What Is It?
Ocala National Forest is the world’s largest contiguous sand pine scrub forest—an ecosystem with sand pine trees, evergreen oaks and Florida rosemary, growing in sandy, well-drained soils.
Encompassing more than 380,000 acres, Ocala National Forest allows visitors to enjoy natural vegetation and more than 600 bodies of water while practicing recommended physical-distancing standards.
Ocala has four major springs, including Alexander Springs Recreation Area, which features a broad, gently sloped natural pool whose extraordinarily clear water remains a constant 72 degrees. Small fish dart about this natural water park, which is surrounded by a floodplain forest of maples, sweetgum and cabbage palms.
Named a national forest by Teddy Roosevelt in 1908, Ocala was the first national forest east of the Mississippi. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps built many features around the forest, including an electricity-generating water mill at Juniper Springs, near the center of the forest.
When to go
The park—located north of Orlando—closed due to the pandemic, but fall and winter are great times to visit. During the summer, the forest is hot and humid, but it stays between 50 and 70 degrees during winter.
To plan a trip to Ocala when the forest reopens, visit tinyurl.com/y9ldc4x5, or call the Pittman Visitor Center at 352-669-7495.