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Ultimate guide to Ocala National Forest camping

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Last updated on July 5th, 2024 at 10:51 am

With 13 forest campgrounds, two state parks and the ability to backpack a tent deep into the wilderness, Ocala National Forest camping opens up a world considerably disparate from Florida’s coastal crush.

You can swim in the cool, clear waters of the forest’s many springs, paddle uniquely scenic spring runs, lakes and rivers, and explore the forest on hundreds of miles of forest roads and wilderness trails.

Welcome to the heart of Florida.

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4 Ocala National Forest Recreation Areas

Popular hubs with developed campgrounds

Developed campgrounds in the forest’s Recreation Areas have more amenities, although only one has full hookups for RVs. They also feature better security with gated campgrounds and on-site campground hosts.

The recreation areas have day-use areas offering swimming, kayaking, direct access to trails for hiking, off-road bicycles and even trails for horseback riding.

They are also more likely to have cell-phone service because of their location near highways that cut through and around the forest (but don’t expect much beyond one or two bars).

Salt Springs Recreation Area

salt springs ocala national forest camping
The springhead at Salt Springs pumps 52 million gallons of water into the spring run every day at a constant temperature of 74 degrees F. (Ocala National Forest photo)

Salt Springs has the largest, most developed campground in Ocala National Forest — and it’s the only campground in the forest with full hookups for recreational vehicles.

It’s also the most difficult forest campground to secure a reservation when you want it.

The recreation area features a major spring with a large swimming area around the springhead, spilling into a broad, five-mile spring run leading to Lake George and the St. Johns River.

A large swimming area at the spring head is popular year around because of its refreshing and constant 74-degree temperature emerging from underground rivers at the rate of 52 million gallons a day.

The spring run is accessible from the boat ramp at the Salt Springs Marina. which rents paddle boards, kayaks, canoes, skiffs, and pontoon boats. The flow of water to Lake George is slow enough for paddling out and back.

There is another unimproved boat launch in the campground.

Campers and day-use visitors have access to hiking trails and off-road bicycling.

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

The Salt Springs Campground has 106 sites with full hookups for either RV’s or tents and another 54 sites without hookups for tents only. 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.

The recreation area is near a gas station, grocery store, restaurant, bait and tackle shop, post office and laundromat in the adjacent community of Salt Springs.

RV sites with hookups are usually booked solid, even after the tourist season, so reservations are a must. I’ve had little luck booking a site here, although campers with more patience and date flexibility should do better.

Salt Spring gets its name from its mineral content — potassium, magnesium, and sodium salts — giving the water a slight salinity.

Salt Springs Recreation Area, 13851 FL-19, Fort McCoy, FL 32134. Phone: (352) 685-2048. Camping Fee: $65/night with full hookups; $34 for seniors and Access Pass holders; $31/night for tents, no hookups. (2023-24 rates) Change or cancellation fees: $10. Pets: OK in campground. Reservations: Book online at Recreation.gov up to 6 months in advance or call 1-877-444-6777. Maximum stay 14 nights. This campground does have a few sites set aside for first-come, first-served. For last-minute availability, call the campground directly at (352) 685-2048. Open all year.

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.

Note: Florida state fishing and boating license requirements apply in Ocala National Forest.


Alexander Springs Recreation Area

One of only 27 first-magnitude springs in Florida, Alexander Springs is one of 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.

The launch area for the spring run was a bit of a hike from the nearest parking, so I’d recommend a kayak cart to carry the load on the asphalt path.

alexander springs campground ocala national forest camping
Back-in Site 48 is typical of what you’ll find in the campground. There are a handful of pull-through sites along the park road. (Photo by Bob Rountree)

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

We saw about a half-dozen pull-through sites alongside the main campground road.

Potable water spigots are shared, there are two bath houses with hot showers a short walk from all sites and a single dump station is positioned near the campground exit.

The campground seems well-maintained, although it’s showing its age.

