Situated in Northern Florida, Ocala is a charming city in Marion County. Home to historic structures like the Union Train Station and Coca Cola Building, as well as breathtaking natural views at the Ocala National Forest, and the nearby Silver Springs State Park, this Floridian community is a prominent destination for history and nature lovers alike. Encompassed by hundreds of hiking trails, Ocala boasts an abundance of incredibly easy to moderate paths for hikers of all ages and skills. In terms of climate, Ocala is distinguished by a dry season in early autumn to early summer, which is marked by plenty of sunshine and minimal precipitation, and a wet season with frequent thunderstorms that primarily takes place during the summer months. Accordingly, the dry season would be the most appropriate time to plan a hiking trip since the inclement weather is uncommon during this period. There are many vacation rentals in Ocala to choose from. With that said, here are several fantastic trails to check out in and around Ocala.
1. Holly Hammock Hiking Trail
The shorter of the two paths of the Cross Florida Greenways Ross Prairie Trailhead, Holly Hammock Hiking Trail is an exceptionally easy loop. Moreover, this path conveniently provides shower and restroom facilities at the beginning of the trail. Stretching two and a half miles long, the path runs through the peaceful woodland comprised of longleaf pines and oak hammocks in the Ross Prairie State Forest. During the summer months, hikers can see blooming orchids, while the springtime and fall feature vibrant wildflowers on sandhills.
2. Johnson Pond Trail
A local favorite, the Johnson Pond Trail has tucked away in the Withlacoochee State Forest and stretches almost three miles. The namesake pond can be seen early on in the trek with an overlook boasting a gorgeous view of pond lilies and birds. In regard to flora, this trail is known for its tall rosemary shrubs surrounded by reindeer lichen and deer moss.
3. Bear-N-Oak Trail
Nestled at Indian Lake State Forest in nearby Silver Springs, Bear-N-Oak Trail guides hikers on a loop that spans a mile and a half. The trail is part of the Florida’s State Forest Trailwalker program that offers a glimpse at the diverse ecosystem at Indian Lake, which features some Ocala Limestone deposits. While trekking the path, hikers can walk under a tunnel of arched oak trees, admire the western area of the lake, and picnic at one of the benches located along the shore.
4. Oxbow Trail
For hikers who prefer a considerably hidden and low-key path, the Oxbow Trail at the northernmost point of the Withlacoochee State Forest is ideal. The loop trail is a little more than a mile in length and features a cypress swamp, as well as a scrub forest which attracts songbirds. If this relatively easy path is too short, the longer Oxbow Nature Trail, which is along the route, can extend the trip by a couple of more miles.
5. Silver Springs Sinkhole Trail
Explore the region around the Silver River State Parks giant sinkhole and River on the Silver Springs Sinkhole Trail. Looping a 2.5-mile route, this easy trail takes hikers around an amazing sinkhole, as well as through sand pine scrub, oak hammocks, and sandhills. Gopher tortoise burrows are also common occurrences on this route.
6. Silver Springs Sandhill Nature Trail
The Silver Springs Sandhill Nature Trail is accessible from the aforementioned Sinkhole Trail. A little less than two miles long, this trail is one of the shortest at Silver River State Park, but it features lovely views of a sandhill ecosystem. Expect to see dense thickets of turkey pine with the occasional woodpecker, longleaf pine, and wiregrass.
7. Ross Prairie Loop
Considered only moderately challenging, the 3.5-mile Ross Prairie Loop lets hikers observe long stretches of grassland lined by forests and oak hammocks. The diverse prairie grasses grew out of historic sand dunes situated on the Ocala Limestone. Among the grassy areas, there are also ponds and marshes. It is advised that hikers bring bug spray as the insect situation thrives in this sort of environment.
8. Santos Trailhead
When trekking by foot through woods and grass becomes too tiresome, head to the Cross Florida Greenways Santos Trailhead where bicyclists are permitted on the path. Furthermore, there is a bike shop at the trail for adventurers without proper gear. Accordingly, along with the route, both covered and open picnic tables, as well as cooking grills are available.
9. Rainbow Springs Sandhill Trail
In proximity to Ocala is the Rainbow Springs State Park in the city of Dunnellon. The community is renowned for its naturally occurring phosphate, as this was the first place in Florida where it was commercially mined. Due to the mining, the trails landscape features awe-inspiring ravines. The Rainbow Springs Sandhill Trail is an easy loop that spans a little over two miles. To access the trailhead, hikers must enter the butterfly garden and make a right turn.
10. Trails at Sholom Park
Sholom Park is a private sanctuary offering free admission to the public. Open daily, this park was designed to encourage its visitors to take meditative walks and find inner peace. The paved network of loops span around two miles, and the paths easily accommodate wheelchairs and strollers. Notable routes at Sholom Park include the Azalea Trail, the Labyrinth, and Prairie Trail. The park is home to shady thickets, an expansive pond with koi and turtles, and ferns.