15 Amazing State Parks near Gainesville, FL (+ Map)

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Gainesville is perfectly located to access a wide range of Florida’s best state parks. 

The majority of the options are within an hour’s drive and offer fantastic opportunities for family vacations, day trips, and nature getaways.

Some of the most popular parks provide access to Florida’s famous springs, offering excellent possibilities to cool off, snorkel, and scuba dive.

Whether you’re into camping, hiking, or any other outdoor activity, there is a park here for you.

Check out what Gainesville has to offer!

Related: 11 Fantastic Lakes near Gainesville, FL

State Parks near Gainesville:

  1. Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
  2. San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park
  3. O’Leno State Park
  4. Ichetucknee Springs State Park
  5. Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park
  6. Manatee Springs State Park
  7. Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park
  8. Silver Springs State Park
  9. Rainbow Springs State Park
  10. Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway
  11. Ravine Gardens State Park
  12. Washington Oaks Gardens State Park
  13. Troy Springs State Park
  14. Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park
  15. Anastasia State Park
State Parks near Gainesville Florida Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
Source: flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Website: Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
  • Distance from Gainesville: 11 miles (15 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Biking, Picnics, Camping, Horseback Riding

One of the most surprising things in Florida is the herds of wild horses and bison roaming areas just south of Gainesville. 

The Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park is like nowhere else in Florida and is dedicated to preserving the state’s natural elements and wildlife. More than 300 species of birds, alligators, deer, and many other animals roam the park.

Outdoor enthusiasts will be mesmerized by the expansive hiking trails, including the 16-mile paved Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail that winds through the park offering close encounters with wildlife.

The park’s best features are the 50-foot tall observation tower offering panoramic views and Lake Wauburg with its paddling and fishing opportunities.

Related: 11 Fantastic Lakes near Gainesville, FL

2. San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park

Nature Preserve in Florida
Source: depositphotos

San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park is one of the best places in Florida for birdwatching and a highly-regarded mountain biking spot.

Limestone outcrops and extreme elevation changes are perfect for advanced hikers, and other trails surrounded by hardwood trees offer an easier path for more relaxed walks in the park.

This park is home to wildlife, including bobcats, gray foxes, turkeys, songbirds, and white-tailed deer. Nature lovers will have a fantastic time at this park, surrounded by an authentic wildlife experience with many areas perfect for solitude.

3. O’Leno State Park

O'Leno State Park
Source: unsplash
  • Website: O’Leno State Park
  • Distance from Gainesville: 30 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Biking, Picnics, Camping

O’Leno State Park is one of Florida’s first state parks and was developed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Nestled on the scenic Santa Fe River, this park features river swamps, sandhills, hardwood hammocks, and sinkholes. The river flows through the park, disappears underground, and reemerges more than three miles away in nearby River Rise Preserve State Park.

Unwind among nature at the O’Leno State Park as you launch a canoe or kayak onto the Santa Fe River. If you want to remain on land, there are many opportunities to go hiking, biking, or fishing from shore.

4. Ichetucknee Springs State Park

Ichetucknee Springs State Park Florida
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Ichetucknee Springs State Park
  • Distance from Gainesville: 37 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Picnics, Tubing

The pristine waters of the Ichetucknee River offer the perfect setting for a relaxing outing or vigorous adventures. The Ichetucknee Springs State Park provides direct access to the river and more than 2,500 acres to explore.

This park is home to wildlife, including otters, gar, softshell turtles, wild turkeys, ducks, beavers, and limpkins. Crystal clear waters provide opportunities to see underwater wildlife, and the nearby trees offer more options to spot land animals.

The upper section of Ichetucknee Springs State Park is home to a National Natural Landmark, a pristine spring perfect for kayaking and canoeing.

Related: 11 Fantastic Lakes near Gainesville, FL

5. Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park

devil's millhopper state park in florida
Source: flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park has been a National Natural Landmark since the 1880s welcoming outdoor enthusiasts from far and wide.

The bowl-shaped cavity is set among sandy terrain and pine forests, leading to a miniature rainforest about 120 feet deep. In this area, streams pass through, and lush vegetation thrives in this area all year long.

A lot can be learned about Florida’s natural history at this park, especially with the many fossilized shark teeth, marine shells, and fossilized remains of extinct animals found in this area.

Interpretive displays at Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park help visitors learn more about the park and the sinkhole.

6. Manatee Springs State Park

Manatee Springs State Park in Florida
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Website: Manatee Springs State Park
  • Distance from Gainesville: 46 miles (1 h)
  • Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Boating, Hiking, Biking, Picnics, Camping

Manatee Springs State Park offers an 800-foot boardwalk that winds through a majestic cypress forest with views of one of the state’s breathtaking springs.

The calm, refreshing waters of Manatee Spring have been enjoyed by visitors, explorers, and locals for more than 10,000 years, including the early Paleo Indians.

The first-magnitude spring at the park releases 100 million gallons of water daily, making it one of the most popular cooling-off spots in the area.

The state park is home to various wildlife, including birds, mammals, and fish. Additionally, it becomes the home to manatees during the winter months.

7. Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park

Gilchrist Blue Springs kayaking
Source: flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

The Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park is home to a collection of natural springs, including the spring known as Gilchrist Blue, which is known for its impeccable clarity and stable temperature year-round.

The springs provide a habitat for various wildlife species, including turtles, birds, and fish. You can easily spot various fish while snorkeling.