You can walk to the day-use recreation area and springs.

Alexander Springs Recreation Area, 49525 County Rd 445, Altoona, FL 32702. Phone: (352) 669-3522. Camping Fee: $34 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.  


Juniper Springs Recreation Area

Juniper Springs is exceptionally beautiful with dense tropical foliage, and it’s the most well-known destination in Ocala National Forest.

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

juniper springs ocala national forest camping
The old mill adds historic charm to Juniper Springs. The swimming area at the spring head is behind the mill. (Photo by Bob Rountree)

Unfortunately, the concession no longer operates a shuttle to the popular take-out on U.S. 19, so you’ll either have to paddle down and back to the launch or arrange your own shuttle for this spectacular 7.3-mile spring run.

The gated campground has been named one of the Top 100 Family Campgrounds in the United States, and reservations are competitive for its 79 campsites, 19 of which are set aside for tents only.

ocala national forest campsite at Juniper Springs, Ocala National Forest camping
Campsite at Juniper Springs (Photo by Bonnie Gross)

Like other campgrounds in Ocala National Forest (except Salt Springs), there are no hookups. Each site has 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 at the spring head 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.

Reservations are recommended, especially during the winter tourist season.

Juniper Springs Recreation Area, 26701 FL-40, Silver Springs, FL 34488. Camping Fee: All sites are $34 per night, tent or RV. (2023 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.


Clearwater Lake Recreation Area Campground

clearwater lake ocala national forest camping
Clearwater Lake Campground: Loop B sites (Photo by Bob Rountree)

When we arrived at Clearwater Lake Recreation Area, we felt like we were in a lonely little corner of Ocala National Forest, and that’s not a bad thing. We found it peaceful in its isolation, near the tiny hamlet of Paisley on the forest’s southern border.

A big attraction, aside from shady and spacious campsites, is the nearby Paisley Woods Bicycle Trail, a 22-mile single-loop trail through pristine forest to the Alexander Springs Recreation Area.

While classified as a recreation area, the “beach” is not much to look at, nor is the shallow lake anything to get excited about, and levels depend on forest runoff.

But if you’re looking to spend a lazy afternoon in a canoe or kayak, available for rent at the ranger station, this might be a good destination for locals.

There is a 1.2-mile hiking trail that circumnavigates the lake, and the Florida Scenic Trail passes near here after winding 72 miles through the forest.

The campsites are spacious and shaded in an oak hammock with many facing the lake where they can catch a breeze.

The recreation area is gated and 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.

Loop A is closer to the beach and has more lakefront sites (I especially liked 10, 13 and 15), while Loop B sites 24-42 enjoy relief is a picturesque hammock of live oak.

Our little secret: There is a path to the lake between Loop B sites 34 and 36, making them ideal for kayakers.

This campground has first-come, first-served sites, but you should have a backup plan during the peak winter season.

We found the couple managing Clearwater Lake to be very pleasant and personable.

Clearwater Lake Campground, 24511 Co Rd 42, Paisley, FL 32767. Phone:  (352) 669-0078 Campground Fee: $34/night plus tax (2023 rates). No hookups. Pets: 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.

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


2 State Parks at the Forest Edge

Two campgrounds with all the amenities (and then some)

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.

ocala national forest camping rodman waterfront sites Ultimate guide to Ocala National Forest camping
Ten campsites (#59-68) at the Rodman Campground face the Cross Florida Barge Canal. The high banks, however, prevent access to the water. The ridge behind these sites is dredge from the 1960s canal excavation. (Photo by Bob Rountree)

Rodman State Park Campground

A prime campground along the northern rim of Ocala National Forest on the Cross-Florida Greenway, Rodman Campground is a nicely groomed 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 and another 26 sites for tents without hookups. The newer loop has 10 sites that face — but do not have access to — the Cross-Florida Barge Canal. A boat ramp elsewhere in the park offers access.

