12 Breathtaking Ocala National Forest Hikes For A Perfect Outdoorsy Weekend! (2024)

Explore 12 stunning hikes in Ocala National Forest, offering a variety of trails for all levels. Reconnect with nature and enjoy breathtaking scenery!

Get ready for an adventure in the great outdoors! The Ocala National Forest hikes are the perfect escape from city life and offer a diverse range of trails for all skill levels.

With over 600 miles of paths to explore, you’ll find everything from easy nature walks to challenging backcountry treks.

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just starting out, the Ocala National Forest is the perfect place to reconnect with nature.

Take a relaxing stroll along the Juniper Springs Trail, surrounded by crystal-clear springs and towering oak trees, or tackle the Florida Trail for a more adventurous experience – We went right in!

So lace up your hiking boots, pack a picnic, and head to the Ocala National Forest for a day filled with fresh air, stunning scenery, and endless outdoor adventures.

And remember, a day spent hiking in this beautiful forest is made even better with a delicious picnic!

Table of Contents

St. Francis Trail

The 7.9-mile St. Francis Trail traverses the southeast corner of the Ocala National Forest through pine forests and wetlands along the St. Johns River.

12 Breathtaking Ocala National Forest Hikes For A Perfect Outdoorsy Weekend! (1)

The trail is well-marked and easy to follow. There are several small streams and a few trees along the trail. The scenery is pretty, but not spectacular. This hike is good for people who want to get a taste of the forest without venturing too far off the beaten path. You are likely to see some wildlife, including deer, squirrels, and birds.

The trail has a few steep climbs and descents but is otherwise relatively flat. The terrain is mostly sandy and there are some roots and rocks to watch out for. It’s best to wear sturdy shoes or boots with good tread.

The St. Francis Trail is a great option for those looking for an easy to moderate hike in the Ocala National Forest. With its beautiful pine forests and wetlands, it’s a great way to spend a day in the outdoors.

Be cautious hiking here during general gun hunting season, usually Thanksgiving-New Years, as this area is a popular destination for hunters. Be sure to wear a blaze orange vest if you do.

Backpacking / primitive camping is not allowed during the general gun season in the fall.

Clearwater Lake Loop

One of the most popular trails in Ocala National Forest is the Clearwater Lake Loop. This Moderate trail is perfect for those who want to take in the sights and sounds of the forest, while getting a workout in. The loop takes you around Clearwater Lake, which is teeming with wildlife.

12 Breathtaking Ocala National Forest Hikes For A Perfect Outdoorsy Weekend! (2)

You’re likely to see alligators, turtles, fish, and a variety of birds. The trail also passes by some of the forest’s highlights, including Big Scrub Oak, Longleaf Pine, and Sand Pine scrub.

The Clearwater Lake Nature Trail is a 1.3-mile loop starting at the day-use area. It is an easy walk that traverses the major habitats around the lake, including pine flatwoods, freshwater marsh and oak scrub, providing interpretive information and numerous benches for birding or resting.

Bear Swamp Trail

This swampy, wetland area is home to alligators, otters, and wading birds. The Bear Swamp Trail is an easy to moderate and is a 1.5-mile hike that is perfect for all ages. Be sure to bring your bug spray as mosquitoes can be pesky here!

Also Read 17 Animals In Ocala National Forest, FL Seen on Our Hikes! (Photos and Trails Included)
12 Breathtaking Ocala National Forest Hikes For A Perfect Outdoorsy Weekend! (3)

The trail is fairly flat, so it’s great for all ages and abilities. You’ll start by crossing a bridge over the pond, then head into the woods to see giant cypress trees and wetland plants.

Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, like alligators sunning themselves on the banks of the pond or an otter swimming in the water. Further along, you’ll come across an old growth Bald Cypress tree before entering a grassy meadow.

Take some time to relax here and enjoy views of Bear Swamp Pond. As you return to the loop, look for wading birds such as herons, egrets, and ibises.

With any luck, you might even spot a bald eagle soaring overhead! When you come back to the bridge you crossed at the start of the trail, your journey through Bear Swamp is complete!

Juniper Springs Nature Trail

The Juniper Springs Nature Trail is an easy, 0.8-mile hike through the beautiful Juniper Springs Recreation Area in Ocala National Forest. This short nature trail provides a great introduction to the forest for first-time visitors and is also a perfect option for families with young children.

12 Breathtaking Ocala National Forest Hikes For A Perfect Outdoorsy Weekend! (4)

The trailhead is located just off of Highway 19, and the trail itself is well-marked and easy to follow.

Along the way, hikers will enjoy stunning views of the surrounding forest, as well as a variety of plant and animal life. The Juniper Springs Nature Trail is a great option for those looking for an easy hike with plenty of natural beauty.

The Juniper Springs Nature Trail is part of the Juniper Springs Recreation Area, which includes a variety of activities such as swimming, snorkeling, canoeing, kayaking and fishing. The recreation area also offers camping and picnicking opportunities for visitors.

