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Explore Ocala National Forest from 14 campgrounds

Ocala National Forest is a vast wilderness where you can pitch a tent along a trail or station your recreational vehicle at one of 14 developed campgrounds.

There are two Florida State Parks campgrounds on the edge of the forest.

Explore the forest on hundreds of miles of forest roads in your car, on your e-bike or motorcycle, or jump off the roads on horseback, off-road bicycle or hiking trails that take you to 600 natural lakes, ponds and springs within the forest boundaries.

Ocala National Forest has 14 developed campgrounds with designated sites, picnic tables, lantern posts, grills, and fire rings. Only one, Salt Springs, has full hook-ups for electric, water, and sewer.

For a story about dispersed camping in the Ocala National Forest backcountry, read Great Escape: Dispersed camping in Ocala National Forest


Ocala National Forest Recreation Areas

Most Popular with Campers

These recreation areas with campgrounds are open to day-use visitors who leave when the recreation areas close. Campgrounds are gated with locks, providing a measure of security, and rangers patrol. There are usually volunteer campground hosts nearby who can be contacted if needed

Cellular phone service is limited or non-existent in most areas of the forest, including these recreation areas.

Ocala National Forest, Alexander Springs Campground
Alexander Springs Campground

Alexander Springs Campground Temporarily Closed

One of only 27 first-magnitude springs in Florida, Alexander Springs may be the best freshwater swimming hole in the state of Florida, not to mention one of the busiest.

The spring head creates a large, shallow sandy-bottom natural pool at a constant 72 degrees. Where the spring emerges from the bottom, snorkelers and scuba divers explore the limestone rocks and boulders in the spring boil. 

Visitors enjoy canoe and kayaking (rentals available), hiking, off-road bicycle trails and picnic area. Trailhead for the Paisley Woods Bicycle Trail, a 22-mile loop through the forest begins here. Motor-assisted bikes, including electric bikes, are not permitted on the Paisley Woods Trail, although they are permitted on nearby forest roads.

If you are lucky enough to book a campsite here, you will experience one of the most pristine sub-tropical environments you may ever encounter.

The gated campground has 67 campsites for tents or RVs up to 35 feet, but there are no hookups. Every site has a picnic table, fire ring and grill.

Drinking water and a dump station are available in the campground, as are rest rooms with showers. Firewood is available for sale to campers at the concession, which also sells snacks, groceries, ice, charcoal and beach items.

Alexander Springs Recreation Area, 49525 County Rd 445, Altoona, FL 32702. Phone: (352) 669-3522. Camping Fee: $31 per night (2022) Pets: OK in the campground. Reservations: Book online at Reservations.gov up to 6 months in advance, or call 877-444-6777.

Read more: Alexander Springs: Easy scenic paddling; lots of wildlife

Directions to Alexander Springs: From SR 40 at Astor, take Butler Street to CR 445A, and turn left on CR 445. The recreation area is 5.8 miles south on the right.  


ocala national forest clearwater lake campground
Clearwater Lake Campground (USDA Photo)

Clearwater Lake Campground

Clearwater Lake Recreation Area lies along the southeastern edge of Ocala National Forest, near the community of Paisley, nestled on a lake in a forest of pines and palms, reflecting a subtropical environment typical of the forest.

Visitors enjoy the picnic areas, swimming beach, fishing, nature trail hiking, mountain bike trail with canoe and kayak rentals available.

Clearwater Lake is at the south end of the Paisley Woods Bicycle Trail, a 22-mile mountain single-track loop that connects with the Alexander Springs Recreation Area.

The gated, well-shaded campground has 42 sites for tents or recreational vehicles, but no hookups. Each site has a picnic table, fire ring and grill. Potable water and a dump station are available, as are restrooms with showers and firewood.

Clearwater Recreation Area is less busy than Alexander Springs, making it an acceptable alternative if Alexander Springs is booked. The small town of Paisley is a mile away, with camping supplies, a post office, and a library with Internet access.

