On the northern edge of Gainesville, Devil’s Millhopper Geologic State Park showcases a geologic formation known to generations of residents and visitors.
You’d think you were in the Amazon, or Hawaii, when you hear and see the tumbling cascades behind a screen of dense vegetation.
But the ephemeral waterfalls that occur at Devil’s Millhopper are just one of the delights to be found in this small but intriguing state park.
With the staircase replaced, it now takes only a steep 132 steps (formerly a long 232) to walk to the bottom of this 500-foot-wide, 120-foot-deep sinkhole.
Each landing reveals a new layer of forest, each crack and crevice a bounty of botanical wonders.
No matter what time of year you visit, the creek tumbles down into the abyss through a succession of rock outcroppings.
The best time to visit is after a heavy rain, when tall waterfalls gush down the sides of the sinkhole.
The nature trail rings the top of the sinkhole, leading you through habitats very different than what you’ll find below.
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Address: 4732 Millhopper Rd, Gainesville
Fees: $2 cyclist or pedestrian, $4 per vehicle
Restroom: at the interpretive center
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM to 5 PM. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Expect mosquitoes and use insect repellent.
Leashed pets are welcome, but are not permitted on the staircase into the sinkhole. Only the interpretive center and restrooms are accessible.
From Interstate 75, take Gainesville exit 390 and head east into Gainesville on SR 222 for 3.4 miles, passing Santa Fe Community College. Turn left at the traffic light for NW 43rd Street. Drive 1 mile to NW 53rd Ave (Millhopper Road) and turn left. The park is on the right within a quarter mile.
About the Park
This yawning chasm has been a tourist attraction for nearly two centuries. It’s a deep natural pit 500 feet across and 120 feet deep, surrounded by forest.
What makes it fascinating is that it intersects the water table. Especially after a heavy rain, tall waterfalls tumble down its slopes into a world unlike the one at the rim.
There is a visitor center with an orientation film and restrooms, plus picnic benches out at the parking area.
Be cautious of poison ivy, which is prevalent along the sides of the footpath. Except in winter, mosquitoes are always intense here.
The Devils Millhopper Nature Trail circles the top of the sinkhole through a succession of habitats, including a surprising slice of scrub forest.
The nature trail provides access to the staircase into the sinkhole, which is a must on any visit to the park.
Slipping into a ravine that looks like it was stolen from the Appalachian Mountains, the staircase guides you down 132 steps and landings into the depths of this karst feature.
The trickles and cascades of water from above vanish beneath a screen of needle palms and ferns into the earth.
Peer closely at the rocky bluffs of the sinkhole to look for unique flora for this region, as plants sprout in the cool, damp underhangs.
Among the unusual species found here are green dragon, cutleaf spleenwort, jack-in-the-pulpit, and lanceleaf wakerobin, trillium near the southern extent of its range.
The Devils Millhopper Nature Trail circles the lip of an enormous sinkhole before plunging down into it on a series of staircases and landings with views of natural waterfalls.
See our photos of Devils Millhopper
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
As the site of a significant Spanish mission, weird karst geology, and an array of Appalachian plants and trees that simply don’t creep much farther south, San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park is a passive preserve that most visitors only get to know a corner of.
One of the most beautiful and complex gardens in Florida, Kanapaha Botanical Gardens sits beneath grand live oaks with more than a dozen themed gardens on 62 acres. Bamboo is their specialty, with Florida’s best collection of these tall grasses.
Featuring a dense slope forest along Hogtown Creek with old-growth trees and rare wildflowers along Appalachian-style ravines, this is a scenic hike in the heart of Gainesville