Sustainable Travel in Ocala/Marion County
Nestled in North Central Florida, Ocala/Marion County is full of all things outdoors to help you get in touch with nature and savor the fresh air. From camping in parks or the Ocala National Forest to swimming in the many natural springs, there are endless ways to enjoy Florida in its original state while keeping your footprint light. Here are some favorite places to camp and have other outdoor adventures in Ocala/Marion County.
Silver Springs State Park
The area is home to one of Florida’s very first tourist attractions, Silver Springs, now a state park managed and protected by the State’s Department of Environmental Protection. While no fishing or swimming is permitted in Silver Springs for preservation purposes, guests can kayak and even enjoy glass bottom boat tours showcasing the crystal clear springs and flourishing wildlife that call it home.
OCALA NATIONAL FOREST
From Silver Springs, jump on the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway to the Ocala National Forest, the southernmost national forest in the United States. Here travelers can enjoy hiking, swimming, boating, fishing, hunting, camping and more with a balance of preservation of the unique resources.
An example of this balance of recreation and preservation is the awarding-winning paddling trail Juniper Run. A nearly untouched 7-mile stretch of crystal clear water, Juniper Run is only open to non-motorized canoes and kayaks. The experience completely immerses guests into Florida wilderness. Even those who maintain the run use non-motorized equipment to cause the least amount of disturbance. This sustainable use allows for paddlers to see a vast collection of wildlife including birds, fish, turtles and even a chance of black bears and alligators.
HORSE CAPITAL OF THE WORLD
Travelers to western Marion County can take in the beautiful winding roads and fields of horse country, where community initiatives work to protect and preserve the natural pasture lands that the thousands of horses call home. Take a drive through areas where the horse farms are located or ride on horse back down the trails. This breathtaking piece of Florida landscape is also preserved for the adventurers who bike through internationally recognized mountain biking trails for all levels extending across the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway.
CROSS FLORIDA GREENWAY
The Cross Florida Greenway is a 110-mile corridor encompassing diverse natural habitats that stretch from the Gulf of Mexico to Florida’s east coast and through Marion County. This extensive greenway follows the original path of a planned Cross-Florida Barge Canal that was abandoned, but has preserved the land for a century. Incorporating more than 300 miles of trails the Cross Florida Greenway includes protected paddling, hiking, mountain biking, horse back riding and paved multi-use trails all of which travelers can find in Marion County.
If you like hitting the trails on your bike, Santos trailhead offers riders of all skill levels a fun challenge through the more than 60 miles of unpaved trails. The Santos Mountain Bike Trails have been coined an “epic ride” and named a prestigious Bronze-level Ride Center by the International Mountain Bicycling Association — one of only six designated Ride Centers in the U.S. Right next to the trailhead is a campground available all year.
RAINBOW RIVER IN DUNNELLON
Venture to the quaint town of Dunnellon, situated in the southwest portion of the destination, to find breathtaking springs and nature trails along Rainbow River. From tubing or diving to hiking or kayaking, there are various ways to explore the area while preserving the unique ecosystem. Whether spending the weekend at the campground or visiting for the day, travelers can easily immerse in the rich natural environment of Rainbow River and Rainbow Springs State Park. For the protection of the river, no disposable containers are permitted, so make sure to bring a non-disposable water bottle and pack your snacks in proper containers.
OCALA WETLAND RECHARGE PARK
Located a couple miles north of Downtown Ocala, the Ocala Wetland Recharge Park is a new park in the area that focuses both on environmental sustainability and education. The park is a 60 acre wetland ecosystem designed to reduce pollution in filtered stormwater and treated wastewater. This clean water now recharges the Florida aquifer of around 3 million gallons daily. This incredible new park is open to the public and offers 2.5 miles of walking paths, boardwalks and more to explore. As the park is new, more and more wildlife are settling in to make it their home. Visitors may see fox squirrels and birds like ducks, great blue herons, egrets, hawks and more! Additionally, educational information is displayed throughout the park.
Ocala/Marion County prides itself on our outdoor offerings and welcomes visitors from near and far to enjoy the area’s beauty while respecting the nature and wildlife who live here.