Last updated on October 31st, 2020 at 10:03 am
It’s time to get out of the house and enjoy some fall camping in Florida!
Fall doesn’t bring a lot of color to the Sunshine State, at least not at levels you might see in the mountains of North Georgia.
But it’s possible you’ll see a smidgen of color the closer you get to the Florida-Georgia state line.
Even without color, fall brings “cool” fronts that tamp down the humidity we suffered during summer, and that alone is good reason to get outdoors.
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5 great picks in North Florida
North Florida offers the best taste of the seasons in late fall with temperatures in the 70s most days, dropping as low as the 50s at night, and you might even see some color in the trees.
Three Rivers State Park
The Chattahoochee and Flint rivers meet here to form Lake Seminole, which spills over a dam into the Apalachicola River.
We visited two years ago in late October, and the trees were starting to show their colors. It wasn’t dramatic, but there was color, and the weather was cool and humidity-free.
Enjoy camping, seven miles of paved and unpaved bicycle trails and five miles of nature trails through the park’s rolling hills and upland forests.
Canoe and kayaks are welcome on the lake and up both rivers, as are small boats, offering access to world-class fishing and bird-watching in fall.
Three Rivers State Park, 7908 Three Rivers Road, Sneads, FL. Ranger station: 850-482-9006. Camping in one of the 30 shaded sites is only $16 per night (plus tax and a non-refundable $6.70 booking fee. The park’s single cabin is $65. Reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance online.
Torreya State Park
BRISTOL — Torreya State Park is on a high bluff above the Apalachicola River, encircled by deep ravines in a deciduous forest with a scattering of evergreens, including the dainty and very rare Torreya tree.
The park has 16 miles of challenging hiking trails, dipping in and out of steep ravines, a landscape contour not often encountered in our pancake state.
And there are snakes. “We have cottonmouth, copperheads and rattlesnakes,” a ranger warned us on arrival. Watch your step, stay on trails and avoid loose rocks, blankets of fallen leaves and high grass.
Overall, this may be the best place to find fall color in the entire state. The park’s 29 campsites sit high on a bluff with fabulous views of the surrounding countryside.
Torreya State Park, 2576 NW Torreya Park Road, Bristol FL. Park office: 850-643-2674. Camping Fee: $16/night plus tax and a non-refundable $6.70 reservation fee. Yurt, $40/night. Cabin, $50. Backpackers, $5 per person. Reservations: Up to 11 months in advance, call (800) 326-3521 (8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern) or TDD (888) 433-0287, or online at Florida State Parks.
Stephen C. Foster State Park
WHITE SPRINGS — Situated “way down upon the Suwannee River,” the Stephen Foster Folk Cultural Center is a monument to what never was, which is frankly not unusual for Florida.
Composer Stephen Foster never really set foot in White Springs. In fact, Foster had never seen any part of the Suwannee River before (or after) he wrote his classic ode to the South, “Old Folks at Home.”
Yet, here we are. The park’s museum features exhibits about Foster’s most famous songs, and his music flows from the park’s 97-bell carillon throughout the day.
The campground has 45 oak-shaded sites with water and electric hookups, picnic table and fire ring, and all of the sites are ADA accessible. A dump station is on premises. There are five riverside cabins with two bedrooms with a fireplace, screened porch and kitchenette.
The scenic Florida Trail passes through here, adjacent to the Suwannee River, but the big draw is paddling the river and savoring the wildlife.
Stephen C. Foster Cultural Center State Park, 11016 Lillian Saunders Drive/ U.S. Highway 41, White Springs FL 32096. Ranger office: 386-397-4331. Campsites are $20 per night plus a non-refundable $6.70 booking fee. Cabins are $100 per night. Reservations can be made by phone 800-864-7275 or online.
Gold Branch State Park
KEYSTONE HEIGHTS — Ancient sand dunes far from the sea with rolling hills and deep ravines populated with springs dominate this 2,000-acre state park developed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, making it one of Florida’s first state parks.
Canoe or kayak on Little Lake Johnson, or hike a 5.5-mile section of the Florida National Scenic Trail.
As Florida goes, this is high country.
Three campgrounds offer 74 campsites for tents and RVs. Each site includes a picnic table, grill and water. Electricity is available except at Lakeview sites 57 and 60 through 67.
Each of the three camping areas has a centrally located restroom with hot/cold showers. Dump station available. Pets are allowed in the campgrounds but not in the swimming area or buildings. (Maximum RV length is 65 feet).
Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park, 6239 State Road 21, Keystone Heights, FL 32656. 352-473-4701. Camping Fee: $20. Also, 16 cabins are available for $65 per night. Reservations: Call 800-326-3621 (8 am to 8 pm) or book online at ReserveAmerica.com
Suwannee River State Park
LIVE OAK — We sensed autumn’s promise in the air when we visited in late fall, and by our second night, temperatures had dipped to the 50s and 60s.
Suwannee River State Park is at the junction of two rivers — the scenic Withlacoochee River joining the Suwannee, which continues its lazy journey to the Gulf of Mexico.
Explore both rivers in a kayak, canoe or small motorboat.
The campground’s 30 oak-shaded campsites have full hookups, a picnic table and fire ring. Three campsites and the restrooms are ADA accessible. A dump station is available.
Suwannee River State Park. 3631 201st Path, Live Oak, Fla. 32060. Phone: 386-362-2746. Camping fee is $22 per night, half-price for Florida seniors. For reservations, call 800-326-3621 or book online.
4 great picks in Central Florida
While autumn colors are much scattered here, appearing in ripples if at all, there are many places you can go to feel like it’s fall, if not actually see it.
Moss County Park
ORLANDO — This 1,500-acre Orange County park campground is nestled between two large lakes, one of which has a swimming beach.
