In my search for cheap places to travel in the USA, I came across Ocala National Forest. It sits in the North Central part of Florida encompassing over 600 sq. miles.
The place has the power to satisfy the urge to taste outdoor adventure. Ocala National Forest in Florida is not like other evergreen forests.
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Also, the ramble forest roads, cypress-studded wetlands, densely wooded oak, colorful pines, and some beautiful springs make the place a wonderland.
In this blog, I’ll discuss the best springs in Ocala National Forest taking you around the sparkling clear water where you can swim, kayak, or just relax.
Sometimes I think Florida was made by God. It has so many amazing places to explore. Did you visit the best lakes in Florida yet? The limestone and clear water make it ideal.
If you love swimming in springs then I suggest visiting some pretty natural springs near Tampa too.
Table of Contents
Best Springs in Ocala National Forest
1. Salt Springs
- Address: 13851 n Highway 19 Fort Mccoy FL 32134
- Fee: $6.5 per person on weekdays and $10 per person on weekends
Salt Spring in Ocala sits in the heart of the National Forest in Central Florida making it one of the most beautiful springs in Ocala. Does the name sound different to you?
Are you curious to know why? It is called Salt Springs because the water has a high concentration of potassium, sodium, and magnesium.
These minerals also make the water slightly salty but not like ocean water which once gets into the mouth can give you an ewww feeling!
I came here in the month of September. I was flabbergasted to see blue crabs swimming in the water enjoying the 74-degree water. I jumped into it too!
Also, I’ve heard that if anyone is searching for Ocala Manatee springs, Salt Springs is a great spot. The water comes from deep underground.
The month of November to February, you can spot manatees, you can take a manatee tour from Salt Spring Marina and Landing. It is an amazing spot to canoe too!
You can swim here. The swimming area is surrounded by a concrete wall. The water is about waist to chest deep. It is one of the clearest water pool springs in Ocala National Forest.
If you move towards the spring vent, it gets deeper. If you can go close to the vent you’ll find some rocks on the ground. You can stand there, however, it’s slippy so be careful!
I was camping at Salt Springs Campgrounds. It is not along the swimming area. You’ve to walk 5-10 minutes to reach the spot. I was staying at primitive campsites #128– 137.
So, if you’re searching for the best Ocala Springs Camping spot, come to Salt Springs as it also offers facilities like grocery shops, restrooms, gas stations, a food truck, and more.
- Please wear water shoes before jumping into the water. If you do not know swimming, rent a floating tube before bumping into the water
- For fun go for a hike, and take the Bear Swamp Trail loop.
2. Fern Hammock Springs
- Address: Inside the Juniper Springs Recreation Area
- Fee: $7 per person on weekdays and $10 per person on weekends
Fern Hammock Springs is one of the most picturesque springs in Ocala, Central Florida in St. Johns River Water Management.
The spring is inside Ocala National Forest inside the Juniper Springs Recreation Area, just close to Juniper Creek.
The pool is about 2 to 6 feet in depth 160 feet from east to west and 75 feet from north to south. It is a second-magnitude spring in Florida.
I love the wooden footbridge at the center near the spring. Stand at one end of the bridge and ask your friend to click a picture of the beautiful sight with you.
The simple wooden bridge holds so much charm. Also, the spring has more than 25 sand boils on the bottoms.
The biggest one about 10 feet in diameter is under the footbridge. There are small boils too. I never saw such hot springs in Ocala boiling before.
The beauty of Fern Hammock Springs lies beneath it. The view of aquatic grasses, blue water, and sand is something you can look at the whole day.
However, good things can only be felt and not touched. You cannot swim or get into Fern Hammock Springs. This is considered an environmentally sensitive area.
Also, there are alligators and snakes. If you still dare to get into the best springs in Ocala National Forest, you can be a favorite dish for aquatic habitats.
Entering Fern Hammock Springs is not free. You must pay $7 or $10 as an entrance fee depending on the time of the week you’re visiting.
During my visit, the Juniper Springs Nature Trail boardwalk winding around Juniper Springs and Fern Hammock Springs was close. But you can hike the trail.
If you want some longer hiking trails, go for The Florida Trail, or the Juniper Prairie Wilderness or south through Farles Prairie.
Tip: You should come to Fern Hammock Springs between November and January (hunting season)
3. Alexander Springs
- Address: Ocala National Forest, 49525 County Road 445
- Fee: $6 per person on weekdays and $10 per person on weekends
If anyone asks me what is the best Ocala Springs for camping? The one name that comes to my mind is Alexander Springs an incredible spring in Florida!
