On a recent stay in the Ocala National Forest, my family and I spent a day exploring Juniper Springs Recreation Area. From Jacksonville, Juniper is just under two hours away and would make a perfect summer day trip destination.
You can Swim at Juniper Springs
Juniper Springs is a natural, crystal clear pool in the middle of the forest. The swimming area is not very big, but it is deep. We were lucky that it was not crowded when we arrived first thing in the morning. We set up at a picnic table close to the swimming hole and put our floats in the water. No matter how many springs I’ve visited that 72-degree water is always a shock to the system! Remember, this spring is deep, there are steps into the water as well as a ledge around the entire swimming area. You will not be able to touch the bottom once you step off the steps. My daughter loved snorkeling this spring; there are lots of fish, and even an eel sighting if you are lucky.
Visit the Old Mill House at Juniper Springs
The backdrop of the swimming area is the beautiful Old Mill House and water wheel. They were built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps to provide electricity to the campground. Make sure to go inside the Mill to learn more about Old Florida and Juniper Springs history.
Juniper Springs has Hiking
Right past the Old Mill is the Juniper Creek Nature Trail. It’s an easy walk, that is a must do in the park. The trail is about .75 miles each direction and is a wheelchair and stroller accessible. The nature trail takes you over a bridge where you can get a glimpse of bubbling Fern Hammock Springs. If you like to hike make sure to check out the other trails in the park as well.
Admission to Juniper Springs is a per person fee, 6 and under free. There are bathrooms and a changing area on-site, as well as a small concessions store. There is also a campground onsite. Lastly, there are canoe rentals available for a daily/hourly rate, or you can launch your own for a small fee. There is no swimming or wading allowed in the 7 mile run. Be warned that this is not a beginner run to paddle.
Plan a Visit to Juniper Springs
Our family enjoyed our day at Juniper Springs Recreation Area. It’s a perfect place for a nature scavenger hunt and an epic background for Instagram photos. Pack a picnic, your snorkel, and tubes and float a hot Florida day away deep in the Ocala National Forest.
If you’re interested in learning more about springs in Florida, we recommend Touring the Springs of Florida: A Guide to the State’s Best Springs. It’s a great resource for day trips that your family is sure to love!
Jillian Gishler is a New Englander at heart. Born in Jacksonville Beach, she grew up in Massachusetts but was beckoned back to Florida by Mickey Mouse for a Disney World Internship. She returned to the beach in 2005 after graduating from Florida State. Ten years ago she opened her handmade & vintage collective shop, Sew Vicious, in Neptune Beach. Jillian raises chickens, is a passionate gardener, a DIYer, a thrift store junkie, a deal loving mama, and has several inspirational travel journals available on Amazon. She leads her daughters Girl Scout Troop, teaches sewing at a local Montessori School, and is a Parents Who Lead Alumni. She loves surprising her husband and daughters with mini-vacations around the Sunshine State.