Juniper Prairie Wilderness

Area Status: Open

Protecting the heart of the Big Scrub, the 14,283-acre Juniper Prairie Wilderness is perhaps the best known of the four wilderness areas in the Ocala National Forest thanks to its frontage and prominent signage on SR 40 - the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway - and SR 19.

As a wilderness area, it remains roadless, untouchable by motorized vehicles or equipment. This special designation provides certain challenges in a flammable habitat such as the sand pine scrub for which our forest is famous, since firefighting options are limited. As a result, portions of the wilderness may seem denuded after a forest fire. But the scrub regenerates quickly, pushing up saw palmetto and young sand pines to provide shade and habitat for wildlife.

The wilderness contains a mosaic of habitats bound together by the flow of open prairies, many with ponds, across the landscape. By hiking, backpacking or paddling through the wilderness, you can enjoy the flora and fauna of pine flatwoods, hardwood swamps, shallow lakes, grassy prairies, sand pine scrub, oak scrub, sinkholes and sawgrass marsh.


  • Backpacking is one of the more popular ways to see the Juniper Prairie Wilderness.
  • A portion of the Florida Trail traverses the entire Juniper Prairie Wilderness between Juniper Springs and the Pat's Island Trailhead, with side trails to the historic Pat's Island settlement along the Yearling Trail (signposted) and to Juniper Run (unmarked).
  • Fans of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ book "The Yearling" know that Pat's Island, at the northeastern corner of the wilderness, was settled by the Long family around 1840. The historic settlement is where portions of the 1949 movie starring Gregory Peck was filmed and is accessible from the Yearling Trail across from Silver Glen Springs on SR 19.


  • Canoeing is a great way to see the variety of ecosystems and abundance of wildlife in the Juniper Prairie Wilderness. 
  • The canoe rental at Juniper Springs Recreation Area provides paddlers with the opportunity to explore the wilderness by water with a haul back to your starting point.
  • Visitors can bring their own canoe or kayak and put in at Juniper Springs for a launch fee. To self-shuttle, limited parking is available at the Juniper Wayside along SR 19 for take-out.


  • The prime overnight destination is Hidden Pond. This backcountry camping area has no amenities but is situated on a ridge between a spring-fed pond and a broad wet prairie, providing natural air-conditioning when a breeze sweeps across either watery landscape. When it's not general gun hunting season, you're welcome to pitch your tent anywhere under the stars. 

Nature Viewing

  • On a paddling trip down the seven-mile canoe run, you might glimpse alligators, wading birds, deer, snakes, raccoons, fox, and even wild boars.

At a Glance

Current Conditions: Expect full recreation sites during weekends. Have backup plans. Sites may close when capacity is reached.
Fees: No fee charged unless you park at Juniper Springs Recreation Area for access.
  • Motorized vehicles are not permitted.
  • Visitors must pack in their drinking water and pack out any waste.
  • Camp at least 200 feet from trails/roads and 100 feet from water sources.
  • Follow Leave No Trace Principles: Plan ahead and prepare; travel and camp on durable surfaces; dispose of waste properly; leave what you find; minimize campfire impacts; respect wildlife and be considerate of other visitors.
Checking in at a district office is a good idea, to inform someone of your travel plans and get the latest info on weather conditions. The staff can also inform you about any campfire ban in effect during times of high fire danger.
Closest Towns: Astor and Silver Springs

General Information


Parking to access the Juniper Prairie Wilderness is available at the following trailheads:

  • Pat's Island - access by footpath
  • Yearling Trail - access by footpath
  • Juniper Springs (fee) - access by footpath or water

General Notes:


  • Canoe rentals at Juniper Springs Recreation Area
  • Parking

Licenses and Passes


  • Boating in the National Forests in Florida is regulated by the state of Florida. Please visit our boating web page before you grab your personal floatation device and head out onto the water.  

Camping – Dispersed/Primitive Camping 

  • Many people enjoy this solitude and primitive experience, but knowing your limits, skills and abilities is a must. Following certain rules and regulations will help make your experience safer and ensure settings remain unspoiled.  


Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Dispersed Camping

Recreation areas with activity Dispersed Camping:

River and Stream Fishing

Recreation areas with activity River and Stream Fishing:

Day Hiking

Recreation areas with activity Day Hiking:


Recreation areas with activity Backpacking:

Viewing Wildlife

Recreation areas with activity Viewing Wildlife:

Viewing Plants

Recreation areas with activity Viewing Plants:

Viewing Scenery

Recreation areas with activity Viewing Scenery:

Boating - Non-Motorized

Recreation areas with activity Boating - Non-Motorized:

Related Information

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


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