Special Places

Highlighted Areas

Ocean Pond Campground

Ocean Pond Campground's two-mile wide lake with its shallow, sandy beach provides an escape from everyday life for more than 100,000 visitors each year. The site is located approximately one hour from the First Coast Atlantic beaches and a short half-hour to multiple state parks, local springs and caves. 

This area is a favorite for boaters and water-skiers, as well as anglers and hikers. Facilities includes restrooms, fire rings and picnic tables. A public boat launch and a 67-site campground attracts visitors from near and far.

The early bird gets the worm! Come early for lakeshore camping. Nineteen sites have electric and water hook-ups, 28 have water hook ups and 20 sites are primitive. Water and electric are paved spurs with a 50-foot capacity. Each site has a lantern post, picnic table, fire ring and convenient access to bathrooms and hot showers. If you are interested in day-use activities, the Olustee Beach has full bathrooms with showers, beach, boat launch, fishing pier, trails and picnic areas. The Great Florida Birding Trail and the Florida National Scenic Trail pass through the campground. Motor boats and trailers can be kept in the boat trailer parking across from the boat ramp.

Ocean Pond is just four miles away from the Olustee Battlefield State Park, site of Florida's largest Civil War battle, which took place in 1864. The Olustee Battle Festival is held annually in Lake City. The Battle Re-enactment is held annually at the Olustee Battlefield State Park.

Nice Wander Trail

Nice Wander Trail boardwalk




An excellent place to see red-cockaded woodpeckers in and around their nests, the Nice Wander Trail is an accessible-with-assistance series of loops in the Florida Trail at the Olustee Trailhead. The loops range up to 1.6 miles in length. The trail is easy to follow and gentle on the feet as it immerses you in the heart of an ancient stand of longleaf pines.

Olustee Depot Visitor Center

The Olustee Depot is a small building with a big history. It served as both a passenger and freight station, and played a significant role in the development of north Florida. This part of Florida has always had a rural economy based on agriculture and timber. Prior to the railroad, transporting these products was difficult and time consuming. Mule-drawn wagons were used to carry goods to waterways, where the goods could be shipped to their final destination.

But, in 1860, the railroad line from Jacksonville to Alligator (later renamed Lake City) was completed and provided the people of Olustee with a new mode of transportation, a faster way to ship supplies, and a link to the outside world. It was this platform that felt the pounding of Confederate soldier's boots as they arrived and prepared for battle in 1864.

After the Civil War and by the 1880s, industries such as timber, cattle, citrus, winter vegetables and tourism were booming. For rural north Florida, the major commodities were timber and turpentine. Sawmills and turpentine stills were big business in the Olustee area and continued for many generations. From the 1880s to 1949, Florida produced as much as 20% of the world's supply of turpentine. These products were shipped from the depot.

The Freight Room was built in 1888, with the Station Master's Room and the Waiting Rooms added in the 1920s.

Until the 1960s the Olustee depot served as the hub of this community with trains stopping daily to deliver mail, export supplies and bring people to and from Olustee. In 1965, it was moved to a cow pasture in nearby Lake City. The Osceola National Forest acquired the depot in 1995 with assistance from federal, state and local partners, and moved it back to Olustee. Over the next five years, the depot was restored and converted into an interpretive/information center. The local community celebrated its grand opening in October 2000.

The interpretive displays explain the important roles the railroad and the timber industries played in the development of north Florida Hands-on panels, a talking telephone and antique timber and railroad tools give you the feeling of stepping back to the early 1900s. Videos let you experience life in a 1930s Civilian Conservation Corp camp, and the relocation of the depot from Lake City back to Olustee As you walk across the thick, heart-pine floor of the Freight Room, notice the grooves made from years of rolling turpentine barrels on and off the train If you look carefully, you can even read historic "graffiti" on the Freight Room walls!

Visitor hosts are there to answer questions about the depot and provide recreation information about the Osceola National Forest. Come experience the Olustee Depot and take a piece of north Florida history home with you.


