Water plays an important part in a variety of recreational opportunities on the forest. There are huge springs, twisting streams and lakes for fishing and water skiing. Many of the scenic lakes were formed when limestone bedrock dissolved, permitting the surface layer to slump and fill with water. The cool crystal-clear water of Juniper Springs, Alexander Springs, Salt Springs and Silver Glen Springs entice many visitors to take a cool dip. Snorkelers frequently find a thrilling underwater view of fish, swaying vegetation and cavernous springs. No wonder the Ocala National Forest is one of the most heavily used National Forests in the United States. Some recreational activities require a pass or permit. Please see Passes & Permits for more information.
Be Bear Aware! You are in Bear Country.
- Bears are naturally shy of people. If you see a bear, enjoy it from a safe distance.
- Keeps dogs and children close to you. Loose dogs may agitate bears.
- NEVER approach a bear!
- Make noise so the bear knows you are there.
- If a bear approaches, DO NOT RUN. Back away SLOWLY.
Alligators are present in this forest. They are an important part of Florida’s ecology and may be found wherever there is a body of water. They have a natural fear of man, but may lose that fear by being around people especially if they are fed. When this happens alligators can be dangerous. For this reason alligators should not be fed or molested in any way.
Cabins | Developed Campgrounds | Primitive/Dispersed Camping | Group Campgrounds
Camping can be enjoyed during all seasons on the Ocala. Visitors are welcome to stay as long as fourteen days in most campgrounds and even longer in other campgrounds, depending on the season. The majority of camping is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Salt Springs, Juniper Springs, Alexander Springs and Clearwater Lake now take reservations through ReserveUSA, in addition to a first-come, first-serve basis. You may make reservations online or by telephone, toll free: 877 444-6777. All of the group campgrounds and cabins are by reservation only.
Camping can be divided into three classes based on the type of facilities offered and fees charged; developed campgrounds, primitive campsites and dispersed tent camping. Developed campgrounds provide a variety of amenities including; showers, restrooms, picnic tables, charcoal grills, fire rings, lantern holders, drinking water, sanitation facilities and trash receptacles. Primitive campsites provide very few if any of these amenities. Dispersed tent camping is for the adventurous that prefer no facilities at all and is permitted throughout the general forest area.
Fees at developed areas range from $4.00 to $20.00, while primitive and dispersed camping is free. Camping permits and discount passports for senior and disabled U.S. citizens are available. Please see Passes & Permits for more information.
Be Bear Aware!
Never feed a bear! Bears that are fed by humans, either on purpose or by accident, learn to associate people with food and lose their natural fear of humans. Bears that show no fear of humans may be dangerous and may have to be destroyed.
Please take care not to accidentally feed bears:
- Store all food in tightly sealed containers. Do not leave food in your tent.
- Clean cookware and grills immediately after meals.
- Do not leave garbage out.
- If garbage cans are full, notify an attendant immediately; do not leave garbage next to the trash bins.
Please, do not let your carelessness lead to the injury or death of a person or bear!
Large families and small groups will enjoy a cabin either at Lake Dorr or Sweetwater Spring. The Lake Dorr cabin is nestled on the south end of Lake Dorr and can accommodate 10 persons. Sweetwater Spring cabin can accommodate 12 people and is situated on a freshwater spring that flows into Juniper Run.
These cabins are very secluded in the general forest area and have their own secured entrances. Guests have the exclusive use of the cabins for a week. Both of these facilities are managed by Recreation Resource Management, a concessionaire contracted by the Forest Service. Since availability is limited, a lottery drawing for dates is held annually for the following year. Long range planning is necessary for these two gems of the forest. For more details call: (352) 625-0546.
