Swim In A Hidden Spring With Some Of The Clearest Water In All Of Florida

With its sun-kissed coastline, adrenaline-pumping theme parks, award-winning restaurants, and lush wetlands, Florida is a great destination for travelers looking to soak up some tropical sunshine without going too far from home. However, if you're not much for roller coasters, sandy toes, or over-crowded tourist hotspots, there's a different side of Florida just waiting to be discovered. Away from its bustling cities, Florida boasts a collection of beautiful state parks, crystal-clear swimming holes, and scenic hiking trails that'll captivate any adventurer. But not all of these destinations are created equal.

Enter Silver Glen Springs. Roughly 70 miles north of Orlando — and sitting within the boundaries of the Ocala National Forest — the family-friendly recreational area is a must-visit for both locals and travelers alike looking to make the most of getting outside. From swimming and kayaking to hiking to grilling, the protected area offers plenty of opportunities for you to explore, unwind, and reconnect with nature.

Enjoying the best of Silver Glen Springs

A fairly popular recreational destination, Silver Glen Springs caters to visitors in more ways than one. First, there's swimming in the spring waters. Known for its excellent snorkeling conditions, it's a great place to spot some underwater life — including a variety of fishes. Additionally, during the winter, you might even catch a glimpse of a manatee, as these gentle giants migrate toward the warmer springs in central Florida looking for refuge. And with crystal-clear waters that hover around 73 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, Silver Glen Springs seems like the perfect spot for just that. Keep in mind, though, that scuba diving isn't permitted.

Another popular activity for visitors to enjoy is cruising down Silver Glen Run. Roughly 3.7 miles long, the stream is suitable for non-motorized boats with shallow drafts. Once you cross over a bar near the mouth of the run — about two feet deep — you can sail along the right side of the bank, where the water is deeper. It's also important to note that kayakers and boaters are not allowed to enter the swimming hole — so make sure you know where you're going!

Outside of the water, guests can also hit up the surrounding trails. Two of the most popular paths include the Spring Boils Trail, which is a half-mile, round-trip circuit around the basin; and the Lake George Trail, a 2.3-mile round-trip with plenty of overlooks that takes you toward the St. Johns River.

Planning your visit

In order to access Silver Glen Springs, visitors must pay a $12 admission fee per person. In addition to this, a parking pass is required during the weekend and most major holidays. This costs $15 and must be purchased in advance through the Reserve Ocala website.

In terms of amenities, once you're inside the park, you can enjoy access to a changing facility, as well as portable toilets and kayak rental services. Plus, with 58 picnic tables and 30 grills available, the site makes it easy to make a whole day out of your visit. Be warned, however, that the local wildlife can get a little curious and handsy — this includes vultures, raccoons, and even bears — so don't leave any food or valuables unattended while you're in the water.

Lastly, although Silver Glen Springs is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, it's also important to note that the area holds incredible value in terms of archeological findings and cultural significance. That being said, visitors must be extra cautious not to disturb or damage the middens, which are large mounds located behind the fences. The middens hold remnants of ancient settlements and historical artifacts and are considered sacred to the Native American community.