San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park

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.

Getting Outdoors: Paynes Prairie

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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.

https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/paynes-prairie-preserve-state-park

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Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail

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Not only are there many indoor activities to keep you busy in Gainesville, but there are also many more activities outdoors to get you going and enjoying our beautiful North Central Florida.  Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail is one such area. This 16-mile long trail is actually built over an old rail trail that was first built in 1881.  You can catch glimpses of railroad history on the trail with concrete and whistle markers.  There is also an old concrete railway trestle still remaining at the LaChua Trail.  This was built to allow farmers to move their cattle in and out of the prairie with ease.

The Trail runs from Gainesville’s Boulware Springs, another historical site, to Hawthorne passing through Paynes Prairie and Lochloosa Wildlife Management area.  This trail is excellent for biking, hiking, running, rollerblading and even horseback riding as parts of the trail have a grassy equestrian trail running along side the Trail.  Most of the trail is shaded as it runs through natural forested areas.

You will enjoy scenic vistas, native plants, and wildlife spottings in addition to getting in your cardio.  The park is open from 8:00 am to sundown every day of the week and it is FREE to use giving you no excuses to get out there and have some fun.

The address is 3400 SE 15th Street, Gainesville, FL 32641

More Summertime Fun (Springs Fun)

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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.

http://www.authenticflorida.com/articles/where-to-go/our-15-favorite-freshwater-florida-springs/

 

Sweetwater Wetlands Preserve

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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.

https://www.sweetwaterwetlands.org

Finding Green Space in Gainesville

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Warmer weather is here! Spring is in full bloom and summer is approaching, which means more opportunities to spend some quality time outside. Strolling along city sidewalks and around town is nice, but having some greenery around is nice too! So if you live in the city and you’re wondering where to go for a game of frisbee golf, where you can have a picnic with friends, or enjoy a nice hike, a park may be nearer to you than you realize. Gainesville has over 20 green spaces to visit and enjoy the great outdoors.

Here are a few close to University of Florida-

Bivens Arm Nature Park

This natural gem is situated right smack dab in the middle of an urban jungle. Bivens Arm is Gainesville’s first nature park and it’s been around since the early eighties. This particular spot is more of a hiking trail of footpaths than an open expanse of grass, so put on your walking shoes and step out for a walk through the marshy vegetation. This park is open 9am to 5pm, so plan accordingly!

Loblolly Woods Nature Park and Albert “Ray” Massey Park

Loblolly Woods is a large wooded nature park surrounding Hogtown and Possum creeks. Loblolly Woods has a hiking trail, bike path, and beautiful scenery great for an afternoon walk. This area is serene, yet located very close to the University of Florida in the heart of Gainesville. Nearly attached to the Loblolly Woods Nature Park is Albert “Ray” Massey Park, which is more of a traditional city park space with a playground, tennis courts, basketball court, grassy space for games, and picnic tables.

Green Acres Nature Park

This little park is tucked away, with a not-so-obvious entrance on SW 38th street. Green Acres is a great place to go for a jog or take your dog for a walk while enjoying the lush green all around. The best part is it’s only a few miles from the University of Florida’s campus!

Silver Springs

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.

http://www.floridastateparks.org/silversprings/default.cfm

Hawthorne State Trail

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.

http://www.floridastateparks.org/gainesville-hawthorne/

For the animal lovers

Have you ever wanted to go on an African safari to hang out with exotic and wild animals, but you just don’t have the kind of money to travel thousands of miles to do so? Well, right here in Gainesville is the next best thing with the Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation. Located at 8528 E. County Road 225, Gainesville, FL, this conservation rescues exotic animals while also offering visitors the opportunity of a lifetime by offering tours and activities to interact with the animals. The animals that you will have the chance to see include, but are not limited to, African lions, pumas, lemurs, owls, cheetahs, bobcats, tigers, giraffes and tortoises. The conservation runs completely on donations, so to help these animals and to help their caretakers continue to be able to give them a place to live, donate today while getting to experience a one in a lifetime opportunity. Call today to schedule a tour and experience these beautiful animals.

http://carsonspringswildlife.org/index.html

Gainesville Ecotours

It is well known that Gainesville is full of nature and outdoor activities to take part in and help inform the public about the beauty and importance of the environment around us. Gainesville Ecotours allows you truly be enveloped by Gainesville’s nature by offering guided environmental hikes, wilderness hikes, and urban ecotour hikes in different locations around Gainesville and Northeast Florida. Tours are followed by cupcakes, lunch and/or beer/wine tastings, fitness hiking, nature photography workshops or events with families or for work. These tours are designed to help you exercise, find a moment of peace, and educate you about the variety of nature and wildlife in the area. As well as hikes, Gainesville Ecotours also holds the Gainesville Ecotours Family Nature Club, which aims to get children into nature with their families and learn more about the environment. Events will be held at different conservation areas every 3rd Thursday of the month where you can explore the area. To arrange a tour today or find out about upcoming events, check the website calendar or feel free to contact the Gainesville Ecotours founder, Terri Mashour.

http://www.gainesvilleecotours.com/