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 and a non-refundable $6.70 booking 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 ocala national forest camping
Silver Springs State Park: Wonderful kayaking is just the start of why this is one of Florida’s best state parks. (Photo by Bonnie Gross)

Silver Springs State Park Campground

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 it 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 trails. 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 plus $7 daily utility fee and a non-refundable $6.70 booking fee; Cabins: $110, $7 daily utility fee, and a non-refundable $6.70 reservation fee. 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

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

Camping with Bears, Raccoons and Alligators

Bears roam freely in Ocala National Forest. Raccoons are common near campgrounds, and alligators are a common sight near water.

Do not feed wild animals — for their health and your safety. Secure food and garbage, using the bear-proof boxes when available.

When people feed wild animals, the animals lose their fear of humans. Next thing you know, they’ll want you for lunch.

Be careful out there!

9 Remote Campgrounds in Ocala National Forest

Rustic and wild, few amenities but lots of adventure

These remote campgrounds in Ocala National Forest are gateways to adventure but have few amenities. Just the basics. A place to pitch a tent or park an RV with a picnic table and fire ring. Maybe.

Many are remote, accessible only from unpaved forest roads and often out of range for mobile phone cellular service. Security may be a consideration.

Some are base camps for all-terrain vehicles, hunters or equestrians, but they are open to all who seek a walk on the wild side of Ocala National Forest.

A few of these campgrounds are real gems. Read on.

Big Bass Camp, Ocala National Forest
Big Bass Camp

Big Bass Campground

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 are 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; horse trails are nearby. Despite its name, there is no water for fishing or paddling a kayak, just a few small ponds. This is sandhill crane territory. A seasonal campground, Big Bass is open only from October through April. Pets are allowed on a leash.

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

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 and 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: Online up to 6 months in advance at Recreation.gov, or by calling 1-877-444-6777, up to six months in advance. A handful of sites are first-come, first-served.


Bluff Landing

Primitive camping on a bluff with access to Alexander Springs Run, but there are only three tent sites. No amenities. Camping is free. Because of its remote location, security is an issue, and visitors report the sites are often trashed. There is a kayak launch. The sites are popular with anglers and paddlers, or anyone looking to get away from it all. For some, that means it’s party time. For others, it’s a place to hide. Maximum stay is four nights, but the campground is unattended so the limit is probably not enforced.

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.


Hunting Season


Many of the forest’s remote campgrounds are crowded with hunters during General Gun Season, which usually runs from late October into January. Some may even be closed to non-hunters. For dates, check with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

ocala national forest camping ocalanf fore lake Ultimate guide to Ocala National Forest camping
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. First come, first served.

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.

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 camping ocalanf hopkins prairie Ultimate guide to Ocala National Forest camping
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 on 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. (2023) Usage: Heavy. Facilities: Hand pump for drinking water. Vault toilets. Boat ramp (fee $5) 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 camping onf lake delancey Ultimate guide to Ocala National Forest camping
Lake Delancey West camp site. (USDA Photo)

Lake Delancey Campgrounds

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 with access to trails in the Ocala North OHV Trail System. The East Campground is more attractive to transient RV campers, although neither campground has any hookups. ATVs are not permitted in the east campground. This recreation area serves as a trailhead and designated campground along the Florida Scenic Trail. The West campground is open all year, but the East campground is closed from May until October.

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 ocala national forest
This campsite (#32) affords a little more space and privacy than most sites in the Lake Dorr Campground. (Photo by Bob Rountree)

This 1,300-acre lake is popular for motorboats and water skiing, fishing and kayaking. The campground is set in the shade of an oak hammock, not far from the main Ocala National Forest Visitor Center in 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.

lake dorr ocala national forest
Sandhill cranes linger near campsite at Lake Dorr. (Photo by Bob Rountree)

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 table, fire ring and a grill. Drinking water spigots (shared) 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 camping ocalanf lake eaton Ultimate guide to Ocala National Forest camping
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 one 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 day-use pass, includes 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.

