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The Florida State Park System: An Excellent Steward of the State’s Natural Resources

Beautiful State Parks All Within An Hour Of Gainesville

Payne’s Prairie Preserve State Park

 100 Savannah Blvd., Micanopy, FL 32667

-$6/vehicle (2+ passengers) $4/single person in vehicle, $2/ pedestrian

- M-F 8am- sundown

-Hiking, long trails

-Bicycling

-Geocaching

-Equestrian Friendly

-Observation overlook

-Bison, gator, horses, deer, fox, rabbit, turkey

-Camping

-Paddling

-Fishing

-Playground

-Bathrooms

- 352 466 3397

Boasting a wide variety of trails and multiple entrances, Payne’s Prairie makes it easy to enjoy the wildlife of Florida while staying close to home. The entrance closest to Gainesville is La Chua trail, accessed by SE 15th Street,  has remained partially closed due to flooding. Bolen Bluff, accessed via Highway 441 South, is also partially closed due to increased water levels since Hurricane Irma. The main park entrance is easily accessed off of Highway 441. Be prepared for a beautiful slow drive on winding roads through the forest before even reaching the ranger station. Most mornings, you can spot a tortoise, deer, hawk, or eagle before even parking! You can enjoy wildlife watching both on the trails and from the impressive 50-foot high observation tower. It’s not unusual to spot wild bison, horses, alligators, sandhill cranes, blue heron, and more during a visit to the prairie. Many deer, birds of prey, armadillo and fox can also be spotted in the neighboring wooded trails. Due to the prevalence of wildlife, pets are not allowed on several of the more popular trails, so be sure to check their website and plan accordingly. Camping is available year-round and serves as a wonderful getaway for families.

Dudley Farm Historic State Park

18730 W. Newberry Road, Newberry, FL 32669

-$5/vehicle

- Wed-Sun 9am-4pm, Closed Mon-Tues

-Educational

-18 historical buildings

-Working farm

-Bathrooms

- (352 472 1142

Experience the history of farming in Florida with a quick trip down Newberry Road beyond the interstate and Town of Tioga to Dudley Farm. This working farm demonstrates the evolution of farming through three generations of the Dudley family, from the 1850s to 1940s. The family farmhouse has its original furnishings and park staff work the farm in period clothing maintaining upkeep of the land, livestock, and crops. Many demonstrations and activities are available throughout the year, with history lessons always available. While not a traditional nature park, there is still plenty of walking involved while exploring the farm and many buildings. Gain a greater appreciation for the food on our supermarket shelves and a glimpse into traditional Florida farming life with this fun park!

Ichetucknee Springs State Park

12087 SW U.S. Highway 27, Fort White, FL 32038

-$6/vehicle (2+ passengers) $4/single person in vehicle, $2/ pedestrian

- M-S 8am- sunset

-Geocaching

-Tubing

-Kayaking (river only)

-Swim/Snorkel

-SCUBA

- 386 497 4690

Ichetucknee is known for relaxing, warm afternoons spent tubing along the six miles of crystal-clear water in the Ichetucknee River, created by eight major connected springs. Hot summer days are easy to cool off in the 72-degree spring water feeding the river. Park staff offer shuttle services year-round. At the North Entrance of the park, guests can enjoy swimming in the headsprings as well as a half-mile hike through cypress flood plain to Ichetucknee’s largest spring, Blue Hole. Blue Hole, a first magnitude spring, pumps 67 million gallons of water into the river every day. Known as “Jug Hole” by the SCUBA diving community, this spring offers a unique dive open to any cavern or cave certified diver. Perfect park for families of all ages.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park

18700 S. CR 325, Cross Creek, FL 32640

- $3/ vehicle, tour fees are separate

- M-F 9am-5pm

-Historical

-Geocaching

-Lake front park adjacent

-Boat ramp

-Playground

-Bathrooms

-Fishing

- 352 466 3672

Venture back to an authentic, young Florida lush with orange trees, lakes, streams, and beautiful countryside. This is the Florida that Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was seeking when she made Cross Creek her home. The history of perhaps her most well-known book, The Yearling, is kept alive at a landmark restaurant a few miles from the park. Her farmed homestead is now Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings State Park, dedicated to preserving her life and work. Her house remains in-tact, along with a large barn, chicken coops, and other outbuildings. The yard contains an orange grove and variety of small gardens. Her home maintains her original furnishings and guided tours by in-costume staff are available Thursdays-Sundays, October-July, at 10am, 11am, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm at $3/adult and $2/child (not included in park fee, paid at honor box). Adjacent to the state park is a county park dedicated to the author featuring a public boat ramp to Orange Lake, a large playground, bathrooms, and beautiful fields.