The real connection with fall for me, though, is the adjacent 2,000-acre Split Oak Nature Preserve. A wonderful escape any time of year, but a true sense of fall when hiking these woods in November and December, even if there’s no color.
In the evening, I saw dozens of deer grazing in the pinewood and oak forest that blankets the campground’s 54 spacious, shady sites.
The park is also a natural refuge for endangered Florida sandhill crane, and I saw three pairs near my campsite at various times during the day and evening.
And you are only 23 miles from Disney World, a straight shot on the Central Florida Greeneway (SR 417), and just 26 miles to Universal Studios.
Moss Park, 12901 Moss Park Rd., Orlando, FL. Camping fee: $23 per night for out-of-county residents ($18 for in-county). No pets, no alcohol, no weapons. Reservations: Book online or call 407-254-6840 for reservations up to 45 days in advance.
Wekiva Falls RV Resort
SORRENTO — We visit this privately owned RV campground once a year, usually in the fall around Thanksgiving, before the snowbirds arrive for the winter.
There are a whopping 800 RV sites, while tent campers can choose from 20 cozy alcoves along the spring run, which spills into the Wekiva River, one of only two National Wild and Scenic Rivers in Florida.
The spring-head is the centerpiece of this park. Water from the spring is forced up through a manmade tower before spraying like a waterfall over the swimming area. Really cool fun for kids.
With unequaled access for paddling the river, this campground is a must for kayakers.
Wekiva Falls RV Resort, 30700 Wekiva River Rd, Sorrento, FL 32776. RV campsites run $71-$78 per night from November through April, and tent camping is $55-67. Call for information and reservations (888) 4-WEKIVA
E.G. Simmons County Park
RUSKIN — This little gem on Tampa Bay is a real hot spot in winter for snowbirds, but you should be able to slide into a campsite this fall. It’s well worth a visit.
All but a dozen of the 112 campsites are waterfront, and each has a fire ring, picnic table, water and electric hookups.
A prime boating destination, paddle trails run through dozens of mangrove islands and out into Tampa Bay.
Manatee Hammock County Park
TITUSVILLE — This 27-acre RV and tent campground on the Indian River is shady but often crowded because of its proximity to the Kennedy Space Center. The best time of year to visit here may be fall.
The park’s shoreline has a fishing pier and a great view of rocket launches, and nearby you’ll be able to explore the expansive Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge with an access road to Canaveral National Seashore’s Playalinda Beach.
And you are only about an hour away from Disney World and Universal Studios!
I’ve camped at this park a few times and love the location and the price, just $26 a night. There’s plenty of shade, and while the sites are close together, they still beat the bumper-to-bumper spacing in most private campgrounds.
This county-managed park has 166 RV sites with water, electric and sewer hookups and another 20 sites with just water and electric. Restrooms have hot showers and laundry facilities.
3 great picks in South Florida
I live in South Florida, and the closest we come to fall color is when new leaves bud on the red maple in my yard around mid-winter. Oh, cypress trees might take on a bit of pale yellow before shedding.
Easterlin County Park
FORT LAUDERDALE — This small but heavily wooded Broward County park with campground just a stone’s throw from I-95 is a startling reminder how South Florida used to be.
The focus of the park is its natural areas, not water sports, lending itself to its designation as an Urban Wilderness Area and a destination on the Great Florida Birding Trail. The Woodland Nature Trail for hiking winds about a mile through the park’s cypress forest.
While the park is small at 47 acres, its size is deceiving because there is so much vegetation, making for a pleasant respite from the bustle of urbanized South Florida.
The shady campground has hookups for water and electric, a picnic table, charcoal grill, a dump station and restroom complex with hot showers.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park
JUPITER — The most noticeable sign of fall in this 11,500-acre park is not in the color of the trees but the color of the birds.
More than 150 species of birds have been identified here, many of whom migrate through here in fall, and even more that stay all winter..
Jonathan Dickinson State Park has two campgrounds, the 45-site River Campground and the 90-site Pine Grove Campground, where my wife and I enjoy paddling through a subtropical wonderland.
The Pine Grove Campground is newer with more appointments, such as full hookups for RVs, and it is closer to the park’s many off-road bicycle trails.
Hiking trails run deep into the backcountry. Bring a camera, and don’t forget your bird checklist.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park, 16450 S.E. Federal Highway, Hobe Sound, FL 33455. Phone: (772) 546-2771. Campsites, $26. Cabins, $95. Tax and non-refundable $6.70 reservation fee. For reservations, call 1-800-326-3521 or book online.
Collier-Seminole State Park
NAPLES — Collier-Seminole State Park is on the edge.
The east and accessible by kayak are Florida’s mysterious Ten Thousand Islands. Eastward for 100 miles is the vast eco-system known as The Everglades.
The most immediate neighbor is the endangered Florida panther.
Campers have access to hiking and off-road cycling trails, as well as paddle trails that will take you deep into one of the world’s largest mangrove swamps.
The park features a bit of history important to this neck of the woods. On display in the park is a 1924 Bay City Walking Dredge, which was used to build the first road across the Everglades, known today as the Tamiami Trail.
There are 105 campsites that accommodate all campers, from tents to large motor homes, and each site has electricity, water, a grill and picnic table.
Collier-Seminole State Park, 20200 Tamiami Trail E., Naples FL 34114. Phone: 239-394-3397. Campsites, $22/night plus taxes and a $6.70 booking fee. Includes electric and water. For reservations, call 1-800-326-3521 or book online.
Find a campsite this weekend at a state park
The Florida State Parks reservations site offers a quick online search tool for Camping This Weekend. If you’re not comfortable online, call ReserveAmerica at (800) 326-3521 anytime between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.)
From the Editor:
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