Big Gum Swamp Wilderness

The 13,600-acre Big Gum Swamp Wilderness was designated by Congress in 1984. This large, nearly level area consists primarily of a poorly drained to very poorly drained freshwater swamp of cypress and gum. The surface is a thick, spongy mat of organic material, sluggishly cut by a few shallow sloughs. Longleaf and slash pine flatwoods with a dense understory of saw palmetto, gallberry, and bay form the perimeter of the swamp. Loggers made off with most of the original timber between 1915 and 1920, and earthen railroad trams, some of which are still visible, penetrated the interior. Over time, all signs of human intrusion into the swamp have greatly subsided. However, you might find remnants of naval stores or “turpentining” operations that began in the area in the late 1800s and early 1900s. A designated hiking trail makes a loop through the drier pine flatwoods of the perimeter on the west-northwestern side.

Boggy terrain, dense vegetation, insects, and warm, humid conditions make travel here extremely challenging - exacerbated by the fact that the trails are not maintained (your best bet is to follow one of the many old logging roads). Deer hunters are the most common visitors. On the northwest side, an old road tunnels through a stand of massive live oaks that tower overhead.

West Tower Equestrian Trails

West Tower is located approximately 6 miles from State Road 441 in Lake City.  Four interconnected loops traverse over 50 miles of trails through the scenic Osceola National Forest. These trails originate at West Tower where there is a camping area with horse stalls, drinking water, and a flush toilet.

The Green Trail (pdf)is approximately five miles long and is the shortest trail. It is mostly on main roads and is great for the novice.

The Red Trail (pdf) passes through pine flatwoods and cypress sloughs, and is approximately 20 miles long. This is the driest of the trails and is recommended during the wet season. For a shorter ride, take the cutoff in the middle of the trail and save 10 miles.

The Blue Trail (pdf) traverses an old railroad grade across pine flatwoods and cypress swamps. This 20 mile trail meanders along the western boundary of Big Gum Swamp Wilderness.

The Gold Trail passes through two bay swamps and is approximately 16 miles long. It crosses Robinson Branch which can be deep during wet periods. The trail is not recommended for the novice rider during such times.

All trail loops start and finish at the trailhead where parking and horse stalls are available. A bulletin board with additional information is located at West Tower.

  • A portion of the horse trail is located on maintained forest roads, so watch for vehicles.
  • Be aware that high water levels in some creeks can make for dangerous crossings.
  • Bring insect repellent along.
  • During hunting season (mid-September through mid-January) riders are advised to wear large amounts of blaze orange for personal safety.
  • Trails are marked with color-coded, diamond-shaped aluminum markers (•) on trees and posts along the routes.
  • Double diamonds (••) indicate a turn along the route. They are marked with arrows on the side of the trail indicating the direction of the turn.

Watertown Lake

Watertown Lake sits along the western border of the Osceola National Forest at Lake City and is a popular place for fishing, as it has both a boat ramp and pier. Fishing is overseen by FWC.

Florida National Scenic Trail

Hiker on the Florida Trail




A 23-mile portion of the statewide Florida National Scenic Trail works its way through the pine forests, scrub, prairies, and swamps of the Osceola National Forest to provide both day hikers and backpackers a varied hiking experience. Several locations along the trail are open to overnight camping, including the Osceola Shelter, one of very few shelters along the Florida Trail. Highlights of the hike include pitcher plant bogs near Turkey Run, the historic Olustee Battlefield, and a variety of boardwalks working their way through sweetgum and cypress swamps.

The FNST has three official trailheads on the Osceola, in order from south to north:


View larger map

Olustee Beach

Come join the fun! Swim along a shallow sandy beach and watch the water birds wade through the cypress. Water ski along the glassy lake or watch the white caps roll in on windy days. You may also enjoy fishing on the pier, picnicking under the hammock, or walk the Trampled Track Trail, which tells the story of Osceola's turpentining history. There are bathrooms and hot showers, picnic tables, grills, drinking water and a group picnic shelter. The sandy beach at Ocean Pond offers a chance to cool off from those hot summer days. Anglers are sure to like the barrier-free pier at the boat launch and parking area. Kayakers can paddle along the cypress that line the perimeter of the lake. Many enjoy the serene atmosphere of this beautiful lake.