Recreation Area, offers a gentle walk through pine forests and scrub around the lake
- De Leon Springs State Park - Grab a spatula and start flipping pancakes! Once a Florida roadside attraction, De Leon Springs State Park still draws big crowds for its unique make-your-own-pancake restaurant with griddle top tables, set inside a historic sugar mill.
- 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, Clearwater Lake to Alexander Springs - The oldest section of the Florida Trail runs 11 miles between between Clearwater Lake and Alexander Springs in the Ocala National Forest, showcasing longleaf pine forests and scrub
- Florida Trail, Seminole State Forest - A hike on the Florida Trail in Seminole State Forest leads you through the kind of vast, open spaces that you'd never imagine existed so close to Orlando.
- Gemini Springs Park - With up to 5 miles of gentle woodland paths and paved trails, playgrounds, picnic area, paddling trail and a dog park, Gemini Springs Park is a popular, well-connected getaway.
- Green Springs Park - At Green Springs Park, the shady trails are short but well-groomed, with options for all abilities. It's an excellent destination for families to enjoy, with connectivity to two major bike trails.
- Hontoon Island State Park - An island in the St. Johns River, Hontoon Island State Park is accessible to boaters thanks to a marina big enough to accommodate a houseboat and to everyday visitors by a free ferryboat. It's worth the short trip to see the bounteous wildlife of the St. Johns River, from wading birds to manatees to turtles lying in the sun.
- Indian Mound Nature Trail - On Hontoon Island, the Indian Mound Nature Trail leads you through a ancient forest to an ancient midden on the edge of a vast swamp floodplain.
- Lake Ashby Park - Explore the cypress-lined shore of Lake Ashby on a gentle trail system consisting of a boardwalk and easy pathways beneath deep shade along the lakeshore.
- Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge - Six miles of trails meander through wide open spaces preserved for wintering waterfowl at 21,500-acre Lake Woodruff NWR along the St. Johns River.
- Lyonia Preserve - Florida's best place to see a Florida scrub-jay up close is Lyonia Preserve, with 2.2 miles of loops through the highest ground in Volusia County.
- Pine Island Trail - A 7.3-mile round-trip trail to the St. Johns River, the Pine Island Trail at Blue Spring State Park traverses both upland and river edge habitat.
- Rock Springs Run Hiking Trail - With more than 12 miles of hiking through the heart of Florida black bear territory, Rock Springs Run State Reserve gets you into the wild outside Orlando.
- Rock Springs Run State Reserve - You have a better-than-average chance of spotting a Florida black bear at Rock Springs Run State Reserve, a vast wilderness area in the Wekiva River basin. This is the one park where we've seen the most evidence of our native Florida black bear.
- St. Francis Trail - One of Central Florida's most scenic and easy-to-follow day hikes, the St. Francis Trail traverses the southeasternmost corner of the Ocala National Forest to lead you through what was once farms, fields, and a bustling commercial center on the St. Johns River.
- Timucuan Trail - While less than a mile long, the Timucuan Trail at Alexander Springs Recreation Area is the best place to sample the Big Scrub habitats of the Ocala National Forest.
- Wild Persimmon Trail - At DeLeon Springs State Park, the Wild Persimmon Trail is a 4.5 mile wild walk along the edge of habitats in the floodplain forest created by the springs.
- Manatee munching palm tree at Blue Springs (12/4/2009) - Every winter, hundreds of manatees converge at Blue Spring Run near Deland, as do the folks who want to see them up close in the wild. Here’s a clip from a visit I made last weekend while working on the new edition of “50 Hikes.” I loved the commentary from the two ladies next to […]