Ocala National Forest


Area Status: Open

Beautiful blue spring with a wooden bridge in background.

Nestled between well-known theme parks and white, sandy beaches, the jewels of the Ocala National Forest attract visitors from around the world.

A travel destination in its own right, the Ocala features more than 600 lakes and rivers where visitors enjoy swimming, fishing, snorkeling, canoeing and boating.

From migratory birds and playful manatees to delicate freshwater springs and some of the world's rarest plants, the Ocala is a haven where people (and animals) escape to one of Florida's remaining wild places. Here, opportunities abound for all to bask in the wonders of Mother Nature 365 days a year.

 

At a Glance

Operational Hours: The general forest is open 24 hours a day. Day-use and developed recreation sites have specific hours. Please check each specific area's web page for more information.
Reservations: Please check each specific area's web page for information on reservations.
Usage: Heavy
Restrictions: Pets: Dogs are welcome in most areas, but must be leashed at all times. They are not allowed on the beach at swimming areas.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information

Activities

Mountain Biking

Mountain bikers can explore the Paisley Woods Bicycle Trail, a stretch of single-track from Alexander Springs to Clearwater Lake that winds through longleaf pine forests, palm-shaded hammocks and stretches of the Big Scrub.

Areas for Mountain Biking at Ocala National Forest

Road Cycling

Bicycles are a great way to get around developed recreation areas on the Ocala. The Paisley Woods Mountain Bike Trail, the only mountain bike trail on the Ocala, connects Clearwater Lake Recreation Area with Alexander Springs Recreation Area.

Campground Camping

Sleeping under the stars next to a sparkling lake or in a shady forest is a great way to reconnect with the outdoors. A relaxed evening in a tent or trailer prepares you for the coming work week.

Of Ocala's 14 developed campgrounds, only Salt Springs offers full hook-ups. However, several campgrounds have dump stations and shower facilities. Others offer limited amenities.

Areas for Campground Camping at Ocala National Forest

RV Camping

Recreational vehicles are welcome at our largest developed campgrounds, where partial and full hookups let you make the most of your vacation spot.

Areas for RV Camping at Ocala National Forest

Group Camping

Plan a family reunion or a social gathering at a beautiful group campground that offer a variety of amenities. Available by reservation only.

Areas for Group Camping at Ocala National Forest

Dispersed Camping

Many people enjoy the solitude and primitive experience of dispersed camping - camping away from developed campgrounds and other campers with few services or facilities. Additional skills are necessary for a successful trip. It is your responsibility to know your limits and abilities before you try this experience. Certain rules and regulations will make your experience safe and ensure settings remain scenic and unspoiled.

  1. Leave No Trace.
  2. Be Bear Aware. 
  3. Minimize Waste.
    1. Pack it in, pack it out. Dispose of all garbage in proper receptacles.
    2. Bury all human and pet waste at least 6 inches deep and at least 100 feet away from any water source.
  4. Camp Considerately.
    1. Dispersed camping is not allowed in the vicinity of developed recreation areas or less than 100 feet from streams and other water sources.
    2. Pick a previously used site. Plants, soil and wildlife are impacted by new campsites.
    3. Make your campsite less visible, so other visitors can experience a “wild” setting.
    4. Avoid camping in the middle of a clearing or meadow.
    5. Be aware of forest boundaries. Get permission before camping on private property.
  5. Control your Campfire.
    1. Do not camp in an area with campfire restrictions listed under Alerts & Notices and Forest Orders.
    2. Use existing fire rings, fire pans or mound fires to minimize scarring rocks, soil and plants.
    3. Gather and use down and dead firewood. Do not cut standing trees or limbs off standing trees.
    4. Burn all wood and coals down to ashes.
    5. Make sure campfires are dead out and cold to the touch before leaving. Douse them with water and stir with a shovel.
  6. Know the Rules.
    1. Generally, there is a 14-day per month stay limit on the National Forests in Florida. Establishing residency is against federal regulation.
    2. Groups of over 75 people must obtain a special use permit from the nearest district office.
    3. Pets are welcome in most areas but must be kept on a leash.
    4. Camping is allowed only in designated campsites during general gun season, as defined in Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission regulations for the Wildlife Management Areas.

