The Withlacoochee State Forest is part of the Florida Forever program, and it’s one of our favorite places to be outside in Central Florida.
It’s got all the elements we love: beautiful scenery, diverse wildlife, wild rivers, and trails galore. And with so many on-site activities, there’s no excuse for not getting out into nature and enjoying quality time with friends and family.
Skyview Trail is a 2.7-mile loop hike that takes you through an open savannah full of scrub oaks and pines. The Skyview Trailhead is east of U.S.U.S. Highway 441 on State Road 40 in Ocala, Florida.
The trail itself is moderately difficult and offers no shade or water along the way; however, there are many side trails to explore if you need a break from the sun or would like to cool off in one of the small ponds found throughout the forest.
While venturing into Withlacoochee State Forest, keep your eyes peeled for several different kinds of wildlife, including white-tailed deer (a favorite among visitors), wild turkeys, and bobcats.
The Triple B Loop (Bird Branch loop)
The Triple B Loop (Bird Branch loop) is a great trail for families, as it’s short and very flat. The trail is about 5 miles long and can be taken as a loop or broken up into smaller pieces if you want to do less than that. You can bring your bike or rent one from the park, but we recommend bringing one that’s easy to push when traveling with children.
Withlacoochee State Forest also has several other trails for hikers and mountain bikers alike:
Turkey Oak trail
Turkey Oak Trail is a 2.6-mile loop trail that is flat, easy, and well-marked. It’s also shaded most of its length, making it great for a summer hike. The trailhead can be found at the end of Turkey Oak Road off U.S.U.S. Highway 27 North in Ocala.
The trail is popular with hikers of all ages and skill levels, but for those looking for a challenge, some side trails lead to other parts of Withlacoochee State Forest or other parks like Silver Springs State Park or Paisley’s Blue Spring State Forest Preserve.
The team at Withlacoochee State Forest runs from the trailhead to a platform overlooking the lake. You can take in the views of Lake Tsala Apopka on this trip, or you can opt for an additional hike throughout the forest.
The team is open from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM during the summer, and 8:00 AM to 3:30 PM during fall and winter (November 1st through March 31st). It costs $3 per person for adults and children over 12 years old; kids three years old and younger ride free. The best time of year to go is spring or fall when things aren’t so hot or cold.
Paddling the Withlacoochee River
The Withlacoochee River is one of the most popular paddling destinations in Florida, with good reason: it’s a gorgeous place to explore.
Canoeing and kayaking are great ways to exercise, relax and enjoy nature. There are many places to rent canoes and kayaks in the area; you’ll find plenty of boat ramps on both sides of the river where you can launch your vessel—look for signs.
Withlacoochee State Forest is a great place to spend a day outdoors in Central Florida.
Withlacoochee State Forest is a great place to spend a day outdoors in Central Florida. The Skyview Trail is a 2.5-mile loop that starts at the Skyview parking lot and offers views of Lake Rousseau and the surrounding lakeshore.
The trail can be accessed from several different points, but it’s most convenient from the Skyview parking lot (which has parking for about 50 cars). There are no restrooms or water at this trailhead, so plan accordingly if you’re hiking on a hot day.
Whether you want to take a long walk in the woods, go hiking or cycling on one of the many trails, or sit and enjoy the scenery from your car – Withlacoochee State Forest is a great place to spend a day outdoors in Central Florida.