The word Ocala is thought to be a derivative of a Timucuan Indian term meaning “fair land” or “big hammock”. The Ocala’s vegetation lives up to its name, as you will discover towering palms, huge live oaks and scrubby sand pines. Developed campgrounds in the Ocala are nestled in each of these settings. Of the twenty developed campgrounds, only Salt Springs offers full hook-up service. However, several campgrounds have dump stations and shower facilities. The remaining campgrounds offer fewer amenities. All of Ocala’s campgrounds allow pets, but they must be kept on a leash no longer than six feet and are not permitted in designated swimming and picnicking areas. Many swimming areas also prohibit alcohol.
An annual pass is available for several of the campgrounds. Because these campgrounds have fewer amenities, the proceeds from the sales of the passes go towards improvements. These annual passes are part of the fee demo program and are sold at Ocala’s visitor centers and ranger stations.
Use the following chart to find the best area for your camping experience.
Accessible campsites, restrooms, showers and walkways are available throughout various campgrounds in the Ocal National Forest. Call the appropriate district to determine if the facility you have chosen will suit your needs. Contact information is located on the Contact Us page of this website.
Primitive and Dispersed Camping
Primitive Camping | Dispersed Tent Camping
The “Leave No Trace” ethic is a consideration for all visitors whether they are dispersed camping, primitive camping or developed camping. To leave no trace of ourselves each time we use the Forest can be challenging, but every effort to maintain the natural state of the area will contribute to protecting it from overuse. Remember to remove all garbage and trash, “pack it in, pack it out”. Leave vegetation intact, replace sticks and logs that were moved to clear areas for tents and campfires, and preserve water systems. Erasing evidence of our presence will keep each individual’s impact on the Forest at a minimum.
Primitive campsites, can be used by individuals camping with tents or any motorized vehicle. These are specific areas in the forest that offer little or no facilities. Some of these campsites are also hunt camps and may be open year round. Those that are not hunt camps will be closed during the established hunting season. While any motorized vehicle is permitted in these primitive campsites, not all areas are accessible by all types of vehicles. Sandy and narrow woods roads may make navigation difficult or impossible for some vehicles. Visitors should treat these roads with cautious respect. Click here to see the map of primitive campsites.
Dispersed Tent Camping
General forest areas may be used for tent camping only. Motor homes, RVs, campers, trailers, and pop-ups are not permitted outside of designated areas. Access to dispersed camping areas is permitted by several means of transportation; including foot, horseback, ATVs, and vehicles, however, cross country travel, damaging natural resources and blocking traffic is prohibited. As in primitive camping, visitors should use caution when exploring woods roads and during the hunting season, all camping is restricted to designated areas. A detailed map of the Ocala National Forest is recommended to persons planning to camp in the general forest area. Click here for a map of the Ocala National Forest or purchase a detailed map by phone at Ocklawaha Visitor Center: (352) 236-0288.
Lake Shore | River Forest | Mill Dam | Doe Lake | 4-H Center
Groups of various sizes are sure to appreciate one of the 4 group campgrounds available. These areas offer exclusive use, varying amenities and are used by reservation only.
Lake Shore Group Campground
Lake Shore Group Campground is a favorite for scouts, church and civic groups, as well as large families and family reunions. A new bathhouse and shelter were constructed here in 2003. A maximum of 50 persons are allowed at this exclusive campground on Fore Lake, where your group may swim and fish. You may bring your own canoe or small boat (electric motors only) for boating activities. Reservations may be made through the Lake George Ranger District, 352-625-2520. Fees are currently $75.00 per night and require a two night minimum. Included in this fee is a $25 non-refundable deposit. Reservations and payment must be made no later than 20 working days in advance.