Areas for Dispersed Camping at Ocala National Forest

Cabin Rentals

The Ocala offers two Civilian Conservation Corps cabins for rent. The Lake Dorr Cabin is nestled on the south end of Lake Dorr and can accommodate 10 people. The Sweetwater Cabin overlooks Sweetwater Spring, a freshwater spring that flows into Juniper Run, and can accomodate 12 people.

Areas for Cabin Rentals at Ocala National Forest

Lake and Pond Fishing

Bass fishing is a big deal in the Ocala National Forest, with two of Florida's top lakes for lunkers - Lake George and Lake Kerr - as well as dozens of smaller lakes to have to yourself in the early morning.

To get the latest and greatest information on where to fish and what to catch on the Ocala, download our extremely popular guide to Fishing Opportunities on the Ocala National Forest.

Freshwater fishing is governed by the regulations of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. A valid Florida Freshwater Fishing License is required to fish in the Ocala National Forest.

Areas for Lake and Pond Fishing at Ocala National Forest

River and Stream Fishing

Cast for bass in the free-flowing Ocklawaha, or try your luck from your kayak adrift down Alexander Run. With two major rivers and several large streams flowing through the Ocala National Forest, both bank fishing and fishing from your watercraft can be enjoyed on subtropical waterways.


Freshwater fishing is governed by the regulations of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. A valid Florida Freshwater Fishing License is required to fish in the Ocala National Forest.

Areas for River and Stream Fishing at Ocala National Forest

Day Hiking

With nearly a dozen day hiking destinations plus segments of the statewide Florida Trail awaiting exploration, the Ocala National Forest is a major draw for day hikers looking for a long walk in the woods.

Areas for Day Hiking at Ocala National Forest

Backpacking

The Ocala National Forest is Florida's top destination for backpacking, thanks to nearly 100 miles of the Florida Trail, our National Scenic Trail in Florida, entering the forest from three different directions. The St. Francis Trail offers an overnight backpacking experience on a loop trail.

Areas for Backpacking at Ocala National Forest

Horse Camping

The historic Doe Lake Recreation Area is a group camping area optimized for equestrian use. In addition to having easy access to equestrian trails, it has hitching posts and plenty of space for horse trailers.

Areas for Horse Camping at Ocala National Forest

Horse Riding

Equestrian opportunities in the Ocala National Forest include the Ocala 100 Mile Horse Trail, the LAM (Lake / Alachua / Marion) Trail - stretching from Doe Lake to Eureka - and trail riding with permitted outfitters.

Areas for Horse Riding at Ocala National Forest

Big Game Hunting

The Ocala National Forest is a wildlife management area where hunting and freshwater fishing are managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Please remember:

Hunt Camps

Hunt camps are available only during hunting season and require a special permit. 

Farles Lake Hunt Camp is the only hunt camp available. Clay Lake Hunt Camp and South Tower Hunt Camp are currently closed.

Areas for Big Game Hunting at Ocala National Forest

Viewing Wildlife

Immerse yourself in nature inside the Ocala National Forest. Visit in the early morning, as mists rise off the ponds and lakes, to hear a symphony of birds stirring to sunrise. Explore the longleaf pine islands and scrub ridges for unusual plants. Sit silently in your car along a back road to watch mama bear and cubs lumber across the sand. The Ocala is a landscape of living wonders.

Wildlife watching in the Ocala National Forest is a delight, especially for birders. With the state's largest populations of Florida black bears and Florida scrub-jays as well as red-cockaded woodpeckers, Sherman's fox squirrel, and the Florida sand skink, our vast acreage provides a home for species that have otherwise lost massive swaths of habitat throughout the state of Florida.

Areas for Viewing Wildlife at Ocala National Forest

Viewing Plants

Immerse yourself in nature inside the Ocala National Forest. Visit in the early morning, as mists rise off the ponds and lakes, to hear a symphony of birds stirring to sunrise. Explore the longleaf pine islands and scrub ridges for unusual plants. Sit silently in your car along a back road to watch mama bear and cubs lumber across the sand. The Ocala is a landscape of living wonders.