Be aware that bears, alligators and raccoons frequent the area.

Clearwater Lake Campground, 24511 Co Rd 42, Paisley, FL 32767. Phone:  (352) 669-0078 Camping Fee: $31 per night. No hookups. Pets: OK only in campground. Reservations: Book online at Reservations.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777 up to 6 months in advance. Maximum stay 14 nights. This campground has first-come, first-served sites.

Directions to Clearwater Lake: From the junction of SR 42 and SR 19 in Altoona, drive 6.4 miles east on SR 42 towards Paisley. The entrance to the Clearwater Lake Recreation Area is on your left.


ocala national forest campsite at Juniper Springs, Ocala National Forest
Campsite at Juniper Springs

Juniper Springs Recreation Area

Juniper Springs is exceptionally beautiful with dense tropical foliage rarely seen in this region of Florida.

Visitors kayak or canoe the spring run, swim in the spring, off-road bicycle trails and hiking. There are canoe and kayaks available to rent, but you can bring your own for a $10 launch fee.

The gated campground has been named one of the Top 100 Family Campgrounds in the United States, and there is plenty of competition for its 79 campsites, 19 sites of which are set aside for tents only. RV’s up to the 35 feet.

Like most of the campgrounds in Ocala National Forest (except Salt Springs), there are no hookups. Each site does have a picnic table, fire ring, grill and lantern post. Campers share water spigots, rest rooms with showers, and there’s a dump station in the campground.

The concession sells snacks, groceries, charcoal, firewood, ice and novelties. A convenience store with camping supplies, beach supplies, drinks and ice cream is nearby. Restaurants, shopping and gas are 10 miles from campground.

Reserve your site well in advance, and stay on top of cancellations.

Juniper Springs Recreation Area, 26701 FL-40, Silver Springs, FL 34488. Camping Fee: $31 per night, tent or RV. (2022 rates). Pets: OK only in campground. Reservations: Book online at Recreation.gov or call 1-877-444-6777 up to 6 months in advance. Maximum stay 14 nights.

Read more: Fab kayaking on pristine Juniper Spring Run

Directions to Juniper Springs: From I-75, take Highway 40 east through Ocala and Silver Springs for approximately 36 miles to the Juniper Springs Recreation Area. From I-95, take the Ocala/Silver Springs Exit (Highway 40) west for approximately 37 miles to the Juniper Springs Recreation Area. From the intersection of Highway 40 and Highway 19, the campground is 4.5 miles west on Highway 40. The entrance is on the north side of Highway 40.


Salt Springs Campground in Ocala National Forest
Salt Springs Campground. (Photo by Bob Rountree)

Salt Springs Campground

Salt Springs has the largest, most developed campground in Ocala National Forest — and it’s the only campground with full hookups at RV sites.

The spring gets its name from minerals — potassium, magnesium, and sodium salts — giving the water a slight salinity.

A large swimming area is cordoned off at the spring head before the water flows into a broad spring run that offers a scenic paddle to Lake George. The fishing here is exceptional, and the recreational opportunities make it an attractive destination.

The concession at Salt Springs Marina rents paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, skiffs, and pontoon boats.

As with other campgrounds in the forest, campers and day-use visitors have excellend access to hiking trails and off-road bicycle paths.

The gated campground has 106 sites with full hookups to accommodate either RV’s or tents and another 54 sites (without hookups) are set aside for tents. In addition to water, sewer and electric hookups on RV sites, all sites have a picnic table, fire ring, grill and lantern post.

Facilities also include rest rooms with showers and an RV dump station. Firewood is available.

In addition to a marina, the recreation area is near a gas station, grocery store, several restaurants, bait and tackle shops, post office, laundromat and national forest visitor center.

