Guide to Ocala National Forest, Florida

The magical natural fresh water springs or Ocala National Forest are a perfect way to spend a hot day in central Florida – great for a day trip north of Orlando! Ocala is the southernmost forest in the continental U.S., and has the largest sand pine scrub forest. Birders flock to the area to get a chance to see the Florida scrub jay and you have a chance to run into a Florida black bear!

Quick tips:

+Each of the many springs cost separate admission fee, even if you have America the Beautiful pass

+If you just want to photograph the springs, many allow entrance for a short period of time for free

+The springs stay a constant temperature of 72 degrees year round – may be chilly so make sure to come on a hot sunny day if you plan on swimming

+You can rent a canoe at the springs

+Cell reception can be spotty, be sure to have a handy map

+Keep your eyes peeled for sand hill cranes, we saw tons of them in the area

Where to go:

Alexander Springs, 49525 County Rd 445, Altoona, FL 32702

One of the most popular springs, for good reason! The hues of the spring are mesmerizing.

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The water felt warm, there was a perfect sandy beach, and a hiking trail. If I were to pick a spring to spend a day at, this would be it.

*Free 30 minute viewing

Silver Glen Springs, 5271 FL-19, Salt Springs, FL 32134

Another otherworldly body of water. There is no sand beach, but grass to lay on. The water was off limits on the day I visited due to a huge gator that was taking a dip. Can you spot it in the picture?

The camouflage is scary good.

*Free 30 minutes viewing

*Across the street is the Yearling Trail – the spot to see the Florida scrub jays. There are 5+ miles of trails and a connection the thousand mile Florida National Scenic Trail. The jays love to sit atop snags, dead trees, so be on the look out there –

but they can be found in the forest as well.

You aren’t limited to jays, you might just see a bald eagle as well.

This is an ideal spot to explore the forest.

Salt Springs, 13851 N Highway 19, Fort Mccoy Fl 32134, Salt Springs, FL 32134-9600

There is a slight salinity, hence the name! No beach, but plenty of grass and a concrete ledge.

*Free 30 minute viewing

*Visit the nearby Salt Spring Trail for a two mile hike. You’ll enjoy palms, Spanish moss, pockets of reindeer lichen, and a lake vista.

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Juniper Springs

I didn’t get a chance to visit this spring, so let me know how it is if you’ve been!

*Free 10 minutes viewing Monday – Thursday

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