Hiking the Florida National Scenic Trail

The Florida National Scenic Trail is a national treasure of 1,300 miles of federally designated recreation trail that meanders across Florida right near the St. Johns River. This beautiful scenic trail has welcomed visitors for over 50 years. To celebrate, we have the tips you need to enjoy the peaceful and scenic Florida National Scenic Trail while hiking in Florida.

hiking the Florida National Scenic Trail
The Florida National Scenic Trail is approximately 1,300 miles long and has officially been a beautiful part of the state for over 50 years.

Plot the Distance While Hiking in Florida

In total, the Florida National Scenic Trail is approximately 1,300 miles long, with most hikers starting in the southern tip of the state and working their way north to Pensacola. That entire hike requires two to three months of hiking.

We suggest tackling the central portion of the trail near Astor, FL, and the St. Johns River, where you can search for birds, Florida black bears and enjoy the serenity of the river and other wildlife in the Ocala National Forest.

Here is a map of the Florida National Scenic Trail that allows you to plot and print the portion of the trail you want to hike.

The Florida National Scenic Trail is Different

Is this your first time hiking in Florida? Hiking in the Sunshine State is different than anywhere else. There may not be a lot of elevation, but there are other obstacles hikers must overcome. Follow these Florida hiking tips:

  • It’s hot in the summer so plan your hiking trips in the early morning hours before noon.
  • Carry enough water to stay hydrated.
  • Carry a GPS or compass to stay on track.
  • Take a cell phone.
  • Wear light and breathable clothing.
hiking the Florida National Scenic Trail
Hiking in the Sunshine State is different than anywhere else. Follow our hiking tips.

Backpack Checklist

What does a hiker need for a hiking trip on the Florida National Scenic Trail? Here’s your Florida backpack packing checklist:

  • Rain poncho
  • Hat
  • Bandanas
  • Sunglasses
  • Bug spray
  • A first aid kit

Are you seeking to camp overnight? Use this list of designated campsites and trailhead locations.

Wear Boots

We know it’s Florida and you feel like you should wear sandals everywhere. But stick to sandals on the beach and hiking boots on the trails. Florida is damp and it’s easy to get your feet wet. A good pair of hiking boots will keep your feet dry. Take extra pairs of socks, just in case.

Visit the Ocala National Forest

The Ocala National Forest is a must-stop when hiking the central portion of the Florida National Scenic Trail. It’s 607 square miles of preserved, nationally-protected forest full of 600 lakes, natural springs and rivers. There are also parks to enjoy freshwater clear springs, campgrounds and canoeing opportunities.

Read our blog on watching wildlife in the Ocala National Forest for great wildlife viewing opportunities.

hiking the trail
Enjoy the scenery and the St. Johns River on your next Florida hike.

Be Cautious Around Wildlife

Florida black bears, snakes and alligators are common sights along the Florida National Scenic Trail while hiking in Florida. Enjoy the wildlife on your hike, but stay away from these creatures when hiking in Florida. Check out this guide to identify Florida poisonous snakes.

Enjoy the St. Johns River

The St. Johns River alone is a fantastic reason to visit the Florida National Scenic Trail near Astor. It’s a great place to rent a boat and enjoy fishing and boating at Castaways on the River. We also offer cottages and motel rooms near a marina on the St. Johns River. Call Castaways on the River at (352) 759-3442 to plan your summer hiking and river trip today!

Castaways Rent a Boat pin

A Glimpse of the Natural Side: Florida’s Black Bear Scenic Byway

The Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway is a nationally designated byway. This 60 mile byway winds through parts of Marion, Lake, Putnam and Volusia counties in what’s known as the Big Scrub.

As the name suggests, Florida’s Black Bear population is the most concentrated in this region of the state. Yes, it’s common to see a black bear or two along the way, especially in the spring, summer and fall, so keep your cameras ready but keep your distance.

The east-west segment of the byway takes visitors along State Road 40 from Ormand Beach west to Ocala. The north-south sector stretches US 19 from Palatka down to Umatilla. The byway includes a network of scenic roads and interpretive trails.

The Florida Black Bear Scenic byway takes the traveler through several forests including the Ocala National Forest and the Lake George State Forest.

There’s an App & More

Visitors can download a phone app for the travel guide covering the area by the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway.

The app also has a wealth of maps, videos and other resources to help plan a trip to explore the byway.