The home of the world's largest contiguous scrub forest, the Ocala National Forest is notable in its botanical diversity. Atop the Ancient Island Ridge in the middle of the forest, endemic species of mints and lichens thrive on ancient dunes. The cool microclimate of Mormon Branch enables endangered plants like the yellow star-anise and Florida willow to survive.

Areas for Viewing Plants at Ocala National Forest

Viewing Scenery

Immerse yourself in nature inside the Ocala National Forest. Visit in the early morning, as mists rise off the ponds and lakes, to hear a symphony of birds stirring to sunrise. Explore the longleaf pine islands and scrub ridges for unusual plants. Sit silently in your car along a back road to watch mama bear and cubs lumber across the sand. The Ocala is a landscape of living wonders.

Scenic views in the Ocala National Forest? Experience them along our scenic roads. One of the best and more offbeat paved experiences is a drive up FR 11 (historically known as 88) between SR 314 and SR 40.

Slicing horizontally through the forest, SR 40 is designated the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway with good reason. Bears are particularly active at dawn and dusk in the heart of the Big Scrub between Mill Dam and Astor.

Areas for Viewing Scenery at Ocala National Forest

OHV Camping

With nearly 200 miles of ATV / motorcycle trails and another 81 miles of off-road trails for Jeeps and other 4WD vehicles, the Ocala National Forest is Florida's top destination for off-roading.

Click on OHV Passes –to be redirected to Recreation.gov to purchase OHV Passes on-line. Access OHV passes, rules and regulations. Read about important safety recommendations and link to OHV training.

Several campgrounds in the forest cater to OHV enthusiasts, including Big Scrub and Lake Delancy West. These campgrounds offer ample space for loading and unloading plus corrals for vehicles when not in use.

Areas for OHV Camping at Ocala National Forest

OHV Road Riding

With nearly 200 miles of ATV / motorcycle trails and another 81 miles of off-road trails for Jeeps and other 4WD vehicles, the Ocala National Forest is Florida's top destination for off-roading.

Click on OHV Passes –to be redirected to Recreation.gov to purchase OHV Passes on-line. Access OHV passes, rules and regulations. Read about important safety recommendations and link to OHV training.

The Tread Lightly! Four Wheel Drive Way is an 81 mile system of Forest Service roads available for licensed off-road vehicles only.

The purpose of this trail is to prevent resource damage, to encourage study and enjoyment of nature, highlight the importance of conservation, provide scenic and visual enjoyment, and instill appreciation of the nation's history, cultural resources and traditional values.

OHV Trail Riding

With nearly 200 miles of ATV / motorcycle trails and another 81 miles of off-road trails for Jeeps and other 4WD vehicles, the Ocala National Forest is Florida's top destination for off-roading.

Click on OHV Passes –to be redirected to Recreation.gov to purchase OHV Passes on-line. Access OHV passes, rules and regulations. Read about important safety recommendations and link to OHV training.

The Ocala National Forest offers a variety of riding opportunities for Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) enthusiasts. Trails are designed for slow speeds for riders to view and appreciate scenery and wildlife as well as to highlight the importance of conservation, forest management and history. 

Areas for OHV Trail Riding at Ocala National Forest

Target Shooting

Fee-free and available for public use when classes are not in session, the Ocala Shooting Range is an unsupervised target shooting area located north of SR 40 and east of Mill Dam. Backboards are provided, but shooters should bring their own targets and tacks or staples, and those using the shotgun range should bring their own targets.

Areas for Target Shooting at Ocala National Forest

Interpretive Areas

Interpretive areas provide an understanding of our forest's flora and fauna as well as the layers of human history found here, from the earliest prehistoric settlements to settlers whose lands were purchased to form the Ocala National Forest.

Areas for Interpretive Areas at Ocala National Forest

Visitor Centers

Visitor programs are an important part of the educational outreach provided by the Ocala National Forest. Programs are typically arranged and announced in advance, and may include topics like the biology of the Florida black bear, campfire safety or understanding our springs.

Check the News Releases portion of our website for the latest about our visitor programs.