Salt Springs Recreation Area, 13851 FL-19, Fort McCoy, FL 32134. Phone: (352) 685-2048. Camping Fee: $50/night with full hookups; $25 for seniors and Access passholders; $31/night for tents, no hookups. (2022 rates) Pets: OK in campground. Cell or Wi-Fi coverage: None. Reservations: Book online at Recreation.gov up to 6 months in advance or call 1-877-444-6777.  Maximum stay 14 nights. This campground has first-come, first-served sites. For availability, call the campground directly at (352) 685-2048

Directions to Salt Springs: Salt Springs is located between the St. Johns and Ocklawaha Rivers, 35 miles east of Ocala, Florida on State Road 19, north of State Road 40, which crosses the state from Ormond Beach to Ocala.


Camping with Bears, Raccoons and Alligators

Bears roam freely in Ocala National Forest, and they are most active in fall. Raccoons are common near campgrounds all year. Alligators make frequent appearances near water, day and night. Secure food and food waste in bear-proof containers or suspend 10 feet above the ground. Do not feed wild animals of any kind for their health and your safety. Read more


Remote Campgrounds

Rustic and wild

The remote campgrounds in Ocala National Forest are developed with some amenities, but they are not as well supervised or patrolled and there is open access 24/7. These campgrounds are also popular with hunters and ATVs.

You may want to avoid General Gun Season (deer season), which runs from late October until late January. Hunting in the forest is regulated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Security should be a consideration when camping alone. While incidents are rare, safety in numbers is a good rule of thumb for anyone who camps or hikes in these areas.

Volunteer campground hosts are sometimes living in these campgrounds but these campgrounds are remote and often out of range for mobile phone cellular service.

Note: Campers expecting sites to be available first-come, first-serve should have a backup plan.

Big Bass Camp, Ocala National Forest
Big Bass Camp

Big Bass Campground Temporarily Closed

The Big Bass Campground is the most southerly campground in the forest, close enough to hear road noise on State Road 42. Access to the campground is on an unpaved Forest Service road. Sites bare-bones with grills and fire pits. The campground is heavily wooded and not conducive to solar. Most sites are quite private, but not all. A good base camp for equestrians with horse trails nearby. Despite its name, there is no water for fishing, just a few small ponds. This is sandhill crane territory.

Things to do: Hiking, wildlife, equestrian. Four miles from the Ocklawaha River via CR 42. Sites: 18 sites, no hookups. RVs welcome. There are two new paved accessible campsites close to the restrooms. Camping Fee: $15/night. Usage: Light to medium. Facilities: Grills and fire pits. Dump station. Potable water available. Pets: OK in campground. Reservations: None. First come, first served. Self check-in.


Directions to Big Bass Campground: 8.7 miles east of Weirsdale along CR 42; turn off CR 42 onto Forest Road 13. Watch for the sign on the left after you pass “Buck & Doe’s” store.


Big Scrub Campground. Photo courtesy National Forest Service
Big Scrub Campground. (Photo: USDA National Forest Service)

Big Scrub Campground Temporarily Closed

Not much to see here, but Big Scrub is popular for campers with off-road vehicles for a romp on Ocala National Forest’s designated off-road trails. The campground is essentially barren at a trailhead with campsite-to-trail access — not your destination for a quiet weekend in the forest. The campground has 47 sites without hookups for tents and RVs. There is a restroom and a bathhouse with hot showers with spigots for potable drinking water to fill your RV’s fresh-water tanks. An OHV Permit is required to use the trail system. The campground is on Forest Road 14, which is unpaved with soft, sandy spots.

Things to do: Off-road vehicle trails. Sites: 47 sites for tents or RVs. No hookups. Camping Fee: $20/night. Usage: Medium to Heavy. Facilities: Picnic tables, restrooms. Potable water available. No dump station. Pets: OK in the campground. Reservations: A handful of sites are first-come, first-served. Online at Recreation.gov, or by calling 1-877-444-6777, up to six months in advance. 