River Forest Group Campground
The River Forest Group Campground is used regularly by groups such as RV clubs, family reunions and weddings. The use of a concrete block dining hall and surrounding grounds is the main attraction for this facility. The dining hall is complete with a kitchen at one end and restrooms, including showers, at the other end. While the building is not heated or air conditioned, a cozy fireplace can warm your winter stay or sliding glass doors opening out to a large screened porch can help cool off your visit during the summer. The vast grassy field shaded by huge oak trees offers lots of space for many activities, like softball, volleyball and horseshoes. Grills and picnic tables complete the outdoor experience of this facility bounded by the St. Johns River. A maximum of 125 people are permitted at River Forest. There are no campsites established, so camping is primitive among the trees. While RVs are welcome, there are no hook-ups and all vehicles must remain in the designated parking area. Reservations may be made 365 days in advance, but no later than 14 days in advance. The fee is $150.00 per night, with no maximum or minimum stay and reservations may be made through the Seminole Ranger District, (352) 669-3153.
Mill Dam Group Campground
Mill Dam Group Campground is available for overnight stay as well as those desiring only day use rental. It is available for reservations October 1 – March 15. (The remainder of the year, Mill Dam is a swimming and picnic area, open to all.) Groups up to 150 people may reserve the area on a first come, first serve basis by calling the Lake George Ranger Station at (352) 625-2520. Mill Dam is located on the 168 acre Mill Dam Lake. Water play is popular here and campers bring their boats for easy access to lake activities. A large swimming beach adjoins the area and is accessible by wheelchair. A new restroom facility was constructed in 2003. Other amenities include a picnic shelter, group grills, picnic tables, flush toilets and a 70 car parking lot. The fees for this area depend upon the number of people in a group. Up to 99 people is $50/night with a two night minimum. For 100-150 people, the fees are $75/night with a two night minimum. Included in this fee is a $25 non-refundable deposit. Reservations and payment must be made no later than 20 working days in advance.
Doe Lake Recreation Area
The Doe Lake Recreation Area is an old Civilian Conservation Corps dining hall that has been historically restored. This beautiful building sits atop a grassy hill overlooking the clear waters of Doe Lake. Restoration efforts are the result of an agreement between the Friends of Doe Lake and the Forest Service. Recently, a bath house, including showers, was built in the same architectural style. Reservations are made yearly from October 1st to September 30th on a first come, first serve basis by calling the Seminole Ranger District at (352) 669-3153. Letters of requests are accepted for the following fiscal year and brought to an annual meeting in September for placement on the calendar. Letters should be addressed t District Ranger, Seminole Ranger District, 40929 State Road 19, Umatilla, FL 32784. A general liability insurance policy (minimum $300,000.00 combined single limits) is required to use the area. The maximum number of people allowed at one time is 250. The camping is primitive among the trees, like at River Forest. RVs and horse trailers are allowed, but limited to specific areas which also do not offer any hook ups. Click here to see the location of Doe Lake.
Camp Ocala 4-H Center
Camp Ocala 4-H Center is a modern camping and environmental complex located on Sellers Lake. Operating under a permit from the Forest Service, Camp Ocala 4-H Center offers the community many unique opportunities including:
- Overnight accommodations for up to 225 in climate controlled cabins with private baths
- Conference rooms seating 15 - 250
- Dining Hall with climate control
- High and low ropes courses
- Outdoor pavilion with barbeque grill
- Campfire circle
- Hiking, canoeing, and nature trails
- Waterfront facilities with canoes
- Indoor gym with basketball court
- Tennis courts
- Beach volleyball
- Sports equipment
Let Camp Ocala’s relaxed natural atmosphere be the setting for your group’s next meeting, retreat, training session, reunion or picnic. The staff at Camp Ocala will help make your event a success by customizing programs to suit your professional, educational or personal needs. Programs can be tailored for groups of any age or size. For more information write t Camp Ocala 4-H Center, 18533 NFS 535, Altoona, FL 32702 or call: (352) 759-2288. Click here to see the location of Camp Ocala.
Swimming & Picnicking
Day Use Areas are among the many recreational opportunities in the Ocala National Forest. Swimming and picnicking areas are available in almost all of the campgrounds shown on the recreation and trails map. In each area, day use fees can be unique from or the same as a camping fee or parking fee. It is wise to check a recreation schedule to determine what kind of fee is applicable in each recreational area. Many boat ramp areas in the Ocala National Forest incorporate swimming and picnicking also. Click here to view recreation and trails map.