There are 67 campgrounds that have tents and RVs. The place feels so rustic and close to nature. They offer hot shower facilities, a dumping ground, and a snack store.
Alexander Springs in Ocala is such a pretty natural spring in Florida that attracts families to bring their kids to hang out and have fun on a sunny day!
Your kid will love this place as it is not deep and the constant 72-degree temperature of the water in the summer months makes this place the cherry on the cake.
It is 300 feet wide, and gentle slopes and shallow areas make it perfect for anyone to soak in the most pristine springs in North Central Florida near Orlando.
Did you explore the natural springs in Orlando? The spectacular springs offer great recreational activities to perform.
Do you know, what is another best part which I still now did not spill? Alexander Springs in Ocala National Forest allows certified scuba drivers to do scuba diving.
Of course, it depends on the state’s regularities and season but it is the only spring in Ocala that includes hiking, tent camping, snorkeling, diving, scuba, and swimming.
Last year I came to this natural spring in Ocala Florida with Kelvin. Before enjoying the water we went for a hike through The Timucuan Trail.
On the way, we came across cool mushrooms, spiders, trees, moss, and dragonflies, and down the spring which looked like a new shade of blue.
The water was so refreshing! However, I’ve heard Alexander Springs has snakes and alligators too. But, luckily, I did not spot any.
Note: Scuba Diving in Alexander Springs is a must as the visibility is more than 200 feet. Campsites charge $24 per night
4. Juniper Springs
- Address: Ocala National Forest, 26695 E. State Road 40, Silver Springs State Park
- Fee: $6.42 per person on weekdays and $10 per person on weekends
There are many gorgeous and incredible Springs near Ocala but Juniper Springs is the oldest, most famous, and first-magnitude spring inside the Ocala National Forest.
During Great Depression around the 1930s, this spring was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The area has a lot of recreational activities to indulge in.
This is must visit spring in Ocala to enjoy crystal clear blue-tinted 72-degree water. You can drape yourself around palm trees and pines, and no one can see you!
Floridians, visitors, and tourists come to Juniper Springs to swim in the summer season as the water is 135 feet long by 80 feet wide and 8 feet deep. It’s about knee-deep.
Juniper Springs is one of the best springs in Ocala. There is a unique water feast called the old Juniper Springs Mill house that generates clean energy to keep the water clean.
It generates 13 million gallons of natural spring water underground from the limestone caves. The spot is heaven for snorkelers.
You’ll find eel grass covering the swimming area. Do not worry it’s not unhealthy. I recommend renting canoe equipment starting at $20 to enjoy it to the fullest.
Not only that, the campgrounds of Juniper Springs have been ranked as one of Reserve America’s Top 100 Family Campgrounds in the United States.
- Take underground pictures. Bring a dry bag and take your normal phone
- Be safe, because I spotted a black bear on the boardwalk behind the water mill
5. Paradise Springs
- Address: 4040 SE 84th Lane Road, Ocala, Florida
- Fee: $30 for diving
Have you heard of Ocala sinkhole springs which are famous for swimming and scuba diving? This spot is gigantic!
Welcome to Paradise Springs, Ocala. The most unique springs in Ocala Florida as you get the chance to see prehistoric fossils embedded in the wall of the cave.
The limestone beneath the surface narrates the history and offers you the best cavern diving experience.
If you’re experienced divers with scuba certification you can come here on Mondays and Tuesdays to experience something offbeat.
Do you know this diving site is rated 4.12 out of 5? Paradise Springs is the best spring in Ocala National Forest.
Remember, the general public is not allowed on these days. You can come only on Wednesdays through Sundays from 8 am to 5 pm.
Upon entering at about 20 ft. away you’ll see a large tunnel down at a 90-degree angle. Open-water divers are only allowed. The depth of water is around 140 ft.
Divers have to pay $30 in cash to enroll. You’ve to book through the company 24 hours in advance with at least 5 divers in your group.
The water in Paradise Springs is 72-degree temperature clear and blue. It is also termed a “Karst Window” which means door opening to underground streams.
This is not like another stream. Here you’ll not find water bubbling out. Divers who plunge into 99-foot depth will not see any sunlight and it’s complexly black.
6. Scott Springs Park
- Address: 2825 SW 24th Avenue, Ocala, Florida 34474
- Fee: Free
Scott Springs Park is coined as the easiest spring to visit near Ocala and the least visited spring.