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 camping ocalanf shanty pond Ultimate guide to Ocala National Forest camping
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. First-come, first served.

Things to do: Horseback riding. Camping Fee: $10/night. Usage: Heavy. Facilities: Picnic tables, drinking water and toilets. Pets: OK in campground.


Read more: 6 things to do in Ocala National Park

Forest Closures


Closures can occur at any time for a variety of reasons, including fire hazards, bear intrusion, flooding, storms, etc. Other factors, such as military missions and hunting, may also result in closures of specific areas of the forest.

Check before you go:

Visit the Forest Alert Page, which includes the latest notifications for all three National Forests in Florida. You may also check the forest-service Facebook page for updates. You may also call 352-625-2520.

Dispersed Camping

Head out on a trail, camp anywhere

You don’t need a reservation to camp in the back country of Ocala National Forest, you won’t see a fire ring or a picnic table, and you may be camping in a spot where no one has ever camped before.

Know your limits before hiking into the wilderness for an overnight camping adventure. To help you get started, read this story by Florida Rambler contributor Kyle Albinus.

Identify a trailhead where you can park, but it’s probably best to park in a secure area, such as a campground with a host or recreation area where you may be charged a parking fee — much better than returning to an isolated trailhead and finding your vehicle gone.

Dispersed camping is prohibited during General Gun Hunting Season (late October to January), except in designated campgrounds and the Juniper Prairie Wilderness.

Other starting points for dispersed camping are in these designated wilderness areas:

Before embarking on an overnight hike, backpackers should check in at the forests’s Pittman Visitor Center in Altoona for the latest trail conditions and forest notices. It’s also a good idea to leave your backcountry plan with rangers in case you get lost.

While you’re there, spend $12 and pick up an official forest service map, which shows campgrounds, trailheads, campgrounds and more.

Additional Resources

The official Ocala National Forest Visitors Guide, actually a detailed full-color map, is available online for $14 plus shipping. I purchased this map at the Pittman Visitor Center and found it very useful during my visit to the forest.

The Florida Scenic Trail cuts through Ocala National Forest for 72 miles with multiple access points, including (south to north) Clearwater Lake Recreation Area, Alexander Springs, Buck Lake, Farles Lake, Juniper Springs, Hopkins Prairie, Salt Springs Recreation Area, Lake Delancy and Rodman State Park. (See campground listings above).

Few know the trails in Ocala National Forest better than veteran outdoors writer Sandra Friend, who details more than two dozen day hikes and overnight camping on her web site, FloridaHikes! On Sandra’s web site, you can also purchase hiking guidebooks useful in Ocala National Forest and elsewhere in Florida.

Florida Rambler articles about Ocala National Forest

Books of interest on Amazon

Delorme’s Florida Atlas and Gazetteer, $20 at Amazon. A comprehensive guide to Florida’s backcountry with detailed maps, including the extensive network of Ocala National Forest roads (paved and unpaved), trailheads, boat ramps, fishing holes, and more. An ideal companion for exploring Florida’s outdoors.

Haunted Ocala National Forest, $23 on Amazon. Author and folklorist Christopher Balzano takes readers deep into Ocala National Forest and beyond for true stories, urban legends and haunted folklore.

Florida Birds: A folding pocket guide. $8 on Amazon. Includes 140 of the most common and familiar species as well as an ecoregion map showing over 20 bird-finding hotspots.

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  • Jimmy says:

    Hello which campground is the picture below the following: Are the sites really across from the water that close?

    2 State Parks at the Forest Edge
    Two campgrounds with all the amenities (and then some)

    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.

    Thanks!

    • Bob Rountree says:

      Yes! Ten sites (#59-68) at the Rodman State Park Campground are directly on the Cross Florida Barge Canal, as shown in the photograph. The canal banks are high, though, and the canal is inaccessible.

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