Picnicking

Whether it's a stop at a wayside park or an afternoon at a recreation area, the Ocala National Forest offers dozens of picnic spots for a family meal.

Areas for Picnicking at Ocala National Forest

Group Picnicking

Whether it's a stop at a wayside park or an afternoon at a recreation area, the Ocala National Forest offers dozens of picnic spots for a family meal.

Picnic shelters large enough for group functions are available at many of our recreation areas and at our group campsites. In general, these must be reserved in advance.

Areas for Group Picnicking at Ocala National Forest

Scenic Driving

With hundreds of miles of beautiful forest roads - and nearly 100 miles of paved roads slicing through dense forests - the Ocala National Forest is an excellent destination to enjoy a scenic drive. We're home to the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway, a National Scenic Highway that showcases the heart of the Big Scrub.

Areas for Scenic Driving at Ocala National Forest

Boating - Motorized

Thanks to our renowned waterways - the St. Johns River and the Ocklawaha River - and our many, many lakes, recreational boating is a popular activity in the Ocala National Forest.

Motorized boating includes the use of outboard motors, trolling motors and jetskis. Please keep your safety and that of those around you first and foremost by practicing safe boating.

Areas for Boating - Motorized at Ocala National Forest

Boating - Non-Motorized

CANOE WATER
The three National Forests in Florida contain more than 700 lakes and ponds and four major rivers. The numerous streams, however, offer the most challenge to canoeists.

There is no whitewater such as you will find in the mountains, but a variety of streams await your visit. Each stream has its own characteristics that make it unlike any other. Some, like Alexander Spring Creek, begin broad with slow moving water and then become narrow and deep downstream. Others, like Juniper Creek, start scarcely wider than the canoe and end up more than a hundred feet wide.

You can usually cover about 2.5 miles per hour in open streams, assuming you periodically stop to enjoy the scenery. In streams with obstructing logs you will move at about 1.5 miles per hour.

The streams are kept in their natural condition. You won't find roads running parallel alongside the stream. You may have to duck under low-hanging branches or lift the canoe over partly submerged logs. The streams are left in these primitive conditions to provide a challenge and a sense of achievement, and to let visitors experience the quiet beauty of the unspoiled environment.

Be considerate of those who will canoe after you. Carry out all your trash so the stream will look natural. Please leave flowers, cypress knees and shrubs for others to enjoy.

SAFETY
The careful canoeist faces little danger in Florida streams, which lack the whitewaters of mountain rivers. However, canoes might turn over, usually after striking an underwater log or rock. Sometimes canoes capsize when people trade places and violate the rule that only one person should move at a time.

Don't panic if you suddenly find yourself in the water. Usually you can touch bottom. Hang on to the canoe, which will float. Guide it to a shallow spot and empty it by rolling it over on the bank. Equipment such as cameras, camping gear or lunches can be kept dry and safe if placed in plastic bags tied to a thwart.

State law requires a Coast Guard-approved flotation device for everyone. Snakes may be seen resting on limbs. Most are nonpoisonous; all will leave you alone if you don't bother them. Alligators won't bother you in a canoe as long as you keep at least 10 feet away. Don't permit your dog to swim in creeks or ponds or it may become a meal for a 'gator.

Perhaps the greatest danger is from sunburn. A large hat, long sleeves or suntan lotion help prevent overexposure.

Areas for Boating - Non-Motorized at Ocala National Forest

Scuba Diving

Scuba diving is available for certified divers at Alexander Springs Recreation Area - open water diving only.

Areas for Scuba Diving at Ocala National Forest

Swimming

Magnificent springs form the basis for swimming holes in the Ocala National Forest, the water a constant temperature year-round and crystal-clear, excellent for snorkeling to see fish and other freshwater marine life.

Areas for Swimming at Ocala National Forest

Waterskiing

Waterskiing is a popular activity on Central Florida's lakes, including several in the Ocala National Forest. Skiers should observe all safety rules and be aware that any and all lakes and rivers in Florida are home to alligators.

Areas for Waterskiing at Ocala National Forest

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities

Location

 
  Latitude : 
29.182107

  Longitude : 
-81.712297