Ocala National Forest: Silver Glen Springs, Springs Boil Trail to Jody's Spring, and Lake George Trail, Eustis, Florida
Silver Glen Springs is an oasis in the middle of Ocala National Forest, Florida's "big scrub". One of the forest's most scenic springs, Silver Glen Springs features strikingly transparent aquamarine waters that form a vivid contrast with the lush, tropical vegetation found along the shoreline. Not only is the spring a wonderful place to cool off on a scorching summer day, but it's also a natural aquarium, often housing hundreds of fish and even other species like the Atlantic stingray. A couple of nature trails branch out from the Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area. The Springs Boil Trail leads to a secondary spring called Jody's Spring, known for its many unique sand boils, nestled in the deep shade of a tropical hammock. The Lake George Trail meanders through uplands near Silver Glen Springs Run for a mile before reaching the shoreline of Lake George, Florida's second largest freshwater lake, so massive that it almost seems to be a sea. This hike occurred on Tuesday, August 28th, 2018. My plan was to hike both the Springs Boil Trail and Lake George Trail after exploring Silver Glen Springs.
R/T Length of Trail: 3.5 Miles
Duration of Hike: 1:30 plus one and a half hours of stopping and photography
Type of Hike: Double Out and Back
Difficulty Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: Very beautiful springs; impressive views of large freshwater lake
Cons: The main spring area can get very busy on warm weekends
Points of Interest: Silver Glen Springs; Jody's Spring; Lake George
Trail Blaze Colors: None
Best Seasons to Hike: Year-round (summer is hot but the spring is refreshing)
Fees: There is a day use fee of $6 per person at Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area. This applies for everyone, not just swimmers, and includes hikers.
Beginning Point: Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area
Directions: From the junction of FL 40 and US 301 in downtown Ocala, follow FL 40 East for 32.0 miles. Then, turn left onto FL 19 North, and continue for 5.9 miles to the Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area entrance on the right. Drive 0.4 miles down the entrance road to the parking area.
Click the link below to download a .GPX file with a track of this hike.
The Ocala National Forest is home to some of the most pristine springs in Florida due to their wild surroundings and distance from population centers, and Silver Glen Springs is among the finest examples. Spending an extended amount of time in North Florida for the first time, I was excited to grasp the opportunity to explore this gorgeous spring and also hike its nature trails.
To access the springs, walks behind the shop and follow the obvious track about 150 yards to the edge of Silver Glen Springs. The area is likely going to be jam-packed in summer, especially on weekends; solitude is unlikely even in winter. A path stays just outside a fence encircling the springs. There are several fine vantage points where you can gaze out and marvel upon the striking blue waters sparkling beneath the sun. The see-through surface of the springs allows you to observe fish and turtles swimming just above the sandy floor, as if this were a sort of natural aquarium. On my visit, water levels were higher than normal, so a palm tree that normally stands on the bank appeared to be growing straight out of a spring, adding to the "tropical paradise" feel. A large portion of the spring is only 4 to 5 feet deep, so it is easy to wade and relax, even if you don't want to swim. My only complaint is about the bright red buoys placed to keep people off the fragile banks and vegetation, but they do not detract substantially from the scene.
The Springs Boil Trail, the shorter of the two nature trails here, begins at the far right-hand (west) of the spring. A quarter-mile one way, this well-traveled pathway dives into a tropical hammock and soon becomes a boardwalk leading up to a small sidekick spring called Jody's Spring. While this spring is not as grand or picturesque as Silver Glen Springs, it is just as beautiful and unique. From the double observation deck, one may observe a number of "sand boils" within the spring, characterized as small bubbling pockets of sand where water surfaces. The dense palmetto, palms, and oaks surrounding the spring help to form a jungle-like setting. And even though Jody's Spring is no secret, you might have this spot to yourself with some luck, as most casual visitors prefer to hang out at Silver Glen Springs.
Return to Silver Glen Springs, having hiked about 0.7 miles. It is time to do the longer nature trail now out to the shoreline of Lake George. To access the Lake George Trail, follow the path downstream along Silver Glen Springs Run, shortly turning away into the forest. Two-tenths of a mile farther, at 0.9 miles, the usually-signed Lake George Trail begins on the right. The narrow pathway tracks through a palmetto corridor under a delightful of mossy live oaks. Even during the peak of the wet season, the trail will stay dry, as it lies entirely in uplands. At 1.6 miles, reach an unmarked side trail on the right leading to the first of three primary Lake George views. The view is definitely worth the 250-foot side trip, as it's the best view of the three, in my opinion. Standing at Lake George's edge, you will find that the giant lake almost resembles an ocean. Liked by dozens of ancient live oaks and cabbage palms, the shoreline sports a pristine, prehistoric feel. At 6miles wide and over 10 miles long, Lake George is the second largest lake in Florida, overshadowed by only Lake Okeechobee. For what it's worth, I treat Lake George as the largest pristine lake in Florida, for Lake Okeechobee is nothing but pristine thanks to its system of dikes. Surprisingly for a lake of its size, Lake George's average depth is just 10 feet (ranging from 3 to 12 feet).
Return to the main trail. The path hops across a perennial stream and soon reaches the Lake George shoreline once again at 1.9 miles. A couple of benches allow you to rest and contemplate the long-range view. The view here is not as open, but it is framed very nicely by the cypresses and live oaks overhanging the water's edge, draped in Spanish moss. As I explored the shoreline, looking for more vantage points, I spotted a tall, lone palm tree standing far out in the lake. What a treat! I imagine the palm has to be standing on dry ground during winter. The main trail continues parallel to the lake now, often in sight of water. However, it's obvious that the trail gets much less use up to the third view, for there were multiple blowdowns and overgrown passages through dense vegetation. At 2.1 miles, the trail reaches a sudden terminus at a small fenced clearing with a few more benches and limited lake views. You can barely see the lake through the screen of vegetation along the shore.
Retrace your steps back to Silver Glen Springs from here, reaching the springs once again at 3.4 miles. Be sure to enjoy the views once more before leaving and concluding your hike at 3.5 miles.
0.0 - SIlver Glen Springs Recreation Area
0.1 - Silver Glen Springs
0.4 - Jody's Spring
0.7 - Silver Glen Springs
0.9 - Lake George Trail
1.65 - View #1 of Lake George
1.9 - View #2 of Lake George
2.1 - View #3 of Lake George (Lake George Trail terminus)
3.4 - Silver Glen Springs
3.5 - Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area
Hike out and back just to Jody's Spring - 0.8 Miles
Hike out and back just the Lake George Trail - 2.9 Miles
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