Paddling, snorkeling, and swimming are some of the most popular activities at this park, along with camping, hiking, and picnicking. It’s a must-visit spot.

Related: 11 Fantastic Lakes near Gainesville, FL

8. Silver Springs State Park

Silver Springs State Park in Florida
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Silver Springs State Park
  • Distance from Gainesville: 41 miles (50 min)
  • Activities: Kayaking, Canoeing, Boating, Hiking, Biking, Picnics, Camping, Boat Tours

Silver Springs State Park, one of America’s largest and most loved springs, features glass bottom boats and fabulous tours to experience the underwater world within the park.

The park is home to serene gardens and historic structures surrounding the main spring.

Silver Springs State Park was a significant destination for when Northerners would visit by steamship and remains a popular tourist attraction today. 

Popular activities at this park include hiking, biking, boating, and wildlife viewing.

Every year, the park hosts the Springfest celebration honoring the protection and restoration efforts of all the Florida waterways and springs.

Note that swimming isn’t allowed at Silver Springs.

9. Rainbow Springs State Park

Rainbow Springs State Park in Florida
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Rainbow Springs State Park
  • Distance from Gainesville: 43 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Picnics, Camping, Tubing

Rainbow Springs State Park is home to breathtakingly beautiful gardens, waterfalls, and fun activities.

Spring’s blue waters offer a refreshing experience with swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, and highly-popular tubing adventures.

There is evidence of human presence as far as 10,000 years ago.

In addition to water activities, you can enjoy trails that take you through natural areas lined with mossy hammocks. 

Watch out for wildlife and birds because Rainbow Springs State Park is home to multiple species, including songbirds, woodpeckers, hawks, and bald eagles.

10. Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway

Trail in Florida during thunder storm
Source: depositphotos

The Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway is a unique project spanning 110 miles from Yankeetown on The Gulf of Mexico to St Johns River near Palatka.

It offers a combination of various types of trails – from paved routes for biking and rollerblading to equestrian paths and paddling adventures. 

There are plenty of access points along the greenway, including launching ramps for boating and kayaking. Plus, the park passes by Ocala National Forest and some of the state parks like Silver Springs.

What’s more, this incredible greenway is teeming with wildlife and offers opportunities for birdwatching, photography, and fishing.

Related: 11 Fantastic Lakes near Gainesville, FL

11. Ravine Gardens State Park

Ravine Gardens State Park in Florida
Source: unsplash

Ravine Gardens State Park is best known for the two gigantic ravines found in the park, offering fabulous views.

You can find the perfect picnic spot, where you will be surrounded by dancing flowers, native vegetation, and a diverse collection of Florida wildlife.

Four different trails are available for hiking, biking, walking, and running, perfect for adventurers of all physical skill levels. 

Trails include paved surfaces, trimmed grass, and boardwalks that wind through moss-lined trees, gardens, and waterways.

12. Washington Oaks Gardens State Park

Washington Oaks Gardens State Park in Florida
Source: flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

Washington Oaks Gardens State Park is home to a fantastic collection of native and non-native plants, including the beautiful bird of paradise.

Relaxing in the gardens at this park is one of the most popular things to do, and many enjoy a stroll and a picnic. It’s one of the most visited state parks in Florida.

Also, it has access to the beach with its unique stone formations known as the Rocks. 

Additionally, the park has several smaller waterways, ponds, and creeks, providing a beautiful, sparkling touch to the landscape of Washington Oaks Garden State Park.

13. Troy Springs State Park

Scuba Divers in a lake
Source: depositphotos
  • Website: Troy Springs State Park
  • Distance from Gainesville: 51 miles (1h 5min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Boating, Hiking, Picnics, Scuba Diving, Snorkeling

Troy Springs State Park hosts many visitors looking for refreshing swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving opportunities in the shallow water spring.

In addition to the springs, the park offers access to the Suwannee River. You can go on kayaking and canoeing expeditions or arrive in style on your own boat, parking at the state park’s dock.

What’s more, the park has a nature trail, providing a half-mile walk through hardwood hammocks and small sparkling ponds. 

Related: 11 Fantastic Lakes near Gainesville, FL

14. Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park

Gold Head Branch State Park
Source: flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0
  • Website: Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park
  • Distance from Gainesville: 32 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, Biking, Picnics, Camping, Horseback Riding, Stargazing

One of Florida’s first state parks is the 600-acre Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park, developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. 

This park is located in the rolling sand hills in the north-central region of Florida, which is one of the few remaining examples of pristine wildlife with marshes, lakes, and scrub, which house a diverse collection of nature. 

Visitors can enjoy everything from hiking to wildlife viewing and swimming to fishing when spending the day at Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park. 

15. Anastasia State Park

Anastasia State Park
Source: depositphotos
  • Website: Anastasia State Park
  • Distance from Gainesville: 76 miles (1h 35min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Boating, Hiking, Biking, Picnics, Camping, Surfing

Anastasia State Park has more than 1,600 acres of unspoiled beaches, maritime hammocks, tidal marshes, and ancient dunes. 

This state park is an oasis for outdoor and wildlife enthusiasts wanting to experience an immersive experience in nature. 

Animals that call this park home include roseate spoonbills, osprey, eagles, painted buntings, warblers, and many more who hide in the hammock forests. 

Birds and wildlife can be spotted while canoeing, kayaking, or resting on the beach. And the ocean offers plenty of activities like surfcasting, boogie boarding, and snorkeling.

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