Florida National Scenic Trail | Salt Springs | Lake Eaton Sinkhole | Lake Eaton Loop | St. Francis | Yearling Trail
Florida National Scenic Trail
The Ocala portion of the Florida National Scenic Trail traverses the forest north to south, winding through multiple ecosystems. Hikers can experience rolling hills in the open longleaf pine forest, vast prairies, wooden boardwalks through swamps, thick scrub oak – sand pine, and oak hammocks. The Trail meanders approximately 67 miles through the Ocala National Forest, making it an excellent choice for backpacking. Hikers may primitive camp while backpacking as long as campsites are at least 200 feet from the trail. Those who prefer not to rough it as much will encounter a spur trail to a developed campground about every 10 or 12 miles. These developed sites offer varying levels of facilities. Descriptions for these campgrounds may be found in the developed recreation and trails map. Backpackers are not required to have a permit nor register with the ranger station prior to their outing, although filing a hiking plan with family and friends is highly recommended. Primitive camping in the general forest area is prohibited during the general gun deer hunting season, which is November 8, 2003 to January 4, 2003. The only exception to this regulation allows primitive camping within the Juniper Prairie Wilderness, which is closed to all hunting. Click to view the Florida Trail Association (hikers) website.
Many shorter loop trails are available for hikers looking for a less arduous experience. The Salt Springs Trail, Lake Eaton Sinkhole and Lake Eaton Loop Trails are among these, while the St. Francis Trail provides 2 loops 3 and 8.5 miles long.
The Salt Springs Observation Trail
The Salt Springs run provides habitat to many species of wading birds such as; limpkin, little blue heron, great blue heron, snowy egret, and American egret. Eagles and Osprey are frequently seen along the run as are alligators. The Salt Springs Trail winds down to the run where an observation platform has been built. The trail is approximately 2 miles long, depending upon which route you choose, and has benches along the way. Click here to view a map of this trail.
Lake Eaton Sinkhole Trail
High in the sand pine - scrub oak forest is the Lake Eaton Sinkhole Trail, winding through palmetto and deer moss to a dry sinkhole about 80 feet deep and 450 feet wide. A choice of 3 different routes lead to the rim of the sinkhole, where an observation deck allows you to take in the magnitude of this geological feature. An interpretive board offers an explanation of the formation of sinkholes and a boardwalk and stairs allow you to walk down into the sinkhole. Here, at the bottom, the vegetation is similar to that of an oak hammock, featuring magnolias, live oak, dogwood, loblolly pine and the sabal palm. The total length of the Lake Eaton Sinkhole trail varies from 1 to 2 miles. Click here to view a map of this trail.
Lake Eaton Loop Trail
Across the road from the Lake Eaton Sinkhole Trail begins the Lake Eaton Loop Trail. This trail wanders through several plant communities down to the lake itself, where an observation deck takes you out to the water’s edge. A little more than 2 miles of walking takes hikers through the fire-dependent sand pine scrub down to the hardwoods found along Lake Eaton’s shore. In mature sand pine scrub, the lower story contains scrub oaks, including sand live oak, myrtle oak and Chapman’s oak. Also found under the sand pine are rusty lyonia, known as crooked wood, and silk bay. Small balls of deer moss can also be found dotting the ground’s surface. In contrast to the sand pine scrub, red maples, cypress, water oak, loblolly bay and laurel oak flourish in the area surrounding the lake. Wax myrtle and button bush are among the many shrubs that live in the under story of these hardwoods. Click here to view a map of this trail.
