Giant Victoria Water lilies at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

 Local Parks, Trails & Forests

Gainesville, Florida is home to a variety of parks that offer a wide assortment of activities for every lifestyle and interest. If you’re looking to break a sweat and get moving, Gainesville’s sport facilities and walking/jogging trails may be a great fit. There’s also a variety of family-friendly activities that include playgrounds and picnic areas, as well as plenty of educational opportunities! Even equestrians have plenty of options here with different options for trail riding through some gorgeous natural Florida landscapes.

Browse the categorized listings below for inspiration to plan your next outdoor adventure.

A child swinging on a swing at a park.

Recreational Parks

Ocala has some stellar parks offering an array of activities for the entire family. Stay healthy and fit while enjoying amenities such as tree-lined paved walking/jogging trails, sports facilities, playgrounds, and more. Covered pavilions and picnic areas allow picnicking in the shade and out of Florida’s summer showers.  

Albert "Ray" Massey Recreation Center | Westside Park

1001 NW 34th Street, Gainesville, FL, 32605

This park truly has it all!  Featuring one of Gainesville’s most popular playgrounds, with three main playground units for different age groups, as well as a variety of swings for all ages. The park offers additional amenities such as a skate park, sports fields, community center, pool, and splash pad. The park also provides picnic areas with covered pavilions and restrooms.


Tom Petty Park

NE 13th St and NE 5th Terrace, Gainesville, FL, 32601

Named for hometown hero, musician Tom Petty, this shady park offers a lot of fun for the entire family. The park has diamond fields for baseball or softball, sports courts, and a multipurpose sports field in addition to a playground with all types of climbing features. Enjoy a picnic in one of the covered pavilions.


Northside Park

5701 NW 34th Street, Gainesville, FL, 32653

This newly renovated 47-acre community park offers shady picnic areas, athletic courts, a playground, and more! However, the most renowned feature of Northside Park is the permanent Disc Golf course on the grounds!


Depot Park

201 SE Depot Avenue, Gainesville, FL, 32601


Inspired by the underwater caves of North Central Florida, The Blue Grotto Splash pad offers refreshing fun for all ages. Adults and kids alike will enjoy the waterfalls, water cannons and hidden fossils in this creative water playground. The southern half of the park is a conservation area where birds and other Florida wildlife may be observed. This park is a popular site for outdoor concerts and events, so check out the park’s events calendar for upcoming activities.


T.B. Mcpherson Park

1717 SE 15th Street, Gainesville, FL, 32641

This park offers a multitude of amenities including a shady playground, sports fields and courts, a hiking trail, covered picnic areas, bbq grills, and a community pool. Dogs are welcome to join the fun provided they stay leashed.


Colorful koi in a pond.

Botanical Gardens

A serene and educational way to spend a day, Central Florida is home to some stunning Botanical Gardens. Spend a day immersed in the natural beauty on display in these cultivated exhibits and learn about several species of flora. Be sure to check the upcoming events at each garden, as new exhibits and events will be appearing for a limited time. Whether you’re on a guided tour or exploring the displays on your own, botanical gardens are sure to delight the whole family.

Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens

4990 NE 180th Ave. Williston, FL 32696


Beginning as a 110 year old limestone quarry, Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens has grown into a breathtaking botanical experience. Brazilian wood bridges span various “islands” within the former quarry taking guests through stunning garden displays surrounded by cascading waterfalls and colorful koi ponds. The park is home to abundant wildlife and also some friendly domestic animals as well, including cats, a dog, a swan, and an assortment of water fowl and pheasants.


Wilmot Botanical Gardens

2023 Mowry Road,Gainesville, FL 32610
352. 273.5832

Wilmot Botanical Gardens is located in the heart of the Southeast’s largest academic health center, providing a tranquil, green respite for patients, faculty, staff, and the public. The gardens are open to the public year-round and feature a collection of camellias unrivaled in north central Florida, over 300 rare varieties.


Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

4700 SW 58th Dr, Gainesville, FL 32608, USA


Kanapaha Botanical Gardens is a 68-acre park containing 24 major plant collections visually accessible from a 1 ½ mile paved walkway. The park’s signature plants include a premier stand of Chinese royal bamboo, and giant Victoria water lilies and Asian snake arums. Picnic baskets are welcome and there is a picnic area very close to the entrance building. Kanapaha’s walkways are largely wheelchair accessible and benches, gazebos and other rest stations are liberally spaced throughout the facility. Pets are welcome on leashes except during special events. 


Adults: $10, Children (ages 5-13): $5, Under 5: FREE



A view from the boardwalk at Paynes Prairie.

State Parks

North Central Florida possesses some of the most beautiful state parks in the entire state. Our forests offer the opportunity to connect with nature and view wildlife in its natural habitat. Birdwatchers will revel in the many species that live year-round or seasonally, and wildlife watchers will have a very good chance of spotting creatures such as deer, bison, wild horses, otters, foxes,  gopher tortoises, and alligators.

Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

100 Savannah Blvd, Micanopy, FL 32667


Paynes Prairie Preserve is the only place in Florida where visitors can experience free-roaming herds of bison, wild horses, and wild cattle. The park’s eight trails, including the 16-mile paved Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail, allow visitors to explore the park’s interior and observe wildlife, while a 50-foot high observation tower provides stunning panoramic views.



$6 per vehicle


San Felasco State Park

11101 Millhopper Rd, Gainesville, FL 32653

A haven of old-growth cypress and longleaf pine, Goethe State Forest is a tranquil nature-lover’s escape. Wildlife lovers in particular love Goethe for its concentration of rare animals like the Florida black bear, gopher frog, striped newt, and bald eagle. Goethe’s trail system offers seven different trailheads for hikers, bikers, and riders, and campers can enjoy the park’s primitive camp sites. Hunting and fishing are also available within the forest.


Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings State Park

18700 S. County Road 325, Cross Creek FL 32640

Walk back in time to 1930s farm life when Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings lived and worked in the tiny community of Cross Creek. Her cracker-style home and farm, where she wrote her Pulitzer prize-winning novel “The Yearling” looks as though she stepped away just a moment ago— it has been restored and preserved to look just as it did during her time there. The park is open every day and interior guided tours of the farmhouse are available Thursday through Sunday at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.



Devil’s Millhopper State Park

4732 Millhopper Rd, Gainesville, FL 32653


Surrounded by North Florida’s sandy terrain and pine forests, a bowl-shaped cavity 120 feet deep descends into a miniature rainforest with small streams that percolate through the steep sides of the limestone sinkhole vanishing into crevices in the ground. 



$4 per vehicle, up to 8 visitors. $2 pedestrians and bicyclists.


Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail

3400 S.E. 15th Street, Gainesville FL 32641

Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail stretches 16 miles from the city of Gainesville’s Boulware Springs Park through the Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park and other local and state conservation lands. Offering trails for jogging, hiking, biking, fishing, and horseback riding, the park also provides ample opportunities for viewing wildlife in its natural habitat.


A couple hiking on a ridge at sunset.

Hiking, Biking, and Nature Parks

Beneficial to both the mind and body, hiking is the perfect way to experience some of Florida’s most breathtaking sights. Gainesville is home to miles of trails, perfect for biking, hiking, and birdwatching. Whether you’re a day hiker or a backpacker, visit the Gainesville area to try a variety of trails that can keep you active and exploring. Just be sure to stay well-equipped and hydrated: summer temperatures can often rise to 85 degrees or higher.
Broken Arrow Bluff Nature Park

5724 SW 46th Place, Gainesville, FL 32608

Broken Arrow Bluff offers a unique terrain with limestone formations surrounded by ancient oaks and upland mixed forest.  The park is a sanctuary where plants, animals, and historic and cultural resources are protected by law so make sure to stay on established trails and keep pets leashed at all times. This park is most easily accessed on bicycle or on foot.



Morningside Nature Center

3540 E University Avenue,Gainesville, FL 32641

Gainesville’s original nature park, Morningside Nature Center, has one of the last remaining examples of fire-dependent longleaf pine woodlands in the area. Enjoy the park’s stunning wildflower displays and diverse native wildlife. The park hosts Living History days (First Saturday of the month, September through May) where farm visitors can observe daily life in the 1870’s at The Living History Farm at Morningside Nature Center. Pets are not permitted at the park.


Loblolly Woods

3315 NW 5th Avenue,Gainesville, FL 32607

Considered one of the best birding spots in the entire country, Loblolly woods offers shady trails and boardwalks for joggers, hikers, and bikers. The park is part of the Hogtown Creek Greenway. Pets are welcome but must remain leashed at all times.


Sweetwater Wetlands Park

325 SW Williston Road, Gainesville, FL 32608

Originally created to improve the water quality of wetlands in Paynes Prairie and the Floridan Aquifer, the park is now a thriving habitat. Sweetwater Wetlands Park is filled with a large assortment of plants and animals, including birds, butterflies, alligators and Florida cracker horses. At the park, you can walk more than 3.5 miles of crushed gravel trails and boardwalks, and experience the panoramic landscape from several viewing platforms. Birders, don’t forget to download a bird checklist and upload your data to Due to potential conflict with alligators, other wildlife, and livestock, pets are not allowed in the park.


Palm Point Park

7401 Lake Shore Drive, Gainesville, FL 32641

Along the shores of Newnans Lake, Palm Point Park’s exceptional geographical location attracts some of the most spectacular migratory and local bird populations. The lake provides excellent opportunities to spot alligators. Be sure to keep pets leashed at all times.