Hikers should note that the trailhead is located near the swimming area, so they should take caution to avoid any moist or muddy areas while hiking.

There are also several picnic tables located along the trail for those who wish to take a break and enjoy their surroundings.

Lake Eaton Loop trail

The Lake Eaton Loop trail is a 2.2-mile loop trail located in the Ocala National Forest. The trailhead is located at the Lake Eaton Campground, and the trail can be accessed from both the north and south sides of the campground.

12 Breathtaking Ocala National Forest Hikes For A Perfect Outdoorsy Weekend! (5)

The trail is rated as moderate and features several elevation changes. There are also several benches along the trail that offer hikers a chance to rest and take in the scenery.

The Lake Eaton Loop trail offers stunning views of Lake Eaton, as well as a variety of wildlife including deer, squirrels, and birds. The trail is open year-round and is a great option for those looking for a challenging hike with plenty of rewards.

The Lake Eaton Loop trail is a great way to experience the beauty of the Ocala National Forest. Along the trail, hikers will encounter ancient live oak trees, lush green ferns, and a variety of wildflowers.

The trail also offers up close views of Lake Eaton, as well as several benches where hikers can take in the view. In addition to its natural beauty, the trail also offers visitors a chance to spot wildlife such as deer, woodpeckers, and hummingbirds.

Davenport Landing Trail

The Davenport Landing Trail is a 1.6-mile boardwalk and nature trail that leads through some of the most picturesque scenery in Ocala National Forest. The trailhead is located at the Davenport Landing Recreation Area, which is situated on the banks of Lake Apopka.

12 Breathtaking Ocala National Forest Hikes For A Perfect Outdoorsy Weekend! (6)

The Davenport Landing Trail takes hikers through a variety of different ecosystems, including cypress swamps, oak scrub, sandhills, and pine flatwoods.

Along the way, hikers will have the opportunity to see a variety of different wildlife, including alligators, turtles, snakes, birds, and deer. The trail also features several scenic overlooks of Lake Apopka.

Also Read 12 Best Campgrounds in Ocala National Forest, FL

The Davenport Landing Trail is an easy hike that is suitable for all ages and fitness levels. The trail is open year-round from sunrise to sunset.

Lake George Trail

Ocala National Forest is a beautiful place to explore and one of the best ways to do so is by hiking the Lake George Trail. This trail is 10 miles long and takes you through some of the most stunning scenery in the forest.

12 Breathtaking Ocala National Forest Hikes For A Perfect Outdoorsy Weekend! (7)

You’ll see plenty of wildlife, including alligators, turtles, and birds. The trail also has several highlights, such as a boardwalk through an alligator-filled swamp and a suspension bridge over a river.

This trail is great for all levels of hikers and can easily be done in a day. Be sure to bring plenty of water, snacks, and bug spray. Also, keep an eye out for any snakes or alligators – they may be hibernating, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Alexander Springs Loop

The Alexander Springs Loop, 12.4-mile loop trail, is a great hike for those looking to explore the Ocala National Forest. This loop takes you through some of the most beautiful scenery in the forest, including Alexander Springs, which is one of the highlights of the hike.

12 Breathtaking Ocala National Forest Hikes For A Perfect Outdoorsy Weekend! (8)

The trail is well-marked and easy to follow, making it a great choice for those new to hiking or looking for a relaxing stroll. Along the way, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see wildlife, including deer, squirrels, and birds.

The Alexander Springs Loop is a great way to get outside and enjoy all that the Ocala National Forest has to offer.

The loop can be started at either the Alexander Springs Recreation Area or Juniper Springs Recreation Area, and there is ample parking at both locations.

The trail winds through a mix of hardwood hammocks, pine flatwoods, and scrubby sandhills. As you make your way around the loop, you will pass by several large springs that offer plenty of opportunities for swimming and relaxing.

In addition to the springs, there are many scenic overlooks along the trail where you can take in beautiful views of the surrounding area.

For those looking for a longer adventure, you can also extend your hike by taking a detour to Salt Springs Recreation Area or Clearwater Lake.

Both areas offer an array of outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, fishing, and more. No matter how long you choose to stay out on the trail; this loop is sure to provide an unforgettable experience in Ocala National Forest.

Florida Trail: Alexander Springs to Juniper Springs

The Alexander Springs to Juniper Springs section of the trail is one of the most popular sections, due to its stunning scenery and abundance of wildlife.

12 Breathtaking Ocala National Forest Hikes For A Perfect Outdoorsy Weekend! (9)

This section of the trail is approximately 30 miles long and can be completed in 3-5 days. The trail is a 17.1-mile point-to-point trail.

One of the highlights of this section of the trail is Alexander Springs, which is one of the largest natural springs in Florida.

The spring produces crystal-clear water that stays a consistent 72 degrees year-round. Visitors can swim in the spring, relax on the beach, or take a canoe or kayak out onto the lake.