St. Francis Trail
For an historical adventure through the forest, hikers may enjoy walking the grounds of an old pioneer town on the bank of the St. Johns River. Originally known as “Old Town”, St. Francis was founded in 1887 and thrived as a shipping community for north Lake County. But the advent of railroads and the devastating freeze of 1894 spelled the doom of the small town. The St. Francis Trail is an 8.5 mile experience through riverine swamp and bayhead swamp to open flatwoods and oak hammock. The site of St. Francis is at the bank of the St. Johns River, however, the buildings no longer remain. Hikers can experience hiking along an old logging railroad bed or exploring an old levee, built to flood an area for rice cultivation. A small trail leads up to a natural spring and back around to the main trail, giving enthusiasts the option of a shorter trail or an additional trail for more avid hikers. Click here to view a map of this trail.
The Yearling Trail
Pats Island is one of the most popular historic attractions on the Ocala National Forest. The area was named after it's first postmaster Patrick Smith who settled there in the 1840's and the unique relationship of two ecosystems, long leaf pine and sand pine scrub.
Much of the land bounded by the St. Johns and Ocklawaha rivers consists of the largest concentration of sand pine scrub in the world. Within this vast area there are oases of fertile soils and moisture that support growth of longleaf pine, wiregrass, turkey oak and other trees and plants not found in the surrounding arid scrub. Pioneers who settled in these areas called them islands because a sea of scrub surrounded them.
The Reuben Long family came to the area around 1872 and individual family members applied for and were granted homestead acres that they worked and lived on for many years. Human habitation on the island peaked before the turn of the 20th century when about a dozen families sought to eke out a living on the 1400-acre island. A living was made from farming, running woods cattle and hogs, hunting, fishing, making moonshine whisky, and trading with boat travel on the St. Johns River.
There is an ecological uniqueness of this of a longleaf pine island surrounded by scrub pine, which creates a single community isolated from the mainstream of central Florida life. The imposed remoteness contributed to a community essentially untouched by outside forces. The community had its own church, school, post office and self-appointed lay ministers.
Life was hard on the island and after the big back-to-back freezes of 1894 and 1895 the population began to decline. Most of the settlers had sold or leased their homesteads before the Ocala National Forest was formed in 1908. Outside forces were slowly bringing life as it had been on the island to an end. In 1935 the island was abandoned by man and surrendered back to the elements after less than 100 years of human occupation.
The natural beauty of the area and the colorful life style of these rugged people fascinated the author, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. She stayed with the last two inhabitants of the island, Calvin and Mary Long in October 1933. During this and other visits she recorded many stories told by the Longs. Calvin's childhood story of nursing a deer from a fawn gave her the idea for the Pulitzer Prize winning novel "The Yearling". The book was made into a movie starring Gregory Peck, Jane Wyman and Claude Jarman, Jr. and was filmed on location in the early 1940's.
Today you too can visit Pat's Island via the Yearling Trail. The trailhead is located on SR 19 across from the Silver Glen Springs entrance. From there you can hike up to 6 miles visiting various sites of historical significance and enjoy the natural beauty of the island.
Pats Island is located in Juniper Prairie Wilderness where natural processes are the primary influences and human activity is limited. Forest Service management of Pat's Island preserves and protects its physical and biological characteristics and allows us to experience this treasure without intention to disturb or destroy natural processes. As wilderness, the island is closed to motorized equipment and bicycles.
As you circle the island, stop and notice the sites where the residents once lived. When you once again see the sand pine scrub, you will be arriving back at the trailhead. Perhaps you may want to complete your trip with a visit to Silver Glen Springs. Snacking at a shaded picnic table or swimming in crystal clear 72 degrees year around water is a great way to top off the day. You may want to visit the Boils Trail at the glen where Jody (of The Yearling) built a "flutter mill" with palmetto leaf and sticks. It was here that he nodded off to sleep when he was supposed to be home attending his chores. The Lake George Trail from the Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area to Lake George also offers another hiking adventure. Click here to view a map of this trail.
