At the newly rechristened Ruth B. Kirby Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park, there are many springs, but its namesake is the largest of the collection.
Gilchrist Blue Spring is a sizable second-magnitude spring with a flow of 44 million gallons per day, creating a shallow spring run. Swimming is permitted here.
In addition to a boardwalk at the main spring, a nature trail meanders beneath towering trees along the edge of the floodplain formed by the springs.
More springs are along the nature trail, including Naked Spring, a natural oval pool.
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Location: High Springs
Length: 1.8 mile loop
Trailhead: 29.829341, -82.683477
Address: 7450 NE 60th St, High Springs, FL 32643
Fees: $4-6 per vehicle
Restroom: Near the parking area
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM to sunset daily. Leashed pets welcome but not permitted near swimming areas or in the springs.
On weekends and during the summer months, the park tends to fill up quickly. The front gate is closed when they reach capacity.
From US 27 south of High Springs, turn west on NW 182nd Ave (CR 340). Continue 4.5 miles west to the park entrance on the right. A mile-long divided road leads to the ranger station, which adjoins the spring and parking area.
About the Park
There are five named springs at Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park, with Gilchrist Blue Spring being the main attraction and the swimming area.
The spring vent of Gilchrist Blue is more than 20 feet deep, surrounded by a shallower broad natural pool ideal for families.
Walk down the boardwalk to access the colorful, clear, and shallow spring run for wading, swimming, and snorkeling.
Prior to Hurricane Irma, the boardwalk extended all the way to the Santa Fe River; now there is just a short segment remaining, but enough to provide nice views across the run.
To the left of the swimming area, walk away from Blue Spring along the edge of the floodplain forest to find Little Blue Spring, a beauty spot surrounded by cypresses.
Swimming is not permitted in this spring, but it’s lovely to see.
The broad path to the right of the boardwalk leads through the forest to more springs. Surrounded by floodplain forest, Naked Spring is a jewel in its natural setting.
From the cleared area along its shore, you can see two spring vents. It’s at least a dozen feet deep, although the spring run out to Blue Springs Run is shallow.
We found more springs along the nature trail that starts near Naked Spring. The first was down a short side path to the left and was partially obscured by fallen trees.
The next one was Johnson Spring, a large natural feature with a well-flowing spring run.
The last place we saw water flowing was from seepage springs from a karst bluff along the floodplain basin, about three quarters of a mile down the nature trail.
From there the trail goes uphill. There may be more springs along the paddling route out to the Santa Fe River.
The Nature Trail begins just past Naked Spring. We explored a route that made a 1.5-mile balloon hike from the start of the path near Naked Spring.
It was a 1.8 mile hike from the main parking area. The terrain is rugged in places but is deeply shaded. Since a good portion of the hike is in the floodplain, it can flood at times.
Rent canoes, kayaks, or paddleboards at the kiosk near the ranger station and pick them up near the boardwalk. You are also welcome to bring your own watercraft.
There are 25 campsites located near the main spring. Numbered sites (1-18) are primarily used by RVs and campers and are in the open.
Choose the lettered sites (A-G) for a more relaxed setting for tenting or van camping beneath the canopy of oaks.
Since our visit, the diving platform shown in our photos and video has been removed.
See our photos from Gilchrist Blue Springs
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Paddling the Santa Fe River
On a mellow paddling trip down the Santa Fe River, John discovers several swimming springs, thousands of turtles, and miles of quiet waterway.
Tubing the Ichetucknee
Tubing the Ichetucknee River means letting go and going with the flow, letting the waters carry you past beautiful springs and through ever-changing habitats. Here’s how.
O’Leno State Park
Once a pioneer community along the Old Bellamy Road connecting St. Augustine and Tallahassee in 1826, O’Leno State Park protects one of North Florida’s weirder geologic wonders, a disappearing river.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park
A swimming hole as a work of natural art, the deep gash in the earth that is Ichetucknee Spring glows an unearthly robin’s-egg blue, cradled in a limestone bowl within a leafy glen