Camping / Central Florida / Kayak & Canoe / Parks & Forests

Stop at little known Lake Griffin State Park for a famous tree and more

The live oak tree at Lake Griffin State Park is the second largest in the state and the oldest. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

The live oak tree at Lake Griffin State Park is the second largest in the state and the oldest. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

I haven’t been to all 161 Florida state parks, but I’ve been to dozens, and every single one was worth visiting.

While returning from Silver Springs State Park, my husband and I were driving near Lake Griffin State Park in Fruitland Park, and debated whether to stop.

We did, and once again, this Florida State Park did not disappoint.

First, it has the sort of thing I can’t pass up – a famous tree.

You need a person to stand next to the live oak at Lake Griffin State Park to see how giant it is. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

You need a person to stand next to the live oak at Lake Griffin State Park to see how giant it is. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Lake Griffin State Park

But there’s more to this smallish park surrounded by the suburban sprawl of US 441 and the Villages. It has a beautiful picnic area, an interesting short hike, some shaded campsites and it even offers a nice place to kayak and fish.

We first sought out the tree, of course, which is famous for being very big and very old.

It’s the second largest live oak in the state and some say the oldest one. (Monumentaltrees.com dates it at 316 years old, give or take 100 years.)  (And because I knew you’d be curious: The largest live oak in Florida is the Cellon Oak in Gainesville.)

The Lake Griffin oak is magnificent. Tourists have been visiting it since the 1800s. It is so big I couldn’t get far enough back to get it all in the photo.

The trunk of the tree is enormous. With a little boost, kids can climb into a large space formed by the huge branches that spread out from the trunk – and there’s room for more than one child.

The tree is located very near the park’s border with US 441. The rest of the 620-acre park is forested with large moss-draped oaks, including an attractive short hiking trail.

Picnic tables under shade trees overlook the water.

Lake Griffin State Park The park wraps around the Dead River Marsh, which leads to the lake. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Lake Griffin State Park wraps around the liliy-pad lined Dead River Marsh, which leads to the lake. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Kayaking at Lake Griffin State Park

The park wraps around the Dead River Marsh, which leads to Lake Griffin, the eighth largest lake in the state and one of nine lakes in the Harris Chain of Lakes.

The dock at Lake Griffin State Park in Fruitland. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

The dock at Lake Griffin State Park in Fruitland. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

There’s a large dock, popular with fishermen, and a boat ramp where we launched our canoe, paddling around the Dead River, a languid body of water where we saw a number of birds and alligators along the lily-pad lined shoreline. If you are in the neighborhood or a fisherman, it is a nice place to explore.

You can rent canoes and kayaks here too  — $12 for two hours for a single or canoe; $25 for two hours for a double kayak.  (Cash only.)

From November to March, the park offers a pontoon boat tour of the marsh area Wednesdays and Fridays at 9:30 and 11:00 a.m.  Price is $15 per person.

Lake Griffin State Park has an appealing short hiking trail. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Lake Griffin State Park has an appealing short hiking trail. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Camping at Lake Griffin State Park

There are 40 campsites, many under a live-oak tree canopy. All campsites have water and electricity, 10 sites have 50-amp electric service, seven sites are pull-through sites, and seven sites have sewer hook-ups.

The picnic area at Lake Griffin State Park in Fruitland. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

The picnic area at Lake Griffin State Park in Fruitland. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

The state park website warns that some campsites have noise from nearby US 441.  Many of the campsites, however, are quiet and all of them are surrounded by beautiful trees and vegetation. The noisy campsites would be those along the western edge of the campground, campsites 6 through 16.

Bottom line: Lake Griffin State Park makes a pleasant stop if you’re in the neighborhood.  It’s not a destination park worth driving hours to reach, like many larger and better known state parks. But if you like famous trees or a pretty site for a picnic or paddle, check out Lake Griffin State Park.

Lake Griffin State Park website

3089 U.S. Highway 441-27

Fruitland Park, FL 34731

(352) 360-6760

 

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Lake Griffin State Park

 

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One Comment

  1. Great website! Thank you! We ramble and explore our adopted Florida – and this is such a great site to help us find fun places.

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