Photo Credit: Forrest Mankins - Visit Florida

The Ultimate Guide to Silver Springs State Park in 2024

The Encore Resort Blog
April 24, 2024
April 24, 2024

Who knew the largest artesian spring in the world is a quick 90-minute trip north of Orlando, Florida? We did, but we’re locals; we’re supposed to know these things. Located in the charming town of Ocala, Silver Springs State Park happens to be the oldest commercial tourist attraction in Florida. Famous for its glass bottom boat tours, this Central Florida destination is easily an entire day’s adventure.

Silver Springs State Park Insider Experience

Photo Credit: Forrest Mankins - Visit Florida

From those famous glass bottom boats to kayaking, biking, hiking, camping, concerts and more, here are our top not-to-miss attractions at Silver Springs State Park!

Glass Bottom Boat Tours

Showcasing the park’s crystal-clear springs and underwater life, this is the perfect way to take a good look below the surface of Silver Springs and enjoy the river’s wildlife, vegetation and historical and cultural artifacts. The Glass Bottom Boat tours run every day between 10:00 AM and 6:00 PM, occurring every 30-45 minutes. Reservations are not necessary. A fun fact: These glass bottom boat tours have been around for decades, and popular sights include a row boat brought by early Spanish settlers and movie props from old Hollywood productions.

Kayaking & Canoeing

Paddle along the Silver River and Fort King Waterway in a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard. Bring your own or stop by Paddling Adventures at Silver Springs State Park to check out their available rentals – ask about their clear bottom kayaks!

Concerts & Special Events

From different concert series, Florida SpringsFest, kayak lessons and ranger programs to pack walks, painter series, garden tours, book signings, cracker homestead tours and more, Silver Springs State Park is full of exciting, year-round activities! The best place to stay updated is their calendar of events on the Silver Springs State Park Facebook Events (opens in a new tab) page. Concerts take place at the Twin Oaks Amphitheater inside the park.

Girl kayaking on a river in Florida

Camping

More than 50 spacious campsites in two park campgrounds can accommodate several different types of camping units, including RVs up to 50 feet long. Each site offers water and electric hook-ups and includes a fire ring, barbecue grill and picnic table. The state park also offers vacation cabins that sleep up to six people in each one. Amenities include a full dining area, two bedrooms, one bath, kitchenette, dishwasher, gas fireplace, air conditioning and heat, large screened-in porch, dishes, pots and pans, silverware, linen, towels, picnic tables and rocking chairs on the porch.

Hiking Trails

The Silver Springs River Trails offers more than four miles of hiking action – it has two separate paths that offer pristine views along the Silver River. This is a local favorite!

If you love to hike and see nature on your own pace and time then you will love these trails! Some of the most popular trails in the park are:

  • Creek Trail – The first trail right off the main entrance. This trail is about 3/4th of a mile loop around the museum that is accessible right after the large pavilion.
  • Spring Connector Trail – Another trail connected to the entrance and a long one that is a 4.6 mile round trip from start to finish. Don’t worry if you’re not sure you can finish as this trail as this has a side exit straight to the Sand hill Trail.
  • Sand hill Trail – Hike through the Longleaf Pine Uplands with this beautiful trail. This hike is about a 1.7 mile round trip and it beings right next to the ranger station. This is also the trail that can connect you to the Spring Connector Trail.
  • Sinkhole Trail & Old Field Loop – Both of these trails are upland trails and are accessible near the Silver River Museum. The Sinkhole trail is about a 1.9 mile loop where as the Old Field Loop is shorter at 0.8 miles.
  • Swamp Trail & River Trail – These two trails are also near the Silver River Museum Archway. The Swamp Trail is a 1.9 mile loop and the River Trail is 1.3 miles. Expect to see views of the river and of the wetland habitats through these trails.

Mountain Biking

With close to five miles of dedicated off-road bicycling trails, Silver Springs State Park is an excellent spot to mountain bike. You can also explore up to an additional 10 miles if you explore the hiking trails but remember to always yield to others on the trail. They also offer a limited number of paved trails for regular bicycles.

Wildlife Sightseeing

Part of the Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail’s east section, there is plenty of wildlife to see throughout the park, including wild turkey, bobwhite quail, hairy woodpecker, American kestrel and more.

Dining at the Park

From sandwiches, salads, wraps, burgers, hot dogs and vegan options to baked goods, ice cream, hand-made fudge and more, Silver Springs State Park has two dining spots for visitors to enjoy. There is also a gift shop!

Photo Credit: Forrest Mankins - Visit Florida

Silver River Museum

The Silver River Museum & Environmental Education Center provides cultural immersion to your outdoor excursion. Marion County Public Schools’ program provides two unique display areas for students to explore the region’s rich tapestry:

1. THE MAIN MUSEUM

Florida’s Natural Wonders: Travel through time and discover the geological structures, fossils, and different ecosystems that define Florida’s distinct landscape.
Archeological Discoveries: Use archeological relics to unlock the mysteries of the past, learning about the lives and cultures of indigenous people who lived in the region for ages.
Natural History: Discover the region’s amazing natural history. Captivating exhibits tell the interesting narrative of how this unique environment came to be.

2. THE HISTORY WING

Marion County Through the Ages: Dedicated to Marion County’s dynamic history, this exhibit features artifacts, images, and tales about the people, events, and advances that formed the region.

Park Hours of Operation

Silver Springs State Park is open every day of the year, including all holidays, from 8:00 AM to sunset. Cost of admission is $2.00 per person. Well-behaved dogs are allowed.

More Attractions in Ocala, Florida

Just down the road from the main entrance of the park are several other not-to-miss attractions! Check out two of our favorites:

Cactus Jack’s Trail Rides

Whether it’s just you or a group, relax and enjoy beautiful guided trail rides at the nearby Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, part of the Florida State Parks. They offer horseback riding from 1-2 hours. If that doesn’t suit you, they also offer e-bike rentals if you decide you want to be more adventures and take the trails on by yourself. If you’re interested here is a trail map of what to expect.

Appleton Museum of Art

A leading cultural center, the Appleton Museum of Art brings art and people together to inspire, challenge and engage present and future generations through a wide range of collections, exhibitions, programs and educational opportunities.

Photo Credit: Forrest Mankins - Visit Florida

Book Your Orlando Vacation Home Accommodations

Take the day and enjoy the fresh air and sights of Silver Springs State Park and when the day is done, come home to Encore Resort at Reunion. Our guard-gated community features modern, beautifully decorated 4- to 13-bedroom spacious vacation homes with backyard pools, washer/dryer units, and fully equipped kitchens, plus resort-style amenities like a Water Park and concierge services.

Book your vacation (opens in a new tab) at Encore Resort today and enjoy all of Orlando’s natural beauty.

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