Bluff Landing

Primitive camping on a bluff with access to Alexander Springs Run, but there are only three tent sites. On the positive side, camping here is free. There is a boat ramp. Popular with anglers and paddlers.

Things to do: Fishing, kayaking. Sites: 3 tent sites. Camping Fee: Free. Usage: Light to medium. Facilities: Boat ramp. Pets: OK in the campground. Reservations: First come, first served.

Directions to Bluff Landing: From Alexander Springs Recreation Area, drive north on County Road 445 towards Astor. Turn right onto Forest Road 18, an unimproved road, after you cross over Alexander Creek. Follow the road for nearly 2 miles to a turnoff on the right as FR 18 makes a sharp right off the main road. Continue another 2 miles or so down to the landing. FR 18 marks the western boundary of the Alexander Springs Wilderness.


ocala national forest ocalanf fore lake Explore Ocala National Forest from 14 campgrounds
Fore Lake campsite. (USDA photo)

Fore Lake Campground

With 31 sites tucked in the shade of oaks and pines on Fore Lake, the campground is a quiet spot on the western edge of the Ocala National Forest for tents, motorhomes and travel trailers, but there are no hookups. Primarily a destination for anglers, the campground offers access to a boat ramp. Fore Lake is situated in the historic community of Scrambletown.

Things to do: Fishing. Sites: 31 sites for tent or RV. Camping Fee: $20/night, no hookups. Usage: Heavy. Facilities: Picnic table, fire ring, bathhouse with flush toilets and warm showers. Drinking water available. Dump station available. Boat ramp. A small grocery store is nearby on SR 314 in Scrambletown. Pets: OK in the campground. Reservations: Call 1-877-444-6777 or book online up to 6 months in advance.  

Directions to Fore Lake: Drive 5.1 miles north on SR 314 from Nuby’s Corner (junction of SR 40 and SR 314). Turn left at the Fore Lake sign and continue 0.7 miles to the recreation area.


ocala national forest ocalanf hopkins prairie Explore Ocala National Forest from 14 campgrounds
Hopkins Prairie (USDA Photo)

Hopkins Prairie Campground

An island of shady oaks amid sweeping grasslands, the Hopkins Prairie Campground is a seasonal destination for campers looking to get off the beaten path. It sits along the Florida Trail and offers opportunities for fishing and birding along miles of prairie shoreline. All 21 sites are well-shaded in an oak hammock surrounded by grasslands, affording most sites a view of the prairie. Kayak launch.

Things to do: Fishing, hiking the Florida Scenic Trail, birding. Sites: 21 Camping Fee: $12/ night. (2022) Usage: Heavy. Facilities: Hand pump for drinking water. Vault toilets. Nearby Salt Springs has groceries, restaurants, gas station, and outfitter. Pets: OK in campground. Reservations: First come, first served. No reservations but you can use recreation.gov to pay with credit card instead of cash.

Directions to Hopkins Prairie: The turnoff for Hopkins Prairie is 9.2 miles north along SR 19 from the intersection with SR 40. Turn left and follow the signs, turning left, right, and left along unmarked, unimproved roads to reach the camping area.


ocala national forest onf lake delancey Explore Ocala National Forest from 14 campgrounds
Lake Delancey West camp site. (USDA Photo)

Lake Delancey Campgrounds East Campground CLOSED

Two campgrounds on Lake Delancey, which is a shallow, somewhat marshy body of water, cater to different users. Off-road vehicle enthusiasts and equestrians are restricted to the West Campground, where they have access to numerous OHV trails in the Ocala North OHV Trail System. The East Campground is more attractive to transient RV campers, although neither campground has any hookups. This recreation area also serves as a trailhead and designated campground along the hiking-only Florida Scenic Trail.

