After those last days in cities and fun parks, it was definitely time for some outdoor adventures. What a coincidence that we were quite close to Ocala National Forest!
It is located in the center of Florida and spans more than 600 square miles , nearly 1.600 km2.
We entered the national forest from the north and did three hikes on the first day. At Salt Springs Recreation Area we had a look at the spring…
… before we did the Bear Swamp Trail, an easy, 1.3 miles loop that starts at the recreation area and brings you into an ancient forest.
There was even some foliage:
When we were done with Bear Swamp Trail, we left the recreation area and hit the next trail, just a mile down the road: Salt Springs Loop Trail
(We did not see nude hikers by the way – nor ticks or red bugs )
This loop was another easy, 2.1 miles track that brought us to the Salt Springs Run.
At the end of the trail, you find a boardwalk that leads to a viewing platform next to the run.
This hike was a bit adventurous because firstly, the trailhead was hard to find and secondly, the boardwalk was not that well maintained…
On the other side, as this trailhead lies outside of the recreation area, you don’t have to pay an entrance fee to do this hike…
Our third and last hike for the day was the 5.5 miles loop Yearling Trail.
This hike brought us to the remains of settlers that lived in this area at the beginning of the 20th century.
If you know the novel “The Yearling”, you might be even more interested in this hike as it is based on the life of these settlers, Reuben and Sara Jane Long and their son Melvin. When the book became a movie, some of the scenes were shot here, too.
And then something wonderful happened: deep in the woods we met Santa!
Wait a minute…
On our second day we visited Silver Springs State Park and did most of the hikes there. Unfortunately we were not that lucky weatherwise. It was very grey the whole day and even rained lightly from time to time.
We started the day with the Swamp Trail which led over a – you might guess it – swamp to a viewing platform next to Silver River.
Then there were also Sinkhole Trail, which led to a… sinkhole, right…
(not the most interesting trail, by the way)
…then the River Trail which led to a… correct, river (Silver River to be more precise)…
…and Sand Hill Trail which led to … well… a sand hill I guess but you couldn’t really make it out. The trail was sandy though…?!
When we were done hiking we drove over to Silver Spring (the hike over to the spring was closed so we had to take the car and enter the park from another entrance).
There used to be a privately operated theme park around the spring. However, that didn’t work out as the investor had planned and some years ago, the State Park took over the whole enterprise. What is left are the reminds of the theme park like a huge entrance…
… the… mmmmmh… quote: “World famous glass bottom boats”…
… and a walkway along the spring:
One could have rented a kajak though but due to the light rain we didn’t really feel like doing that.
Let me put it this way: If you visit Silver Springs State Park, do it because of the hikes, not because of the “other attractions”…
I could have spend some more days at Ocala National Forest. There are so much more wonderful hikes waiting to be done. I found an amazing website:
where you can find many many hikes which you can do in Florida. So if you are interested in hiking, check this page out.
All that is left for me to say for the moment is: Seasonal greetings from Silver Springs!
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