Venture 90 minutes north of Orlando and you’ll find Ocala National Forest, the second largest nationally protected forest in the state of Florida. Many are amazed that this serene, virtually untouched woodland is so close to one of Florida’s busiest cities.
A short break into the wilderness can add a completely different hint of adventure to your trip, so swap the rollercoasters for real life thrills and make sure you don’t forget to bring some provisions! A trip to Ocala National Forest is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of Florida’s crowded hot spots.
There are plenty of fun-filled activities to enjoy, whether you’re visiting for the day or camping overnight. With over 600 square miles to explore, both kids and adults will love the chance to get closer to nature.
Visit Juniper Springs
A must for every visitor, Juniper Springs is one of the most popular springs on the East Coast. The bubbling waters have a delightfully warm temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit all year round, making it the perfect place for a spot of snorkelling and swimming.
Catch a glimpse of a turtle, relax with a delicious picnic and join a hike to see what wildlife you can find during your stay.
Camp under the stars
There are plenty of places to camp in the forest, with the Juniper Springs recreation area being one of the most popular. Big Scrub and Hopkins Prairie campground are two other favourites among visitors, but there are plenty of places to set up camp in Ocala National Forest.
Visitors can stay for up to 14 days and there are various facilities available – it all depends on where you stay. Restrooms and hot showers can be found in certain campgrounds, but you can still have an authentic camping experience and go without if you prefer.
Experience horseback riding
Explore the forest on a guided horseback tour. Cross the LAM route with your horse, take the 100-mile trial through the Flatwoods, Prairie trial and Baptist lake trial or enjoy a short ride in the Shanty Pond Campground.
For the adventurous, some trials even provide to opportunity to cross a river and swim with the horses.
Explore your surroundings on a hike
Steeped in nature, there’s plenty to see during a hike around Ocala National Forest. Of course, there’s no way you can cover the entire forest – it’s huge after all! We do recommend sticking to designated trials, so here are a few of the most popular to help you plan your trip.
Juniper Springs, Alexander Springs and Salt Springs are all great spots to visit if you want to embark on a hike. The Juniper Springs nature trial is only a mile in total, there and back, and you’ll be able to spot many creatures on the way. Salt Springs observation trial is a little longer, but you’ll get beautiful views of the water when you reach the observation platform. The Davenport Landing trial is worth a visit too; it leads to a 19th century steamboat port.
Particular spots around the forest are fantastic for fishing. A great activity to do with family, head to Lake George, Lake Kerr or Ocklawaha River to catch bass. There are dozens of smaller ponds dotted around the forest too, ideal for teaching youngsters the basics.
A visit to Ocala National Forest will always be remembered, and it’s a great alternative activity to enjoy during a holiday to the United States. Full of adventure, nature and excitement, experience a side of Florida you’ve never seen before in this beautiful forest.