Established in 1908 as the first National Forest east of the Mississippi, the Ocala National Forest is a mecca for hikers as the birthplace of the Florida Trail.
Nearby: Ocala, Palatka, Deland, Ormond Beach, Silver Springs,
Fees: Day use fees are charged at many sites in the Ocala National Forest, including Clearwater Lake, Lake Delancy, Farles Prairie, Fore Lake, and Wildcat Lake. All recreation areas around the springs – Alexander, Juniper, Silver Glen, and Salt – are managed by concessionaires and fees are higher there than at National Forest managed sites. If you have a National Parks Pass (Federal Lands Pass), fees are waived except at the springs.
Seminole Ranger District, 40929 SR 19, Umatilla FL 32784. 352-669-3153
Lake George Ranger District, 17147 E SR 40, Silver Springs FL 34488. 352-625-2520
Both ranger stations are open 7-4 weekdays.
Pittman Visitor Center, 45621 SR 19, Altoona FL 32702. 352-669-7495
The Florida Trail began here in 1966, and now offers nearly 100 miles of unbroken backcountry backpacking through the world’s largest scrub forest. Logistics for hiking the Florida Trail in the Ocala National Forest
But there are also many easy day hikes that offer briefer glimpses of the beauty of the Big Scrub and its crystalline first-magnitude springs, including Juniper Springs and Alexander Springs.
Explore the forest
- Alexander Springs- Surrounding one of Florida's most picturesque first magnitude springs, Alexander Springs Recreation Area provides visitors with many options to enjoy the spring and the woodlands around the spring basin.
- Bear Swamp Trail- Little known except to those who frequent Salt Springs Recreation Area in the Ocala National Forest, the Bear Swamp Trail provides a walk into an ancient forest
- Clearwater Lake Loop- The Clearwater Lake Loop, which starts and ends at the day use area inside the Clearwater Lake Recreation Area, offers a gentle walk through pine forests and scrub around the lake
- Davenport Landing Trail- Deep in the Ocala National Forest, the Davenport Landing Trail leads you on a scenic loop to a historic landing and archaeological site along the Ocklawaha River.
- Florida Trail, Alexander Springs to Farles Lake- Get acquainted with Big Scrub on this 8.4-mile stretch of the Florida Trail in the Ocala National Forest as it rises through longleaf pine forests to meet the world’s largest sand pine scrub, punctuated by a variety of ponds and prairies. Connecting a first-magnitude spring with one of the more beautiful lakes in the Ocala National Forest, it’s a delightful immersion into the woods.
- Florida Trail, Buckman to Rodman Dam- Paralleling a segment of the Cross Florida Barge Canal, the Buckman Lock to Rodman Dam hike on of the Florida Trail sticks to a high berm for most of the 5.3 miles.
- Florida Trail, Clearwater Lake to Alexander Springs- The oldest section of the Florida Trail runs 11 miles between between Clearwater Lake and Alexander Springs in the Ocala National Forest, showcasing longleaf pine forests and scrub
- Florida Trail, Delancy to The 88 Store- An immersion in both sandhills and scrub awaits on this 7.4 mile hike along the Florida Trail between Lake Delancy and Lake Kerr, an excellent section for fall wildflowers and wildlife watching
- Florida Trail, Eaton Creek North- Between Eaton Creek and Salt Springs, this 12 mile segment of the Florida Trail in Ocala West is high and dry, showcasing the life cycle of the sand pine scrub ecosystem.
- Florida Trail, Hopkins Prairie to Salt Springs- A six-mile-long prairie, a vast marshland in the middle of the dry Big Scrub, Hopkins Prairie is a beauty spot along which the Florida Trail lingers on this 9.5 mile section.
- Florida Trail, Juniper Springs to Farles- Winding along and around a mosaic of both dry and wet prairies that make up the Farles Prairie complex, this 8.5 mile segment of the Florida Trail provides a deep immersion into the Big Scrub
- Florida Trail, Juniper Springs to Hopkins Prairie- 10.6 miles. One of the few designated wilderness areas that the Florida Trail traverses, the Juniper Prairie Wilderness in the Ocala National Forest is a wildlife-rich mosaic of ancient scrub forests, pine islands, and broad open prairies.
- Florida Trail, Ocala National Forest- 72.2 miles. Of all of the sections of the Florida Trail statewide, the Ocala National Forest is both the oldest section of the trail and the most compelling for backpackers.
- Florida Trail, Pat’s Island to Hidden Pond- One of the most scenic segments of the Florida Trail, the hike from Pat's Island to Hidden Pond immerses you in the Big Scrub en route to an oasis in Florida's desert.
- Florida Trail, Rodman to Lake Delancy- Providing a fine balance between the Big Scrub habitats and breathtaking old-growth longleaf pines, the Florida Trail from Rodman to Lake Delancy is simply superb.
- Florida Trail, Salt Springs to The 88 Store- Amid a patchwork of scrub ridges and longleaf pine islands, the Florida Trail makes its way northwest of Salt Springs around the vastness of Lake Kerr on this 10.1 mile section
- Juniper Creek Nature Trail- Experience crystalline waters emerging from the midst of the world’s largest scrub forest along the Juniper Creek Nature Trail in the Ocala National Forest.
- Lake Eaton Sinkhole Trail- In the heart of the Big Scrub of the Ocala National Forest, the Lake Eaton Sinkhole Trail loops 1.8 miles through scrub forest and drops down into the big sink
- Lake Eaton Trail- The 2.3-mile Lake Eaton Trail is loop trail providing a gentle descent through a variety of ecosystems from scrub to floodplain forest until you reach the lake itself
- Lake George Trail- Connecting Silver Glen Springs with the river it feeds, the Lake George Trail provides an easy day hike to picturesque views of Lake George on the St. Johns River.
- Salt Springs Loop- An easy walk of 2 miles, the Salt Springs Loop in the Ocala National Forest is a popular hike, since it leads to an observation platform on Salt Springs Run.
- Salt Springs Recreation Area- One of the most famed first magnitude springs in Florida, Salt Springs was first written about in 1774 by botanist William Bartram.
- Silver Glen Springs- With a strong aquamarine hue accented by refracted rainbows as sunlight plays across the ripples on its sandy bottom, Silver Glen Springs is a first-magnitude spring in the Ocala National Forest.
- Spring Boils Trail- A delight to visit, the Spring Boils Trail showcases bubbling springs both big and small, starting within sight of the main springs at Silver Glen Springs before it leads you to coves of tiny bubblers.
- St. Francis Trail- One of Central Florida's most scenic and easy-to-follow day hikes, the St. Francis Trail traverses the southeasternmost corner of the Ocala National Forest to lead you through what was once farms, fields, and a bustling commercial center on the St. Johns River.
- The Yearling Trail- Walk the landscape and discover the history that inspired Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Yearling in 1938, on Pat’s Island in the Ocala National Forest.
- Timucuan Trail- While less than a mile long, the Timucuan Trail at Alexander Springs Recreation Area is the best place to sample the Big Scrub habitats of the Ocala National Forest.