Established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903, the Ocala National Forest is one of the nation’s oldest. Its sparkling lakes, vast prairies, and shimmering springs attract plenty of visitors, but the main reason it was created was to protect the nation’s largest contiguous sand pine scrub forest, a virtual desert with unique plant and animal species.
In the Apalachicola National Forest, botanical beauty abounds. Fed by rainfall channeled through tannic streams and broad bays, it is a place of haunting swamps and massive walls of fragrant titi bushes. The Osceola National Forest is the youngest of the trio, purchased from timber companies and now managed for its biodiversity and connectivity to the Pinhook Swamp and the mighty Okefenokee Swamp.
Florida's National Forests
Favorite National Forest Trails
The statewide Florida Trail got its start in the Ocala National Forest in 1966. It traverses all three national forests, providing more than 175 miles of backpacking between them. There are dozens of interpretive trails and some day hike loops as well. These are among our favorites.
National Forest Fees
Fees apply at many locations inside the National Forests in Florida, particularly those with heavy visitation or swimming access. Your Golden Eagle / National Parks pass is good at most “US Fee Area” locations. Fourth grade students (and their families) as well as active military are eligible for free passes. Seniors may purchase discount passes good for their lifetimes. Passes are a great bargain if you plan to visit more a few parks in a year. They are honored at National Wildlife Refuges and National Forest Fee Areas as well.
A concessionaire operates the springs of the Ocala National Forest, and we’ve found that they do not accept park passes, but sell their own access pass.
National Forest Articles
Articles about Florida’s National Forests, including trip reports, tips for visiting, land management updates, and information about wildlife and plants. Scroll through to see all.
The last Saturday of September is National Public Lands Day, celebrated across America with fee-free entry to Federal public lands and volunteer activities at the state, local, and national level.
While hiking with your dog can be very satisfying, Florida hiking has its own special perils for your best buddy. Here’s a heads-up on what to look for and where it’s best to take a hike.
Got kids? If any of them are in fourth grade, they can get a free pass to ALL Federal public lands good for the whole family through the end of August. Here’s how.
Fall is a fabulous time for hiking in Florida, but you need to be aware that you may be sharing the trails with hunters, too. Here’s how to find out where, and where you can go where hunting is not permitted.
What’s it like hanging out with a bunch of hammock hangers? Here’s a peek at the 6th Annual Hammock Hanging Convention, now called HangCon, held at Doe Lake last month.
A perfect combination of cold weather, blue skies, and winter in a North Florida cypress swamp let us happen upon two instances of rainbow swamps on a hike in the Osecola Experimental Forest. Does that make a double rainbow?
Florida IS different. Water defines our state, and our habitats range from dense tropical Caribbean forests to Appalachian-style bluffs and ravines. We’re a winter hiking state. Come explore with us.
What’s it like to do trail research? Here’s a typical day out on the trail for us when we’re tracking down relocations of the Florida Trail or finding new trails to add to this website.
After three years of roaming the woods and the world together, John & Sandy get married in the Ocala National Forest with a very hiker-style wedding.
What’s it like when your life revolves around hiking and suddenly you can’t? That’s what I’ve quietly struggled with for the past five months before and after knee surgery.
How do you pack for a Florida backpacking trip? In this video clip from How to Do Florida on how to prep for a backpacking trip, Sandy shows Chad Crawford what she carries in her backpack and why.
On a return trek to Hidden Pond, we find that all is well in this oasis in the middle of the Juniper Prairie Wilderness, just waiting for backpackers to savor it.
We met Ruth at the Florida Trail Association Conference in March and spent time hiking with her on the Panhandle Trace. At both events, she invited us to come hike in her backyard and visit. With five hikes left for Five Star Trails Gainesville and Ocala, we headed to North Gainesville, staying at the Best …
It’s one bumpy ride as we tunnel our way through the Big Scrub of the Ocala National Forest with Primrose, our brand new vintage Westy, on a jeep road.
Heading off on a hike alone? Here are some suggestions as to how to watch after your own personal safety, especially in urban settings, when you take a walk in the woods.
Florida’s hiking season is also the prime season for hunting in Florida. Be aware of where you’re hiking – many public lands permit hunting – for your personal safety.
October 1 marks the traditional start of Florida’s hiking season, so it’s time to start planning your outdoor adventures! October is also normally designated Florida Greenways & Trails Month, but I haven’t heard a peep about it from my usual sources. Let’s get out and celebrate anyway. Last week, the morning temperatures were in the …
A follow-up to the conservation legacy of Teddy Roosevelt’s administration, The Weeks Act was signed by William Howard Taft in March 1911. It authorized the Federal government – for the first time – to purchase private land to protect watersheds throughout the eastern United States.
The Forest Encyclopedia Network is a gateway to research papers explaining applied science on the Southern Appalachians and National Forests throughout our region.
National Forest Videos
Discover the unique nature of our National Forests in Florida through our video explorations of their trails and tours. Subscribe to our YouTube channel to receive regular updates of virtual hikes, rides, and paddles throughout Florida.