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Ocala National Forest – Florida

6 October, 2019

Ocala National Forest – Florida

Ocala National Forest, north of Orlando, might be inland from Florida’s coasts, but water is still very much part of the experience here. Streams and lakes abound in the forest, and several springs — including Juniper Springs and Alexander Springs Creek — make this vast area of pine forests, live oak groves, grasslands, and swamps one of the most popular national forests in the country. That’s all the more reason to enjoy it after the summer crowds depart; with the mild Florida temperatures, you can even enjoy straight through winter.

The 67-mile National Florida Scenic Trail bisects the park, but you can hike along plenty of shorter loops and offshoot trails, as well. You’ll find extensive mountain-biking opportunities, but the real draw here is the water. Canoe or kayak down the springs; the seven-mile Juniper Springs Run is ranked as one of the best runs in the nation. You can also cool off in the lakes and snorkel in the clear water.

You have multiple campgrounds to choose from. Juniper Springs Recreation and Campground, located inside the Ocala National Forest, has 78 campsites, plus hiking trails and a historic mill house. Campsites are $22 per night, reservable here. Each campsite is equipped with a picnic table, fire ring, grill, and lantern post. Campsites can accommodate motorhomes, trailers, and tents. Restrooms with hot showers are available.

Earl Hunter,

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