Things to do: OHV trails from the West campground. Fishing and kayaking in the East campground. Sites: East, 29 primitive sites for tents and trailers; West, unmarked primitive sites. Camping Fee: East, $15/night. West, $5/night. Usage: Heavy. Facilities: Boat ramp. Shaded picnic grounds and drinking water available in west. Pets: OK in the campground. Reservations: None. First come, first served.  

Directions to Lake Delancey: From Salt Springs, drive north along SR 19 for 5.7 miles to the “Lake Delancy” sign on the left side of the highway. Follow Forest Road 66 to the appropriate campground.


Lake Dorr campground
Lake Dorr campsite

This 1,300-acre lake is popular for motorboats and water skiing, as well as fishing and kayaking. The campground is set in the shade of an oak hammock, not far from the Ocala National Forest Visitor Center in nearby Pittman. There is a small swimming beach. Lake Dorr has one of only two rental cabins in Ocala National Forest, a two-bedroom cabin with its own private boat ramp and a canoe.

Things to do: Fishing, picnicking and hiking. Sites: 34 sites for tent or RV. No hookups. Camping Fee: $20 per night for camping.; $5 boat launch fee. The cabin is $142.87 per night plus tax, minimum 3-night stay. Usage: Heavy. Facilities: Picnic tables, fire ring and a grill. Drinking water and a bathhouse. Boat ramp. No dump station. Pets: OK in campground. Reservations: Up to six months in advance on recreation.gov

Directions to Lake Dorr: Drive north along SR 19 from Altoona and watch for the sign on the right, across from the Pittman Visitor Center.


ocala national forest ocalanf lake eaton Explore Ocala National Forest from 14 campgrounds
Lake Eaton (USDA Photo)

Lake Eaton Campground

Dense subtropical foliage on a 292-acre shallow lake, Lake Eaton is a prime destination for anglers and paddlers. The Lake Eaton Campground has only 14 sites, and getting requires patience and a vehicle that can handle a rutted, unimproved road. At the end of the journey, the reward is Lake Eaton Boat Launch and Pier, where you can launch a motor boat or a kayak from the unimproved ramp.

Things to do: Fishing. Sites: 13 tent or RV. No hookups. Camping Fee: $10/night for a single site; $15 for a double site. $5 fee for the boat ramp. Facilities: Picnic tables, fire ring, lantern post, boat ramp, fishing pier, vault toilets, no water. Groceries, hardware and gas six miles away. Pets: OK in campground. Reservations: Call 1-877-444-6777 or book onlin

Directions to Lake Eaton: South on CR 314-A from CR 314 for 2.5 miles. Turn left on Forest Road 44, an unimproved and deeply rutted road, and make a sharp left at the “Lake Eaton Campground” sign. At the corner of NE 171 Ave Rd and NE 61st Street Rd, continue straight through the recreation area gates. The campground gates are on the right.


ocala national forest ocalanf shanty pond Explore Ocala National Forest from 14 campgrounds
Shanty Pond. (USDA photo)

Shanty Pond Campground

Shanty Pond is in the heart of the Big Scrub, south of Salt Springs off SR 19.  A favorite of equestrians, off-road bicyclists, hikers, and hunters, the campground has access to a large network of forest roads where horse are welcome.

Things to do: Horseback riding. Camping Fee: $10/night. Usage: Heavy. Facilities: Picnic tables, drinking water and toilets. Pets: OK in campground. Reservations: Call 1-877-444-6777 or book onlin


Read more: 6 things to do in Ocala National Park

Closures can occur at any time for various reasons, including fire hazards, bear intrusion, flooding, storms, etc. Other factors, such as military missions and hunting, may result in closures of some areas of the forest. Check before you go by calling 352-625-2520. You may also want to check their Facebook page for updates.


Florida State Park Campgrounds

in Ocala National Forest

Two Florida State Parks with developed campgrounds are on the edges of Ocala National Park — Silver Springs on the west side, near Ocala, and the Rodman Campground on the north side.


