In September, we started working on a project for the Ocala/Marion County Visitors and Convention Bureau to identify and assess the top hiking and biking trails in the county.
For those of you who’ve followed us for years, you know that Sandra’s family moved to Ocala when she was a teenager, and she lived in the Ocala area for much of her adult life. It’s only been over the past few years that we’ve been camping, couchsurfing, or staying in hotels on our visits here, where her family still lives. Since in-depth research projects like this mean hiking and biking all day and spending all evening downloading and organizing digital media, we asked ahead about hotel stays during our weekly trips up to the region. Our first one was at the Holiday Inn Express Silver Springs.
This isn’t a new property, but it certainly looks and feels like one when you step inside. The hallways and common areas are decorated with outdoor recreation scenes from the region, the better to encourage you to play outside. All of the amenities you’d expect from a Holiday Inn Express are here, from the comfy beds to the expanded continental breakfast with hot foods and those delicious cinnamon buns.
Comfort and location make this a good choice when you’re not camping. Roll out the door and you’re right at the gate of Silver Springs State Park, and just a short drive from the Ocala National Forest. Part of our research in the area was to check on several newer parks and preserves within 15 minutes of the hotel, and they all made the list we’re presenting to the county after we wrap up the project. Thanks to thoughtful land purchases around the Silver Springs basin, there is so much more to explore here, including a preserve that just opened this summer. We’ll be adding these new trails to the Silver Springs section of the website soon!
Here’s where you’ll find great hikes near the Holiday Inn Express in Silver Springs.
Florida Trail hikers take note: this is the closest lodging to the Marshall Swamp trailhead.
- Florida Trail, Baseline to Marshall Swamp - Along the Baseline Road to Marshall Swamp section of the Florida Trail in Ocala, enjoy a swath of true urban wilderness, a mile-wide corridor edged on both sides by subdivisions and strip malls.
- Florida Trail, Cross Florida Greenway - A prime destination for backpacking and day hiking near Ocala, the Florida Trail, Cross Florida Greenway stretches 30 miles between Dunnellon and Silver Springs.
- Marshall Swamp Trail - On this 5.6-mile round-trip hike, follow the Florida Trail on a linear journey through the giant trees of Marshall Swamp without getting your feet wet.
- Silver River Connector - Built to showcase the Cross Florida Greenway, the Silver River Connector is a 3-mile round-trip from the Ocklawaha Visitor Center to Ray Wayside Park.
- Silver Springs Conservation Area - Silver Springs Conservation Area protects upland habitats crucial to recharge of Silver Springs. Two stacked loop trails (with a cross-trail on the upper loop) provide several options for hiking.
- Silver Springs River Trails - With more than 4 miles of hiking in two trails, the River Trails of Silver Springs State Park are the park's most popular walks, as they lead you to views along the Silver River.
- Silver Springs Sandhill Nature Trail - At Silver River State Park, the Sandhill Nature Trail (which can also be reached from the Sinkhole Trail) is a 1.7-mile loop through a longleaf and wiregrass sandhill habitat.
- Silver Springs Sinkhole Trail - On the 2.5-mile Sinkhole Trail, take a hike around a giant sinkhole and explore the uplands above the Silver River at Silver River State Park.
- Silver Springs State Park - Silver Springs - one of the world's largest and deepest springs - pours out more than 550 million gallons every day. Silver Springs State Park protects not just the spring but the river's six mile floodplain as well.
Our thanks to the Holiday Inn Express Silver Springs for providing a complimentary stay while we researched hiking trails in the area.