The Paisley Woods Bicycle Trail is a challenging 22 mile long ride through live oak domes, grassy prairies and stands of pines. Since the trail is in a figure eight shape, shorter loops can be made at the halfway point. Because this trail is not paved, bicycles need to be suited for rough terrain. Mountain bikes are ideal. There is no fee to ride the trail and there is free parking available at the trailhead at Clearwater Lake and the parking area of FR 538. Alexander Springs is located at the north end of the trail and Clearwater Lake is located at the south end. Water, showers and flush toilets are available at both locations, but please note there is a fee to use these facilities. Water is not available along the trail, so be sure to bring plenty of water. The trail is marked with yellow diamonds and arrows and posts at road crossings. Click here to view a map of this trail. Click here for a link to the International Mountain Bicycling Association website.
Recreational opportunities abound on the many water bodies of the Ocala National Forest as well as on land. Activities range from canoeing, boating, skiing, to use of personal watercraft. All visitors engaging in water sports should keep safety first and foremost. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) regulates water vessels and should be consulted for safety requirements, registration and other regulations. Click here to link to the FWC website.
The Ocala National Forest Visitor Centers offer a book, Fishing Opportunities in the Ocala National Forest, which lists and describes boat ramps that are available in the forest. Lake descriptions, sport fishing information, specific regulations, recreation facilities, and lake access are also included in this handy guide. Copies of this book may be purchased at all three Visitor Centers for the Ocala National Forest.
Alexander Spring Creek | Juniper Creek | Salt Springs Run | Lower Ocklawaha River | Upper Ocklawaha River
The Ocala National Forest’s canoeing adventures are many, as it contains approximately 600 lakes and ponds, several streams and has 2 rivers along its boundary. There is no whitewater such as you would find in the mountains, but a variety of streams awaits 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 2.5 miles per hour in open streams, assuming you periodically stop to enjoy the scenery. In streams with obstructing logs you may only move 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 tree 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.
Canoe rentals are available from the concessionaire at Salt Springs Marina (352-685-2255), Juniper Springs (352-625-2808), Alexander Springs (352-669-3522), Silver Glen Springs (352-685-2799) and Clearwater Lake (352-669-0078) or you may bring canoes and paddle on your own. If you prefer, arrangements may be made with the concessionaire for rehaul service. Canoes need to be rented before 11am. Reservations are possible by calling each location, but canoes can also be rented on a "first-come, first-served basis".
Alexander Spring Creek
The water that pours from the giant spring flows for the first 5 miles as a broad, clear, slow-moving stream. After that, there is a transition to a narrow, winding stream and the once again the stream becomes broad and slow moving. This canoe run is usually open and is an easy trip. However, sometimes during the late summer, water hyacinths may jam the stream. Click here to view this canoe trail.
The canoe trip from Juniper Springs Recreation Area to Juniper Wayside flows about 7 miles through the heart of the Juniper Prairie Wilderness. You will be surrounded by a lush tropical forest comprised of palms, cypress and many kinds of southern hardwoods. The first 2.5 miles of this creek are narrow and winding, with a channel scarcely wider than 6 feet. Past Half-Way Landing, the stream broadens out and becomes shallow and slow moving. There are no intermediate access points, and the average family takes about 4-5 hours to complete the trip. Click here to view this canoe trail.
Salt Springs Run
Crystal-clear water gushes year round from the springs and flows about 5 miles before emptying into Lake George. Canoes can be rented and launched from Salt Springs Marina, located at the head of the Salt Springs Run. The Slow-moving current allows paddling back upstream to the Marina, rather than entering the often-rough Lake George. Powerboats are also available at the Marina and therefore, share the run with canoes. Click here to view this canoe trail.
Lower Ocklawaha River
This is a dark, slow-moving, twisting river with little fluctuation in water level. The current is slow enough so that you can paddle upstream. Put in at the Rodman Dam Landing and take out at the Highway 19 Landing, which is reached by paddling south just after passing under the Highway 19 bridge. Click here to view this canoe trail.
