Connecting Silver Glen Springs with the river it feeds, the Lake George Trail provides an easy day hike under mature live oaks to picturesque views of Lake George, a broad spot in the St. Johns River. Along the way, you’ll sample a nice variety of habitats found in the Ocala National Forest.
Location: Silver Glen Springs
Length: 2.3 miles
Lat-Long: 29.246359, -81.642983
Fees / Permits: $5.50 per person recreation area fee
Bug factor: moderate to high
Restroom: at the parking area
Dogs are NOT permitted at Silver Glen Springs.
Follow SR 19 north from SR 40 in the Ocala National Forest and you’ll find the entrance to Silver Glen Springs on the right, across from the Yearling Trail trailhead, north of Juniper Creek.
Once you’ve entered the recreation area and paid your day use fee, you’ll find the trailhead for the Lake George Trail on the right, just past the General Store and flanked by ancient live oaks atop massive shell mounds filled with freshwater snail shells.
Follow the broad footpath under a stand of unusually old and gnarled cedars. To the right, a hardwood hammock fills a bowl along the edge of Silver Glen Run. You can see water sparkling through the gaps in the trees.
After you cross a service road, the trail winds under enormous live oaks. As you pass by a bench, you enter a dense hardwood hammock of sweetgum, hickory, and cedars. Immense loblolly pines rise like pillars from drifts of pine needles.
Where a trail joins in from the left, continue straight under a bower of grapevines draped between sweetbay magnolias in a bayhead. Netted chain and woods ferns thrive around the culverts that drain these bayheads and wet flatwoods towards the St. Johns River. You walk through a cathedral of oaks, its floor a swath of saw palmettos.
Passing another bench, the trail drops down into the cool shade of sweetbay magnolias, then rises up into the familiar environment of the Big Scrub—edged by rusty lyonia and sand pines, broken up by groves of gnarled sand live oaks.
After 0.8 mile, you reach the junction with a spur trail. Turn right to walk beneath the canopy of oaks towards the open sky at the end of the corridor. At a clearing along Lake George, a bench commands a sweeping view of Florida’s second-largest lake, part of the St. Johns River as its flows northward through the widest point of its chain of lakes on the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
Return to the T intersection and turn right. The trail curves to the right through a patch of native bamboo as the aroma of the open water fills the air. The trail begins following the shoreline of Lake George. Benches provide more opportunities to revel in the view, framed by moss-draped cypresses. Following the lakeshore, the trail stays up on a moderate bluff along the water, where wild citrus adds its scent in the winter months. A brisk breeze blows off the watery expanse—it’s nearly five miles to the far shore. From an observation point on a high bluff, take in the sweeping vista. Yes, those are alligators cruising the shallows.
As you continue down the trail, it curves away from the lake briefly into the shade of a forest. When you reach the split-rail fence, look to the northeast, and you can see the remains of an old boathouse. A marsh extends off to the right, busy with the chatter of wading birds. The trail ends here after 1.3 miles. Turn around and return the way you came, savoring the walk back along the lake. Be sure to take the time to visit the springs, and the Spring Boils Trail, before you leave.