Juniper Prairie Wilderness

Area Status: Open
This area is 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.

Otter on the rim of a prairie pond Hidden Pond Juniper Prairie Wilderness is a mosaic of ponds, prairie, and hammocks Otter swimming in prairie pond Camping near Hidden Pond

At a Glance

Current Conditions: Forest fires swept across the wilderness area, clearing out tall sand pines and leaving a minimum of shade.
Rentals & Guides: Canoe rentals are available at Juniper Springs.
Area Amenities: Interpretive Site,Tent camping,Fee charged for some activities,Drinking water,Parking
Fees No fee charged unless you park at Juniper Springs Recreation Area for access.

Additional access points include the Pat's Island Trailhead (area is unavailable) on FR 46, as well as other roadside parking.
Permit Info: No backpacking permits are required.
  • 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: pack it in, pack it out; do not disturb wildlife; leave what you find; camp and travel on durable surfaces; minimize use and impact of campfires; and be sure to let someone know where you’re going.
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 (12 miles) and Silver Springs (22 miles)
Water: Non-potable from streams and ponds
Restroom: At Juniper Springs Recreation Area
Information Center: Download a map of the Juniper Springs Canoe Run (PDF)
Download a map of the Yearling Trail (PDF)

General Information


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

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


From Astor: From the bridge over the St. Johns River in Astor, take FL40 west for 12 miles. Juniper Springs Recreation Area will be on your right.

From Silver Springs: At the intersection of Silver Springs Boulevard (FL40) and 58th Ave (FL35), drive east for on FL40 for 22 miles. Juniper Springs Recreation Area will be on your left.

Topo Maps

Download free U.S. Forest Service Topo maps.

Buy maps online

Go to the National Forest Store.

Go to for online maps and other important Wilderness information.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information



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Water Activities

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Interpretive Site Pat's Island
Tent camping Along the Florida Trail
Fee charged for some activities Canoe run
Parking At trailheads
Drinking water Non-potable water