With the arrival of fall what better time to get outdoors and explore all that North Central Florida has to offer. Today we delve into San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park. This park offers one of the largest mature hardwood forests in Florida. With over 7000 acres there is so much to see and do that you probably cannot accomplish it all in one day.
The park offers a variety of activities for outdoor enthusiasts such as hiking, biking, horseback riding and nature viewing. There are over 30 miles of single track trails for your enjoyment. The southern 2/3 of the preserve is designated just for hiking so that you can enjoy the serenity of the forest as well as listen to the sounds of nature, while the northern 1/3 is set aside for more vigorous activities such as biking, horseback riding as well as hiking. The park offers some of the area’s best off-road biking courses and many love to take advantage of this fun activity.
If you are in to wildlife viewing then this preserve has you covered. Some of the wildlife you are liable to see here are wild pigs, bobcats, white-tailed deer, gray foxes, wild turkey as well as a multitude of songbirds. Right now is migratory season for many song birds, which means you may encounter even more species of birds as they take respite in the sanctuary of the forest.
The park is open every day of the week from 8:00 am until Sunset. You are encouraged to take water as there isn’t a natural source for drinkable water, as well as bug spray and sunscreen. The trailhead for the northern edge of the park for hiking is located four miles northwest of Gainesville on State Road 232 at 11101 Millhopper Road, Gainesville FL 32653. The northern trails can be found at 13201 Progress Park in Alachua Fl 32615. The cost is $4 per vehicle or $2 per pedestrian.
With the weather getting nice outdoors we thought we would give you an idea of something spectacular to get out and see in our area. Paynes Prairie is a treasure right here in our backyard, which is also Florida’s first state preserve.
Paynes Prairie is teeming with wildlife and visitors will see some type of wildlife while they are there. There are wild bison and horses throughout the park, as well as hundreds of species of native and migrating birds, alligators (lots of alligators), deer, bobcats, rabbits, and other animals.
The park’s eight trails, including the 16-mile paved Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail, allows one to explore the park’s interior and observe wildlife, while a 50-foot high observation tower provides for panoramic views.
The Seminole Indians once occupied a village along this vast savannah due to the diversity of land. And, the prairie has some beautiful vistas. You and your family will really enjoy getting out there and exploring. Due to the abundance of wildlife at the park, pets are not permitted in many locations.
Are you looking for another outdoor activity to get out and enjoy our beautiful North Central Florida area? Head on over to O’Leno State Park. O’Leno is one of Florida’s first state parks and was developed in the 1930s.
The park is situated along the banks of the Santa Fe River and features sinkholes, hardwood forests, swamps, and sandhills. The river actually disappears into a sinkhole and travels underground for more than 3 miles before reemerging at River Rise Preserve State Park.
Visitors can experience hiking along the river and through the forest or biking along paved trails. You can also swim, fish, or paddle a canoe along the river. This is a great place to visit if you are into birding or seeing wildlife. There are picnic tables to enjoy a picnic with friends and family. There is also a full-facility campground for staying overnight. You will find plenty to do here so why not check it out?
Another fantastic summer time treat is visiting one of our natural springs to enjoy the beautiful landscape and cool down at the same time. Florida is home to more than 700 springs and you can find several right here in our own back yard. 8 billion gallons of water flow from the Florida Aquifer every day into these springs and they emerge at a cool 72 degree temperature.
Here in North Central Florida you are just a short drive away from Gilchrist Blue Springs and Ginnie Springs in High Springs, Ichetucknee Springs in Fort White, Madison Blue Springs in Madison, and Silver Glen Springs in the Ocala National Forest. There are many more not listed here. One of our favorite activities is to try and visit them all. Here is a great article from Authentic Florida with many more details.
Do you know that we have so many great parks in and around Gainesville? The Sweetwater Wetlands Preserve is one that you have to check out if you have not already done so.
The Wetlands Preserve was developed to help filtrate the water for Gainesville. In doing so they have created a beautiful 125 acres of ponds and wetlands. You will discover so much wildlife here too. From wild horses, deer, bobcats, alligators, and tons of various bird species.
There is 3.5 miles of walking trails where you will see all of the beauty that nature has to offer. This is a great family outing as kids love to see the animals too, but it is also great for everyone. You can get up and go for a sunrise walk, or wait until sunset to see the animals that like to come out and become active in the evening. They host various activities you can check out too such as park ranger led tours, birding tours, etc.
The cost to go to the park is only $5 per carload. They are open 7:00am to sunset, but check the website for hours before you go just to be sure.
Have you ever been down into a sinkhole? You will want to put this on your list of things to do in Gainesville. Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park is a natural sinkhole, which has been around since about 1880. It dives down some 120 feet to a miniature rainforest environment. Rainwater and streams trickle through the limestone formation creating water falls and sometimes filling the bottom up with a small lake.
The park has been closed since 2017 with destruction left behind with Hurricane Irma. New boardwalks and stairs are being installed and the project is nearing completion. The park is planning on reopening this summer. Many locals go here for exercise by running up and down the man flights of stairs. This truly is a natural wonder and something everyone should see.
4732 Millhopper Rd
For a perfect day of fun in the sun, take a drive up to Gilchrist County where you can find Blue Springs Park, located at 7450 NE 60th Street High Springs, Florida. The springs are a cool 72 degrees all year round and the Blue Springs is open 7 days a week from 9 am to 7 pm. Swimming and camping are available at the springs as well as renting canoes, kayaks and tubes that you can enjoy in the main spring as well as some of the smaller ones like the Naked Springs, the Johnson Springs, and the Kiefer Springs. Other amenities include volleyball courts, picnic tables, grills, and fishing. Hiking trails go all around the park and offers you beautiful scenery. Visit this peaceful haven soon for some much-needed fun.
For a day of fun in the sun, while learning about the beautiful state of Florida, one place you should be sure to check out is Silver Springs. The park can be accessed from two entrances, 1425 N.E. 58th Avenue, Ocala, Florida or 5656 E. Silver Springs Blvd. Silver Springs, Florida. Being the oldest tourist attraction in Florida, the park has a lot of historical information to offer and a museum where you can learn about wildlife and vegetation. There is a riverside restaurant for you to get your grub on, kayak and canoe rentals, and their famous glass bottom boat rides. The park even holds special events and concerts. Open everyday, all year-round, be sure to check out their website to find out what day you want to get on over to get a taste of Florida’s history.
Whether you want to take your bike and go cycling, you want to go for a long, enduring jog, or you even want to go for a relaxing hike, the Gainesville- Hawthorne State trial is a scenic trail that will give you the beautiful sites and fresh air that we all need every once in a while. Located at 3400 SE 15 Street, the trail can be accessed through four different entrances, so you can look up the website to see which entrance is closest to you. The trail goes on for 16 miles, from Gainesville’s Boulware Springs Park through Payne’s Prairie State Park. You can enjoy the day getting exercise by yourself, or even hiking with friends while taking pictures of the beautiful, lush scenery. Hours vary according to month, but the trail is open 365 days a year, so check out the website to find out when you will be going on your walk in nature.