O’Leno State Park and River Rise

410 SE O'Leno Park Road, High Springs, FL 32643

-$5/vehicle (2+ passengers) $4/single person in vehicle, $2/ pedestrian

- M-S 8am- sundown

-Suspension bridge

-Fishing

-Hiking

-Camping

-Bicycling

-Swimming

-Paddling

-Playground

-Geocaching

-Nature center and museum

-Bathrooms

- 386 454 1853

Like Payne’s Prairie, this park offers a lot of variety in one package. Nestled along the Santa Fe River, O’Leno State Park features a one-of-a-kind suspension bridge allowing guests to walk across the river and access miles of trails ideal for hiking and bicycling. This bridge was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, for which a historical museum was created on-site. During the wetter months, small rapids can be seen from the bridge. The trails follow along the riverbanks and feature hardwood hammocks, sinkholes, sandhills, and river swamps. As the river makes its way through the park, it disappears underground for a 3-mile journey to River Rise Preserve State Park, where it emerges and forms a circular pool.

Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park

4732 Millhopper Rd, Gainesville

-$5/vehicle or $2/pedestrian

- Wednesday-Sunday 9am-5pm, Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

-Hiking

-Bathrooms

-Picnicking

-352 955 2008

While many locals flock to the stadium for their cardio routine, those in the know head to Devil’s Millhopper for its unique, natural landscape. A winding staircase leads guests 120 feet down into the depths of this sinkhole. Attracting curios explorers since the 1800’s, this park has also provided invaluable historical insight through researching its many layers and fossils. Located conveniently on the northwest side of Gainesville, this state park is a great way to spend the afternoon exploring with family and learning more about the history of our land.

Additional Florida Parks:

Fanning Springs State Park

18020 Northwest, US-19, Fanning Springs

(353) 463-3420

Troy Springs State Park

674 NE Troy Springs Rd, Branford

(386) 935-4835

Manatee Springs State Park

11650 NW 115th St, Chiefland

(352) 493-6072

San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park

Hiking Trailhead:  11101 Millhopper Road, Gainesville 32653

Bicycling/Equestrian Trailheads: 13201 Progress Blvd., Alachua

-$4/vehicle, $2/pedestrian

- M-S 8am- sundown

-Hiking

-Bicycling

-Equestrian trails

-Bathrooms

- 386-462-7905

A local mecca for off-road bicycling, San Felasco boasts almost 20 miles of single-track trails, available for all biking levels. The trails offer a fun variety of challenges including uphill sections, long log bridges, steep switchbacks, log crossings, and steep drops. Bikers are encouraged to carry the basic tools required to change out a tire as needed, as a flat tire is not uncommon on the more advanced trails. Alongside the biking trails are equestrian trails, each designated and clearly marked, with bicyclists asked to yield at any intersection. This ensures an enjoyable experience for bikers and horseback riders alike. While the north end of the park is dedicated to bicycle and equestrian trails, the south end of the park is reserved for hikers. There are 3 hiking trails, varying from .9 to 5.6 miles long. Hikers can explore the hardwood forest and see the changing flow patterns of Moonshine Creek. The forest canopy provides great shade making for an enjoyable hike, even during the hot summer months. San Felasco has sectioned the park wonderfully to allow bikers, equestrians, and hikers to fully enjoy one of the few remaining mature forests in Florida.

Additional Florida Parks:

Newnans Lake State Forest

1580 NE 55th Blvd, Gainesville, FL

Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park

6239 State Rd 21, Keystone Heights, FL 32656

(352) 473-4701

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