Silver Springs State Park has plenty of hiking, and these two trails are probably the most popular of the bunch. Walk under the “River Trails” arch to start your adventure into the cypress swamps and floodplain forests of the Silver River basin along two very different trails. The Swamp Trail offers a round-trip and loop hike of more than 2 miles leading to a boardwalk along the Silver River. The River Trail is a round-trip of 2.1 miles down through the river hammocks to a beach along the river, with a loop trail at its end.
Location: Silver Springs
Length: Up to 4.1 miles
Lat-Long: 29.201017, -82.034367
Type: Loop and round-trip
Fees / Permits: state park entrance fee
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Bug factor: moderate to annoying
Restroom: yes, near picnic area and at environmental center
From I-75 exit 352 (Ocala), follow SR 40 for 8.4 miles through Ocala to Silver Springs. Turn south on SR 35, driving another 1.1 miles to the entrance to Silver Springs State Park on the left. The trailhead is accessed from the far parking area at the back of the park, near the museum.
From the parking lot, walk to the River Trails archway. At the fork, turn left to follow the Swamp Trail for a 2-mile round-trip to a boardwalk along the Silver River. You can keep to the obvious path (always take the right fork on the way out), or feel free to veer off on side trails that let you explore the ecotone between the scrub and floodplain forest habitats.
I enjoy this trail the most, with its lengthy boardwalk through the cypresses out to the river’s edge, where you can stand and look down into the crystalline blue water to watch turtles and fish swimming in the spring. Be cautious of cottonmouth moccasins and poison ivy, both of which like to curl around trees near the water’s edge.
On the return trip, take the right fork for an exploration of the uplands. The trail is well shaded and you’ll see many fall wildflowers along this newly blazed route (not reflected in the mileages given here) that I encountered in September 2008. It crosses the jeep access trail and heads into the scrub forest for a little meander to the back of the Seminole village that serves as part of the living history exhibit during festivals at the park. With this new loop, the trail now ends at the Cracker Village.
Cross the parking area and head back to the River Trails archway. Turn right to follow the 2.1-mile River Trail. The trail meets a jeep road. Turn left and make another left onto a jeep road at the bottom of the hill, following it through a cypress swamp. You emerge at a sandy beach on the Silver River at 0.6 mile, enjoying the crystalline water. Turn around and take the first left for a loop that follows the river. Keep alert for short side trails to the river. When you get back to the main trail, turn left to return back to the parking area.