This Florida hidden gem is a 22-acre city park where you can bring your lunch to eat in the between of nature. Or bring your kids to play, or a dog for a walk.
It is not like other springs around Ocala where you can jump into the water soaking. You come here to spend your afternoon looking at the spring.
In simple words, Scott Springs Park is meant for bike riding, taking a morning jog, or leisurely sitting and spending time. Yes, they also have some exercise equipment.
They have got a separate spot for picnics, grills, barbecues, and benches. I came to Scott Springs Park recently. So, I know the place is beautiful to stop by!
Therefore, at Scott springs park Ocala, Florida you cannot take a dip but hang out with your friends. The park opens from 9 in the morning to 7 pm every day a year.
Note: You can bring your dog but no swimming here.
7. Silver Glen Springs
- Address: Ocala National Forest, 5271 State Road 19, Salt Springs
- Fee: $8 per person on weekdays and $11 per person on weekends
Silver Glen springs state park Ocala is my favorite spot, I came here for the first time with my friends. It was so much fun and beautiful to witness.
If you’re in search of crystal springs in Ocala with a deep blue spring vent, just come to Silver Glen Spring. It sits on the edge of the Big Scrub.
To date, for me, Silver Glen is the best spring in Ocala. It feels like nature guides you through the spring by offering the shade of tall palm trees.
Can you imagine, you can get such a great photo here? The swimming spot is big with sandy bottoms but sometimes at some points, the water is very deep.
I recommend bringing your raft or tube. Also, here you can enjoy a new water activity known as non-motorized boating.
If you want you can rent kayaks and canoe gear to enjoy time in the water. It is a great spot for snorkeling in Florida.
Also, you can spot manatees, tropical fishes, and cool aquatic vegetation. Boats are not welcome in the swimming area. Do you want to know where to swim with manatees in Florida? Read my other blog!
The water is up to 40 feet in depth falling into Lake George and St. John River. Silver Glen is said to be one of Florida’s clearest springs.
Silver Glen springs in Ocala FL is famous among hikers as they love to hit the trail of Lake George and Spring Boils.
You can also visit Cracker Village at Silver River Museum to spend the afternoon delighting in your knowledge about the place’s history.
- I saw an alligator, a black rat snake in the bushes, and monkeys at Silver Glen Spring. So, be aware of wildlife
- If you’re prone to motion sickness then Bottom Boat Tours are not for you because sharp turns are dangerous
- The park organizes fun activities like a garden tour, music events, and other programs so make sure you know which time are you going
8. Rainbow Springs
- Address: 19158 SW 81st Place Road, Dunnellon. FL
- Fee: $2
Canoeing down the Rainbow River through sapphire blue tint water and watching the “real Florida” in front of my eyes were some best memories of my life.
Rainbow Springs is also popularly known as Blue Springs. The swimming area is up to 5-18 feet deep. Hence, I recommend wearing a swimming jacket.
Rainbow Springs in Ocala is 100 miles northwest of Orlando making it one of the best springs in Ocala. It does not have one large bubbling spring.
There’re many vents producing 400 – 600 gallons of water per day merging with the Withlocoochee River. Tubing and Snorkeling are very famous.
The park opens from 8 am to sundown. It is ideal to spot grasses, fish, turtles, and other tropical fishes.
If you want to tube, then pay $20 who will take you to the lazy river with their shuttle service up all the time.
Map of Springs in Ocala
These picturesque springs in Ocala National Forest will reward you with peace of mind, and free you from the week-long stress.
A bath in naturally fed springs is also very healthy to freshen your body physically. You can count on my list of best springs in Ocala for experiencing Mother Nature.
I hope you soon explore Ocala natural springs.
- 10 Gorgeous Springs Near Jacksonville, Florida
- 10 Most Beautiful Natural Springs in Orlando to Visit This Year
FAQs: Springs in Ocala
1. What springs in Ocala can you swim in?
A: Juniper Spring is the oldest and best spring in Ocala to swim. The water temperature is in the 70s which is not very cold and very relaxing. Also, the water is 8 feet at the deepest making it perfect for swimmers to swim.
2. What is the best spring in Ocala?
A: Juniper Springs is the best spring in Ocala National Forest. Here you can swim from morning to afternoon enjoying the crystal clear blue water which ranges between the 70s to 72-degree temperature.
3. Is Alexander Springs or Juniper Springs better?
A: Alexander Spring is the best because it has more water with wide at over 300 feet. The water is crystal clear and the dream of many photographers. The best part about Alexander Spring is it also permits scuba diving.