Another highlight of this section is Juniper Springs Recreation Area. This area features a number of different trails that wind through some of Florida’s oldest-growth forests.

There are also several camping sites available for those who want to spend more time in this beautiful setting.

Timucuan Trail

The Timucuan Trail is a 9-mile hike through Ocala National Forest that takes you through some of the most breathtaking scenery in the area.

12 Breathtaking Ocala National Forest Hikes For A Perfect Outdoorsy Weekend! (10)

Along the way, you’ll see plenty of wildlife, including alligators, turtles, and birds. You’ll also find several highlights, such as Big Tree Trailhead and the Ocklawaha River.

Also Read 12 Best Campgrounds in Ocala National Forest, FL

Yearling Trail

Ocala National Forest is a beautiful place to hike, with plenty of wildlife and breathtaking scenery. The Yearling Trail is a great option for those looking for an easy to moderate hike with plenty of interest along the way.

12 Breathtaking Ocala National Forest Hikes For A Perfect Outdoorsy Weekend! (11)

This 5.3-mile trail takes you through some of the best parts of the forest, including sandhills, scrubland, and wetlands. You’re likely to see plenty of wildlife along the way, including deer, turtles, and alligators.

The Yearling Trail is a great option for those exploring Ocala National Forest at their own pace.

Paisley Woods Bicycle Trail

The Paisley Woods Bicycle Trail is a beautiful, easy-to-follow trail that winds through the woods and along the creeks in Ocala National Forest.

12 Breathtaking Ocala National Forest Hikes For A Perfect Outdoorsy Weekend! (12)

The highlight of this trail is the chance to see wildlife, including alligators, turtles, snakes, and birds. The trail is also a great place to take in the scenery of the forest and get some fresh air.

This trail is A day well spent in the woods for mountain bikers, at a 22-mile loop through the southeastern corner of the Ocala National Forest.

Wildlife in Ocala National Forest

There is no doubt that Ocala National Forest is one of the most beautiful places in Florida. With its many hiking trails, natural springs, and clear waters, it’s easy to see why this forest is such a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

But what really makes Ocala National Forest stand out is its wildlife.

Read More: 10 Animals We Saw While Camping in Ocala National Forest, FL

The forest is home to black bears, white-tailed deer, alligators, and even wild turkeys. And if you’re lucky, you might even spot a bald eagle or two.

Whether you’re hiking through the woods or paddling down one of the many rivers, you’re sure to see some amazing wildlife in Ocala National Forest.

Tips for Hiking in Ocala National Forest

  1. Stay Hydrated: The Florida heat can be intense, especially during the summer months. Always carry ample water and consider using a hydration bladder for longer hikes.
  2. Wear Appropriate Footwear: The terrain in Ocala National Forest can be diverse. Ensure you wear sturdy, comfortable hiking boots that provide ankle support and good grip.
  3. Check the Weather: Florida weather can be unpredictable, with sudden downpours. Always check the forecast before heading out and be prepared for changing conditions.
  4. Respect Wildlife: The forest is home to various wildlife, including bears and snakes. Maintain a safe distance, store food securely, and avoid feeding or approaching animals.
  5. Practice Leave No Trace Principles: Preserve the beauty of the forest by packing out all trash, staying on marked trails, and minimizing your impact on the environment.
  6. Be Bear Aware: When camping, use bear-resistant containers or hang your food, toiletries, and trash at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet away from any tree trunk.
  7. Stay on Marked Trails: The forest is vast, and it’s easy to get disoriented. Stick to marked trails, carry a map or GPS device, and inform someone of your hiking plans.
  8. Prepare for Insects: The forest can be buggy, especially in the wetter months. Wear insect repellent, and consider treating your clothing with permethrin.
  9. Start Early: To avoid the midday heat and to have ample time to enjoy your hike, it’s best to start your adventure early in the morning.
  10. Stay Updated on Park Alerts: Before your trip, check the Ocala National Forest website or local ranger station for any trail closures, burn bans, or other important alerts.

Conclusion

Ocala National Forest is an incredible destination for hikers, campers, and adventurers of all kinds. It’s packed full of wildlife and offers plenty of opportunities to explore the outdoors.

We hope our list of 12 breathtaking hikes has inspired you to plan your next outdoor getaway in Ocala National Forest. So grab your backpack and hit the trails! You won’t be disappointed by what you find there.

12 Breathtaking Ocala National Forest Hikes For A Perfect Outdoorsy Weekend! (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Duncan Muller

Last Updated:

Views: 5968

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (59 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Duncan Muller

Birthday: 1997-01-13

Address: Apt. 505 914 Phillip Crossroad, O'Konborough, NV 62411

Phone: +8555305800947

Job: Construction Agent

Hobby: Shopping, Table tennis, Snowboarding, Rafting, Motor sports, Homebrewing, Taxidermy

Introduction: My name is Duncan Muller, I am a enchanting, good, gentle, modern, tasty, nice, elegant person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.