Boulware Springs Park

3300 SE 15th Street, Gainesville, FL 32641

The 19th-century waterworks building, located at Boulware Springs, once provided the water supply for the City of Gainesville. The springs produce approximately 194,000 gallons of water a day, which flows into Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.  Boulware Springs is also a trailhead for the 17-mile Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail. Picnic facilities are available, as well as an area for parking and unloading horses to ride along the state trail. The trail is mainly used by hikers, bicyclists, and horseback riders.


Riders on a horse trail.

Horse Trails

Horseback riding allows you to take a break from life’s stressors and experience the fresh air. Spending time with animals and exercising releases a hormone called serotonin, which can improve your mood and reduce your stress levels. Rider and horse alike will enjoy the majestic beauty and tranquility to be found on any of these equine-friendly trails.
Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail

3400 S.E. 15th Street, Gainesville FL 32641

Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail stretches 16 miles from the city of Gainesville’s Boulware Springs Park through the Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park and other local and state conservation lands. Offering trails for jogging, hiking, biking, fishing, and horseback riding, the park also provides ample opportunities for viewing wildlife in its natural habitat.


San Felasco Hammock State Park

11101 Millhopper Rd, Gainesville, FL 32653

The park offers outdoor adventure to hikers, off-road bicyclists, horseback riders and nature lovers. To ensure solitude and quiet for a true wilderness experience, the southern two-thirds of the park are designated for hiking only. The northern third of the park has horse trails, off-road cycling and hiking. Equestrians must carry proof of a negative Coggins test.
Admission: $4 per vehicle. Please use the honor box – correct change is required. $2 Pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers.


Misty Morning Hounds

9243 SE CR 2082, Gainesville, FL 32641

Although not a typical trail ride, Misty Morning Hounds offers a unique experience for the horse and rider. Experience schooling or riding out on the beautiful 527 acre plantation for just $25 a day. The plantation holds a variety of events, including formal fox hunts, shows, clinics and horse boarding as well. Check in for availability if you wish to ride on the grounds.


Boaters fishing on a lake at sunrise.

Fishing and Boating

North Central Florida has no shortage of quality fishing spots, perfect for relaxing in peace. While a valid Florida fishing license is required in order to fish, there are several options for both visitors and residents. For more information on fishing licenses, click here. And if freshwater fishing isn’t exactly your speed, the good news is that Gainesville is less than a two-hour drive from either Florida coast, for those who enjoy the saltwater.

Lake Wauburg

13582 E. Highway 40, Lot 300 Silver Springs, FL 34488

Open to UF students, faculty, and staff and their guests, Lake Wauburg offers boating, swimming, volleyball, climbing, and more.


Earl P. Powers Park

5910 SE Hawthorne Road, Gainesville, FL 32641

If you are looking for a great place to launch your boat on Newnans Lake, Earl P. Powers Park is a good bet. The park has been undergoing major renovations since Hurricane Irma but the launch is open and ready for use. Check the park website for updates for the reopening of the fishing pier. Check out the fishing forecast for Newnans Lake here.


Lochloosa Harbor Fish Camp

15008 SE US Highway 301Hawthorne FL 32640

Experience fishing in the “Old Florida” way when you come to Lochloosa Harbor Fish Camp. Located in historical Hawthorne on Lochloosa Lake, the camp provides camping, RV hookups, and cabins for guests as well as a diner and of course, a bait and tackle shop. The lake is one of the top 10 lakes in the state to catch crappie, shell cracker, bass, and bream. Check out the fishing forecast here.


Paddle Florida, Inc.


Paddle Florida, Inc. is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation organized to support canoeing and kayaking in Florida. The group organizes multi-day paddling/camping adventures in Florida’s five water management districts showcasing our beautiful state’s wild spaces and rich cultural heritage while promoting water conservation and wildlife preservation.


A view down into Devil's Den Spring

Natural Springs

Something every Floridian knows is that Florida gets hot. At the height of summer, even swimming pools can begin to feel like bath water. Luckily, North Central Florida is home to a bevy of natural springs that are crystal-clear and roughly 72 degrees all year long. Besides being a perfect way to cool down during the warmest time of year, these springs also allow for some of the most stunning views in the area. Just be sure to apply sunscreen regularly (unless you visit  the amazing Devil’s Den Spring which is within a cave!).
The Devil’s Den Spring

5390 NE 180th Ave Williston, FL 32696

Early settlers named this amazing spring, Devil’s Den, due to the steam that rises on cool mornings from the “chimney” opening. The springs maintain a year round temperature of 72 degrees contributing to this effect. A remarkable feature about the spring is that it rests within a cave and in the form of an inverted mushroom shape. The park offers snorkeling and scuba diving giving visitors a taste of the cave diving experience in a safer setting. Located just 34 minutes south of Gainesville in Williston, FL.


Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park

7450 N.E. 60th Street, High Springs FL 32643

Located in nearby High Springs, the newest addition to the Florida State Parks, Gilchrist Blue Springs contains a collection of natural springs, including a large second-magnitude spring that produces an average of 44 million gallons of water per day. This spring, known as Gilchrist Blue, has outstanding water clarity. Paddling, snorkeling and swimming are all popular at the park. Pavilions are available, and a concession stand provides food and beverage service plus paddling equipment rentals. Other popular activities include camping, hiking, nature study and picnicking.


Poe Springs Park

28800 NW 182nd Avenue, High Springs, FL 32643

Poe Springs, the largest spring in Alachua County, pumps 45 million gallons of cool, refreshing water daily. In addition to the swimming area park amenities include pavilions and picnic shelters, play areas, multi purpose fields, volleyball courts, and bar-b-que grills. There are loop trails throughout the park for hiking, and a boardwalk that traverses the cypress swamp leads visitors to the springs. A boat launch and dock afford watercraft access to the river.


A girl using pulleys to climb a tree.

Zip Lining and Climbing

If you’re looking to get a new perspective and a pulse-pounding adventure, zip-liningand climbing may be the activities for you. Get a birds-eye-view of gorgeous cliffs, massive canyons, pristine lakes, and tree canopies from exhilarating heights for a memorable experience.

Canyons Zip Line & Canopy Tours

8045 NW Gainesville Rd. Ocala, FL

Enjoy long zip lines from the tallest heights soaring through canyons, tree canopies, and more. The park even offers night time zip tours which are sure to amaze. Horseback riding through the park is also an available option. There are several exciting packages available. Located just south of Gainesville in nearby Ocala, Florida.


Canopy Climbers


Canopy Climbers offers a thrilling experience connecting people with trees, forests, and nature. Using a tree-friendly, sustainable “rope and saddle” arborist climbing method to ascend and explore the forest treetops. Book a “Canopy Climb” for 4 or more people and experience the thrill of recreational tree climbing as you ascend into the canopy.


A woman holding two handfuls of blueberries.

Farm Tours

Enjoy a behind-the-scenes peek at a working farm learning about growing and harvesting food as well as caring for farm animals. Farm tours are fun for the entire family and a great learning experience! Gainesville has some rather unique additions to the typical farm tour adventure.

Brave Harvest Farm

2025 NW 6th Street, Gainesville, FL 32609

Brave Harvest Farm is a non-profit teaching farm whose mission is to increase food literacy and empower children and adults in Alachua County to make healthy food choices from plant to plate. The organization offers classes and farm tours to educate the public about growing vegetables and fruits in an urban setting.


Dudley Farm Historic State Park

18730 W. Newberry Road, Newberry FL 32669

Experience farm life as it was more than a century ago – plow the garden, pump water, grind corn and feed the chickens. Dudley Farm is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this is a one-of-a-kind, authentic working Florida farm rather than a re-created farmstead. Stroll the nature trail or enjoy a rocking chair on the spacious porches once used as gathering places. Pack a picnic and watch deer, wild turkeys, gopher tortoises and bluebirds in the fields.


Roger's Farm

3831 NW 156th Ave, Gainesville, FL 32609

Roger’s Farm is a fully functioning farm that hosts seasonal agro-tourism events as well as hosts tours and parties on the farm grounds. Visit in the spring for u-pick strawberry season, in the summertime for fresh peas and butter beans, celebrate the fall with their annual fall festival and corn maze.


A wild hog walking along a trail.


Alachua County’s expansive natural spaces also provide opportunities for individuals to explore Florida’s natural forests and practice their shooting skills. Deer, turkey, and rabbit are plentiful, and wild hogs can be hunted year-round here in Florida. Florida Residents and visitors will need a Florida Hunting License. For more information on hunting licensing, click here.

Hatchet Creek Wildlife Management Area

Gainesville, FL 32641

The Hatchet Creek Wildlife Management Area is located in Alachua County, approximately six miles east of downtown Gainesville. The WMA comprises 2,760 acres of the 3,860-acre Hatchet Creek Tract, one of three tracts within the Newnans Lake Conservation Area. Wildlife is abundant in the area and includes deer, turkey, osprey and numerous species of songbirds and wading birds. Snapping turtle, Florida cooter and otter are common along the creek.


Gilchrist Club

3270 S.E. 4th Way, Trenton, FL 32693

The Gilchrist Club is an exclusive, private hunting and sporting club just 30 minutes west of Gainesville. The club offers the ‘classic Southern quail hunt’ experience, with hunting lodge accomodations and the use of professional trained hunting dogs. Offering Osceola turkey, quail, deer, wild hog, alligator as well as trophy bass. Experienced professional guides accommodate groups for each hunt.