Alexander Springs Recreation Area in the Ocala National Forest is a great place to visit no matter the season. The area provides plenty of opportunities to swim, snorkel, dive, hike, and/or camp. Find out what you need to know to plan your visit to this Central Florida Spring.
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Alexander Springs Location
Alexander Springs is located in central Florida, in the Ocala National Forest along County Road 445. The spring is in the northeast corner of Lake County between Astor and Altoona, Florida.
GPS Info. (Latitude, Longitude):
Getting to Alexander Springs park requires driving along narrow country roads with few amenities along the way.
As a result, pack some snacks and grab a bite before heading out, and don’t plan on finding dinner immediately afterward. There is usually a concession stand available, but it is currently closed (February 2021).
(There are no interstate highways here, only little towns scattered about. This is the forest!)
Wildlife in the Ocala National Forest
The Ocala National Forest is teaming with Florida wildlife. During the drive-in, you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a deer herd, or of a black bear ambling along on the shoulder. Let’s not forget about those beautiful, but pesky raccoons and squirrels. They really enjoy those family picnics.
In Alexander Springs, you may see turtles, waterfowl, and maybe even an alligator. This is not the place to see manatees though. If you are looking for some manatees, you might want to hit up Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.
On our drive home, we saw a bear with two young cubs crossing the road! She stared us down until we drove off. Exciting!
We are happy to report that we didn’t see any alligators on our visit.
Alexander Springs Recreation Area & Beach
The Alexander Springs Recreation Area is located in the sprawling Ocala National Forest and requires an entry fee to enter the spring park.
As of February 2021, admission is $7.00 per person (ages 6+) during the week and $10 per person on weekends. It is well worth it! For the most current admissions fees, please click here.
The beach area is raised above the water and not very large, but there is plenty of space off the beach to set up your temporary camp. There is also room to spread out, especially if you are visiting during the week.
There are many picnic tables, benches, and a pavilion, all under the cover of trees.
Outdoor showers are also available near the beach. Additional facilities are located near the concession stand which sells snacks and has kayaks and canoes for rent.
NOTE: Rentals are currently unavailable. There is a fee to use indoor showers if you are not camping.
The water is a constant 72°F and extraordinarily clear.
Built-in steps allow you to walk right into the spring. The swimming area starts out very shallow (1-2 feet) and gets progressively deeper (slowly). For those of you interested in a little trivia, Alexander Springs is one of the 27 first-magnitude springs in the state of Florida.
Not only do visitors come to Alexander Springs to swim and float, but also to snorkel and scuba dive (there is an additional fee to scuba). If you’re lucky, there may be a mermaid in the spring too.
On our first visit, our kids were only 3 and 6 years old. They were thrilled to be able to walk, run around and play in the water without having to be restricted to the immediate shoreline. It was also wonderful for us as parents, we didn’t have to carry the kids around in the water.
There are very clear markers in the swim area to keep swimmers out. Please stay out of those areas and avoid getting into any vegetation on the edges.
Keep in mind that pets are not allowed in the spring, swim, or picnic areas.
The spring floor consists of soft sand, and then water plants as you approach the spring source, so water shoes aren’t necessary. The boil (spring source) is located at the far end of the swim area. It is 25 feet down to the bottom and the spring source is a beautiful glowing blue-green hue.
Alexander Springs Campground
There are 67 camping sites available at Alexander Springs. The campground accommodates both tent campers and RV campers. The maximum RV site is 35 feet. Some campsites are first come first serve, but others are available via reservations. All sites are $28 per night. If you have more than two vehicles at a campsite, there is an additional fee.
There is no sewer, water, or electricity at any of the campsites. Don’t panic though, there is a dump station and a bathhouse. If you are new to RV camping without hookups (boondocking), check out this post to get started.
Like many other national parks, camping is limited to a 14-day stay in a 30-day period. Pets are welcome in the campground, but must be leashed and cannot be brought to the Alexander Springs swimming and picnic area.
Please click here for the latest fees and other important camping information.
Hiking at Alexander Springs
There are two main hiking opportunities at Alexander Springs: The Timucuan Trail and The Florida National Scenic Trail.
The Timucuan Trail is a 0.9 mile loop that is partially accessible to wheelchair users (The trail is partly a boardwalk, this is the accessible part). The trailhead is located at these coordinates: 29.080850,-81.576317.
The trail meanders through small bubbling springs and represents habitats found in and around Big Scrub. The trail also offers information about the Timucuan tribe that used to inhabit the area. Dogs are NOT allowed on this trail. The trail is currently closed (February 2021). Please click here for the current status and trail map.
The Florida National Scenic Trail (aka The Florida Trail) is actually a federally-designated 1,500-mile statewide trail.
This is the Alexander Springs to Farles Prairie segment of The Florida Trail (Trailhead: 29.078871, -81.577816). This segment is 8.6 miles one-way. So, if you are just interested in a shorter hike, just track your mileage and turn back before sunset or you get tired, whichever comes first.
To get details on this hike, please visit the Florida Hikes website by clicking here.
What to Bring
Alexander Springs is an outdoor recreation area. Florida is all about sunshine and bugs, so be prepared and protect yourself. If you aren’t into sprays, make sure to wear clothing with built-in UV protection and cover up as much as possible. This is especially true if you are going on the Timucuan Trail or The Florida Trail. I love my arm sleeves. They protect me and can be removed if I get too hot.
Food and Drinks
Make sure that everyone stays hydrated and well-nourished. There is a concession stand on-site, but it’s not always open. There are picnic tables and grills near the swimming area for visitors. We tend to travel light when visiting for the day and only brought reusable water bottles and a few applesauce packets. We managed to survive.
Visiting Alexander Springs will probably involve getting in the water. Be prepared with proper swimwear and other gear. During our visit, we only brought tubes so we could lazily float about, but I wish we would have had some snorkel gear. The boil/basin (source of the spring) is absolutely beautiful and we just awkwardly floated above it without goggles or anything.
The swim area is nice and sandy, super foot-friendly. When walking from the parking lot to the beach/swim area is all paved, so simple flip-flops are all you need. If you decide to hike though, make sure to wear closed-toed shoes, sneakers at a minimum, and hiking shoes preferred.
A waterproof camera, while being optional, worth the effort and cost, especially if you will be frequenting multiple Florida water spots. We all have cell phones to capture everything above water, but adding a waterproof camera will allow you to capture the world that lies beneath the water. We recommend a GoPro that will allow you to photograph and video your visit. These will also compliment any hiking or other outdoor adventure you may want to capture.
Alexander Springs Recreation Area is a wonderful family-friendly place to enjoy nature. It’s the type of place that is enjoyable year-round whether you are hiking or going for a swim. The water temperature is set to 72 degrees Fahrenheit, so always refreshing (grab a wetsuit to enjoy a good swim in the cooler months).
Let us know if you decide to visit!
If you love the photos in this post by Joe Cruz photography, please click here to see more.