Rodman Campground State Park
Rodman Campground (Florida State Parks photo)

Rodman Campground

A prime campground along the northern rim of Ocala National Forest on the Cross-Florida Greenway, Rodman Campground is a state park adjacent to bass-filled Rodman Reservoir. The campground has 60 sites in two campground loops, including 34 RV or tent sites with electric and water hookups with another 26 sites for tents only without hookups. The newer loop has 10 fabuloous sites that back up to a hill and face the water. All the sites are shady and comfortably spaced for a modicum of privacy. Within the campground, there is boat ramp access to Rodman Reservoir with access to the St. Johns river from Rodman Reservoir through Buckman Lock. Within the campground, there is boat ramp access to Rodman Reservoir with access to the St. Johns river from Rodman Reservoir through Buckman Lock.

Things to do: Bicycling, fishing, birding, boating, hiking, mountain biking, wildlife.  Sites: 64 sites, including 38 with electric and water hookups; 26 primitive tent sites. Camping Fee: $22 with hookups plus a $7 daily utility fee; tents, no hookups, $12/night, plus taxes and a non-refundable $6.70 booking fee. Facilities: Picnic tables, fire ring, and lantern posts. A dump station, picnic pavilions, and boat ramps are in the campground. Pets: OK in campground. Reservations: Book online up to 11 months in advance.  


Silver Springs State Park: Wonderful kayaking is just the start of why this is one of the best Florida state parks. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Silver Springs State Park: Wonderful kayaking is just the start of why this is one of the best Florida state parks. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Silver Springs State Park

Silver Springs State Park is an exceptionally beautiful and historic attraction that has been tastefully preserved. Once a private attraction, the state of Florida took over in 2013, merging it with a neighboring state park and preserving one of the most exquisite slices of Florida natural beauty anywhere. The classic glass-bottom boat tour, which began in 1878, continues. Canoes and kayaks allow you to enjoy pristine scenery and wildlife on one of Florida’s most beautiful kayak trail. Fifteen miles of lovely forest trails can be walked or ridden on mountain bikes. Each of the park’s 50 campsites is unusually large and surrounded by vegetation for privacy. 

Things to do: Bicycling, mountain biking, glass-bottom boat tours, boating, geo-seeking, hiking, horseback riding, kayaking (rentals available), birds, and wildlife.  Sites: 59 RV or tent sites with 50-amp electric and water hookups. Sites 20 & 53 are fully accessible with paved pads and sidewalks leading to both of the campground bathhouses. Camping Fee: $24/night for campsites plus $7 daily utility fee; Cabins: $110. Non-refundable $6.70 reservation fee (per booking). Facilities: All sites have a fire ring, barbecue grill, and picnic table. Firewood is available for purchase. Pets: OK in the campground. Reservations: Book online up to 11 months in advance.  

Read More: Silver Springs State Park: Famous spring plus cabins, hiking, history

Read More: Kayaking Silver Springs: Exquisite trail for kayaks is highlight of Silver River

Directions to Silver Springs State Park: From the city of Ocala, take State Road 40 east 7 miles to the park entrance.


Notes from the editor:

The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning visits.

This page may include affiliate links from which we earn modest commissions if a purchase is made. 

This article is property of FloridaRambler.com, protected by U.S. Copyright Law. Re-publication without written permission is against the law.


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dan

Friday 9th of October 2020

as of 10-9-20 most of the forest service campgrounds are closed ( lake Eaton, shanty pond, fore lake and big scrub. Hopkins parrie is open possible. call the forest service before heading out.

Bob Rountree

Saturday 10th of October 2020

Thanks for the heads up, Dan! Shanty Pond is scheduled to open on Oct. 15, so I'll check back and fix if that doesn't happen. The others you mention should be open but are not. I corrected this guide until I get clarification from the forest service.

Lynne Helm

Tuesday 6th of October 2020

A terrific resource for accuracy in planning.

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