Upper Ocklawaha River
This twisting, dark-water river offers few public access points. There is no problem with logs or fluctuating water levels. The current flows fast enough to make it tiring to paddles upstream. Two days are required to make the entire trip, but you can launch a canoe or take it out at several points along the river, reducing total floating time. Those points are at Sharps Ferry, Wayside Park, Gores Landing, and Eureka Bridge. Limited overnight camping is available at Gores Landing. Click here to view this canoe trail.
Temporary closure of 8,200 acres in the southwest portion of the forest will affect Off-Road Vehicle users. For more information, visit our newsroom.
Please check with the Ranger District Office for the latest handouts and information about regulations pertaining to off road vehicle riding.
The Ocala National Forest offers many enjoyable locations to ride Off Road Vehicles. While the Forest Service has not designated or marked specific ORV trails, there are many unnumbered roads and travel ways that zigzag throughout the forest where you may ride. Restricted Areas are designated to protect certain biological communities, such as wetlands. These ares are shown in the Off Road Vehicle Use Restricted Area map. In addition to this information you may want to purchase a detailed forest map or topography map.
- State and Federal laws apply to all vehicles, including their operation, equipment, and licensing. You are responsible for knowing these laws. Click to view the Florida Motor Vehicles Regulations website.
- Florida law requires off highway vehicles purchased after July 1, 2002 and operated on public lands to be titled. Applications must be submitted to your local tax collector's office or Department of Motor Vehicles. Click to link to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
- Unlicensed vehicles are prohibited on the numbered forest roads.
- All vehicle traffic is prohibited in the following areas:
- Pinecastle Bombing Range
- All Wilderness Areas
- Florida National Scenic Hiking Trail
- Alexander Springs Scenic Area
- Paisley Woods Bicycle Trail
- In campgrounds, picnic sites and other developed areas unlicensed vehicles should be trailered or carried by other means of transportation when entering or leaving the area. Big Scrub campground and Lake Delancy West campground are the only two exceptions to this rule. ORVs may be ridden directly from your campsite out of these campgrounds and into the general forest area.
- Restricted Areas are designated sections of the forest where some roads or trails are closed to vehicle traffic. In these areas travel is permitted only on numbered roads by licensed vehicles. These areas are posted and marked with red signs. Click to view the Off Road Vehicle Restricted Areas map.
- Cross country travel (where there are no existing roads or trails) is prohibited. Protect the environment and your privilege to ride in the National Forest by not riding in wetlands, lakes, ponds, or savannahs. Mud bogging in these areas does extensive damage to the environment and is illegal. Riding in areas with moderate to steep slopes causes damage to both soil and vegetation. This increases compaction and erosion and also exposes and damages tree roots. Traveling near open water can lead to silting and sedimentation, polluting wetlands, streams, lakes and ponds.
- Respect the rights of hikers, campers, horseback riders, and other forest users to enjoy their activities undisturbed.
Be Courteous. Be Responsible. Be Safe.
The Ocala 100 Mile Horse Trail | The Lake/Alachua/Marion Trail
JNB Horse Haven Farm | Doe Lake Recreation Area
Horseback riding on the Ocala National Forest provides opportunities to quietly become part of the woodlands community. Forest riding trails are actually old roads six to eight feet wide, marked at intervals with painted spots – called blazes – on the trees. These trails offer safe passage through the leaning sand pines of the “big scrub”; the straight, sturdy longleaf pines of the “flatwoods”; plus numerous lakes and grassy prairies.
Ocala One Hundred Mile Horse Trail
The Ocala One Hundred Mile Horse Trail consists of three sections: the 40 mile Flatwoods Trail (marked with red blazes), the 40 mile Prairie Trail (marked with white blazes), and the 20 mile Baptist Lake Trail (marked with blue blazes). Click here to view this trail.
LAM (Lake/Alachua/Marion) Trail
The LAM (Lake/Alachua/Marion) Trail is marked with yellow blazes. In the Ocala National Forest it stretches 34 miles from Doe Lake to a point near the town Eureka. The trail does continue beyond the forest towards Paines Prairie near Gainesville, but not all sections may be completed.
