Belmore State Forest – Satsuma Tract

Clay County
Between Keystone Heights and Middleburg, Florida
Entry Fee: None
Traffic: Light

More information including location on trail and location maps at


Get ready for some nature viewing and time alone on this web of winding trails, rail trails, and abandoned roads near the Penney Farms Forestry Station and acquired under the Florida Forever program.


Parking is simple. Just 1/4 of a mile east of the forestry station, there’s a well-maintained dirt road that leads back about 1000 feet to a grassy parking area with an adjacent covered picnic area with tables and a grill. There’s ample parking, but don’t be surprised to have the place to yourself. While Belmore State Forest Ates Creek Tract just to south is popular for picnics, the Satsuma Tract discussed here is barely used yet well-maintained.


Belmore State Forest – Satsuma Tract


Silver Springs Connector Trail

Marion County
Fort McCoy, Florida
Entry Fee: None

More Information and Maps


Part of the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, this short, 3-mile there and back trail is great for a hike, jog, or a run any time of the year and not far outside of Ocala, Florida. The look and feel of this subtropical forest of sabal palm and laurel oak will make you wish it were raining with its organic and earthy feel.


More information on this delightful nature trail

Ocklawaha Prairie Restoration Area


, , , , ,

Hike or horseback at Chernobyl Memorial Forest in Ocala – Ocklawaha Prairie Restoration Area in Ocala, Florida. Info with trail map and directions:

Longleaf Pine and Live Oak along this Trail Loop at Chernobyl Memorial Forest


Endangered Florida Scrub Jay


Yellow Carolina Jasmine

This portion of the Ocklawaha Prairie Restoration Area at the south entrance offers a 5 mile loop great for hiking and horseback riding with opportunities to deviate from the main trail. I’ve provided my hiking map below which plots once such deviation, and I found it very worthwhile with great birding opportunities and a diversity of plant life.

Plan your hike!

Sweetwater Wetlands Park


, , , ,

Birding at Sweetwater Wetlands Park in Gainesville, Florida

Alachua County
Gainesville, Florida
Entry Fee: $5 per vehicle
Official Website

You won’t identify this many birds just anywhere!

Sweetwater Wetlands Park doesn’t offer great hiking. What it does offer is a three and a half of wheelchair accessible strolling with some of the best wetlands birding opportunities you will find in Gainesville or all of central Florida. Those couple of miles can take you hours if you stop to absorb the sites and take each of the visually absorbing and peaceful boardwalks.



No fishing, biking, horseback riding, or even are permitted here. The wetlands and ponds of this 125-acre territory are designed for water preservations and ecological purposes by the Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs division of the City of Gainesville. I arrived on a weekend in January during the height of migratory bird season in Florida. Even then, with the parking lot nearly full, I could find myself meeting fellow nature lovers one moment but quite alone amid the wetlands and ponds the next.

This is purely an ecological park, seemingly open to the public at the discretion of the city. Walk, enjoy, take pictures, but do not attempt to otherwise interact with your surroundings or go exploring off designated areas. There are eyes on you!

Pictures, maps, and more at Live Florida Beauty
Sweetwater Wetlands Park

Prairie Creek Preserve

Prairie Creek Preserve
Alachua County
Near Gainesville, Florida

An absolutely breathtaking series of many trails (my six mile hike seemed to only graze the surface) with rich diversity including pines, old forest, and wamp and marshlands, lovingly and well maintained by the Alachua Conservation Trust.prairiecreekpreserve01





More info and a map.


Sweetwater Preserve

We’ve been exploring some of the amazing outdoor opportunities in the area. Whether you hunt, hike, fish, gather family for a picnic, or just like quiet time alone, there’s nothing quite like north-central Florida!

And with Ocala, Gainesville, Palatka, and Saint Augustine nearby, you’re never far from great food and a dose of “small city.”

Here’s a quick look at the amazing Sweetwater Preserve near Gainesville. There’s also a video with what might seem like some pretty creepy sounds but don’t worry – it’s just the frogs, and we promise they don’t bite! 🙂