Located within Ocala National Forest in the eastern part of Marion County, Florida. Nearest town is Astor which is about 10 miles east of Juniper Prairie.
To Pats Island Trailhead Parking: From SR 40 turn north onto SR 19 and follow highway for 6.7 miles. Look for a sign indicating trailhead is 2 miles to the left. Turn here and follow FR10 until you see the parking sign on your right.
To Juniper Springs Recreation Area: From SR 19 turn west onto SR 40 and follow highway. At about 3.2 miles you'll pass the point where the Florida Trail crosses SR40. Continue on down the highway for another 1.25 miles. The entrance to the park will be on your right. See fee below for price of admission.
None, unless you enter through Juniper Springs Recreation Area. The fees there are $10 per day for the use of the facilities which includes secure parking.
There are only two ways to explorer Juniper Prairie Wilderness Area. You can either paddle down the tranquil waters of Juniper Springs Run or hike one of the numerous trails that crisscross the area. No motorized vehicles, mountain bikes or hand gliders are permitted. In fact, chainsaws are not even allowed to clear fallen trees from the trails. Trail maintainers have to do it the old fashion way -- use axes and cross saws.
Probably the best trail to take is the Florida National Scenic Trail, which bisects this area starting from SR40 near Juniper Springs Recreation Area and runs north all the way to Pats Island Trailhead Parking on Forest Road 10. This 10.2 mile stretch of the trail will take you through some of the most scenic areas including the popular overnight backpackers' haven, Hidden Pond.
As you can see there are plenty of places to cool off or to get a drink of water. Juniper Prairie has numerous ponds, the largest being Crooked Sapling Pond. Depending on the time of the year and drought conditions, these ponds can swell in size or go completely dry. Fortunately the ones around Hidden Pond usually have water in them all year long.
This area was hit badly by Hurricane Charley and several other storms back in 2004 causing numerous trees to fall down. To top it off, a prescribed fire in 2006 went out of control and burned nearly all 11,500 acres. The scrub and palmettos are already starting to come back, but it may be awhile before we see those huge sand pines towering over our heads again.
If you want a nice, quiet and secluded place to go camping then Juniper Prairie is the place to go. There are numerous sites all around the Hidden Pond area and along the Florida Trail to setup a tent. Most overnighters will park their vehicles at the Pats Island trailhead parking lot and backpack in, but you can also park where FR65 and FR76 intersect on the western side of Juniper Prairie. There's an unmarked trail that will take you to even more prime camping spots as well as the ones around Hidden Pond.
Juniper Prairie has one of most popular canoe trails in Central Florida. Thousands of visitors every year paddle the 7 mile spring run starting from Juniper Springs and following downstream all the way to Juniper Wayside on SR 19. For a fee, Juniper Springs Recreational Area offers canoe rentals and shuttle services. Make sure you arrive early, as the rentals to go quick during peak seasons and the last rental is no later than 11:00 AM. Reservations can be made by contacting the concessionaire at (352) 625-2808.
There are plenty of signs of wildlife in the Juniper Prairie area. Sometimes you just have to look where you step. Bear scat and bear prints are commonly seen along trails. You may even come across an entire palmetto thicket completely flattened by bears looking for palmetto berries to eat.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission manages hunting at Ocala. For up-to-date information on regulations and current hunting schedules, please go to MyFWC.com.
Hunting Schedule 2012 - 2013 Archery Sep. 22 - Oct. 21 Muzzle Gun Oct. 26 - 28 General Gun Nov. 10 - Jan. 6 Fox, Bobcat, Raccoon Nov. 14 - Apr. 18 Small Game Jan. 7 - Mar. 3 Spring Turkey Mar. 21 - 24, 28 - 31, Apr. 4 - 7, 11 - 14
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Last updated on 2-Jan-2013