Ocala National Forest Camping
By Alex Murphy
Nowhere in Florida is truly landlocked as even inland areas are covered in marsh, and several lakes and rivers run through. This is true for Ocala National Forest, located just north of Orlando, which has quick access from many major metro areas, sandy beaches, and of course, theme parks. Still, the National Forest also offers plenty of natural beauty you can only find inside the Sunshine State.
According to the National Forest Service, Ocala National Forest has more than 600 lakes where visitors can see many wild birds, alligators and manatees, and even black bears in this remote area of the state. Ocala is also full of campsites, hiking trails, and great boating access with plenty of fishing and snorkeling in the area.
Within the National Forest, visitors can find multiple free dispersed campgrounds for both RVers and tent campers.
One of the more popular sites on Campendium that's free is Lake Mary. The campground is named for the lake it sits on with nearby hiking trails and fishing. This location is only for tents. Other Campendium users were able to stay at Trout Lake with RVs. Neither of these campgrounds offer any amenities or facilities.
For easier RV access and guaranteed camping through reservations, visitors to Ocala National Forest can check out Juniper Springs Campground. Although the site is still dry camping with no hookups, the Juniper Springs area is popular for kayakers and other boaters who want easy access to the water.
The Alexander Springs Campground is another similar option with plenty of reviews. While this campground is also dry camping, the Alexander Springs area is well known as some of the best canoeing in the state and great for other water activities as well. Many Campendium user comments also say they loved the heavily wooded sites.
There are plenty of nearby campgrounds with easy access to Ocala National Forest that have great RV sites.
Astor Landing Campground & Marina has easy water access with a boat ramp for canoes, kayaks, and jet skis. This campground has full hookups.
The Ocala Sun RV Resort also gets visitors close to the National Forest and offers a swimming pool. Located in the City of Ocala, one of the larger nearby towns means it's a quick drive to a gas station or grocery store.
Just south of the Forest, there is Three Flags RV Resort, which lets you stay close to many natural sites and can have you back on your way to popular tourist spots in Orlando in a short drive.
A third option exists within Florida State Parks located in Central Florida. Santos Trailhead and Campground is known as a mecca for mountain bikes. As the name suggests, this isn't a full park but a popular spot for bikers to hit some trails.
Blue Spring State Park is another popular destination in the Sunshine State. Many sites are within walking distance to the natural springs found within the park. The park's main attraction, however, is the hundreds of manatees that call the area home.
Finally, for anyone planning to visit, park rangers with Ocala National Forest suggest bringing your own drinking water. While some may attempt to treat the water in the forest, there is still the risk of giardia and other issues.