The Swim Pond horse trailer parking area is shown on the horse trail map. While this is the only developed parking facility available at this time, many individuals choose to park alongside a forest road wherever trails cross. As long as the vehicles do not obstruct traffic or destroy natural resources, this is permitted.
There is no permit or fee to ride horses on these trails, nor is riding restricted to the established trails, however, horses are not permitted on the Paisley Woods Bicycle Trail, the Ocala section of the Florida National Scenic Trail, or in developed campgrounds. Tent camping with horses is allowed throughout the general forest area, except during deer hunting season. Campers wishing to camp in a rig or motorhome with their horses are restricted to the primitive campsites designated on the primitive campsite map. Individuals seeking more developed sites for their rigs and horses or tent campers wishing to camp with horses during the deer hunting season may wish to seek alternative locations.
JNB Horse Haven Farm
JNB Horse Haven Farm is a permitted outfitter with the Ocala National Forest. Guided trail and wagon rides are available from this farm, located approximately 8 miles west of Altoona. Tent sites and picnic areas area available for independent horse owners. Trail ride lessons are also available. Call (352) 753-4756 for more information.
Doe Lake Recreation Area
Doe Lake Recreation Area is a group camp and is by reservation only. Several horse clubs reserve this facility and some call it a “horse camp“, however, many different groups use Doe Lake throughout the year.
Hunting & Fishing
The Ocala National Forest is a wildlife management area, in which hunting and fishing activities are managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. A $26.50 Wildlife Management Area Permit is required for all hunters (except those indicated as exempt) to hunt in this area. A Quota Hunt Permit may also be required during certain time periods or certain game. General hunting information may be found on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s website, or in the current Hunting Handbook available at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Office, their various subagents, or the Forest Service Ranger Stations. For specific regulations that pertain only to the Ocala Wildlife Management Area a unique brochure is published annually and can be obtained at the same locations, including the website. This brochure identifies specific hunting units and regulations of the Ocala Wildlife Management Area. Click here to see this brochure.
Freshwater fishing is available in the many lakes, streams and ponds of the Ocala National Forest. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also regulates fishing and produces a Fishing Handbook that outlines specific rules, bag limits, licensing, and health advisories. This handbook is available at the same locations as the Hunting Handbook. The Forest Service produced a specific fishing guide for the Ocala National Forest. This handy paperback book, entitled Fishing Opportunities in the Ocala National Forest, identifies 50 bodies of water within the Ocala and provides great detail for each one. These details include: recreation facilities available, ramp access, specific regulations, sport fishing opportunities, and lake description. Fishing Opportunities in the Ocala National Forest is sold at all three visitor centers.
Hunting and Fishing licenses and permits for residents and nonresidents are available at county tax collector’s offices and their subagents, such as sporting goods stores or other retailers selling hunting and fishing equipment. For your convenience, you may use a major credit card and purchase your license over the phone: 1-888-HUNT-FLORIDA or 1-888-FISH-FLORIDA; or through the FWC website.
The Ocala Rifle Range was built with funds provided by the Pittman-Robertson Act to be used by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Hunter Education Program. This Act levies an excise tax on all sporting arms and ammunition, which is then used for wildlife restoration and hunter education. When classes are not scheduled, the range is available to the public. The facility is open from sunrise to sunset and is unsupervised, so cooperation among shooters is a must! While backboards are provided, they must be maintained and the range is usually closed on Wednesdays for repairs. Shooters should bring their own targets and tacks or staples, and those using the shotgun range should bring their own targets. There is no fee to use the range. The range is located within a wildlife management area boundary, so transporting firearms to and from the range is limited to state and county roads and prohibited on forest service roads. Find the range’s location on FS 88 just 0.7 mile north of SR 40, see the developed recreation sites/trails map.