A Popular Trek

The Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway is popular for birdwatchers, as well as those wanting to explore the various hiking trails.

The byway also draws many a motorcyclist to the open and winding roads. A loop along the byway is often an excursion for the annual biking events in Daytona like Bike Week in March and Biketoberfest in October.

By The Water

Here at Castaways On The River in Astor, along the St. John’s River, we are sort of at the crossroads of SR 40 and US 19, right in the middle of the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway no matter or which direction you are traveling.

We have great accommodations to fit your needs regardless of how you are planning to visit the byway. Our boaters will find a wealth of resources about how to access the area springs included on the byway.

Let us help make your visit a fun and comfortable one! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about us and to keep up with the latest happenings at Castaways!

Lake George: The Perfect Day Trip from Astor, Florida


Lake George
Lake George is Florida’s second largest lake, following Lake Okeechobee.

Load up the boat at Castaways on the River and head a few minutes north along the beautiful St. Johns River to spend the day exploring picturesque Lake George. The area calls to fisherman, sport and recreation boaters alike. Not to mention, the water and shore offer visitors a variety of activities to suit many interests.

Lake George: Did You Know?

Lake George, at approximately 6 miles across and 11 miles around, is noted as one of Florida’s largest lakes, following Lake Okeechobee. The lake is fed from the northern flow of the St. Johns River, along with Juniper Creek, Salt Creek, Silver Glen Springs and Lake Kerr.

The Ocala National Forest provides the western boundary of Lake George while the Lake George Conservation Area lies to the east. By far, the best way to see the lake and enjoy its many unique features is by boat.

Lake George map
Follow the map from Lake George to Castaways on the River.

A Lake Named After a King

This region is steeped with history. In fact, it is a part of the area where the Timucua Indians settled in Florida in the 1500s. In the 1700s after the sale of the Florida Territory to the British, John Bartram, a botanist, explored the St. Johns River and named the lake for King George. In later years, Lake George became a popular destination for northerners to escape the harsh winter temperatures.

Known For Being a Home to Many

Lake George is known for being a sustainable habitat for a wide array of marine animals and wildlife. It’s one of the state’s most popular bass fishing areas. In addition, the shores of Lake George are home to one of the state’s largest concentrations of bald eagles, as well as a host of migratory water birds. A good resource about the area we like to share is Jim Porter’s Guide to Bass Fishing.

A unique aspect of Lake George is its salt content from area feeder springs along the St. Johns River. It’s this mix of fresh and salt water that provides a sustainable habitat for marine life ranging from Atlantic stingray to various species of mullet, striped bass and blue crabs.

In fact, outside of bass fishing, the blue crab population in Lake George supports one of the only freshwater blue crab fisheries. And the nearby town of Palatka hosts an annual Blue Crab Festival.

An Abundance of Activities

Lake George’s abundant shoreline features other activities appealing to explorers. One of these activities is the Lake George Trail in the Ocala National Forest, which gives hikers a view from land.

Another point of interest is the nearby Lake George State Park. The park, lacking shoreline access to Lake George, does have easy access to the St. John’s River. Lake George State Park is a part of The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway, and the Trailwalker Hiking Program. Visitors can explore a network of nature, hiking and horse trails, camp, launch a canoe and fish.

As you can see by now, Lake George offers a day’s worth of fun that can easily stretch into several more days. It’s a good trip to plan with a family or group because there will be more than enough to do. Let Castaways on the River be your home base while enjoying Lake George. We have a fleet of rental boats, along with lodging accommodations to fit your needs at Castaways on the River. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about us and to keep up with the latest happenings at Castaways!


Family Trip Ideas

Boat Ride – St. Johns River

Greenery on St. Johns River

St. Johns River is Florida’s longest river; forming a beautiful path that flows from Indian River County to northeast Florida and into the Atlantic Ocean. A boat cruise of the river offers many opportunities for an affordable family trip, as the river is known for its diverse wildlife and freshwater fishing, especially largemouth basses. The river is a haven for manatees and a variety of birds. Pass through Heritage Corridor, which offers views of Volusia County’s rich cultural heritage and national treasures.

Recreation –  Silver Glen Springs

If you are boating on the St. Johns River, plan to visit Silver Glen Springs, located just a few minutes up the river from Astor, FL. Silver Glen Springs is in the Recreational Area of the Ocala National Forest. The spring has a large semicircular pool that measures 200 feet from north to south, and 175 feet east to west. With such magnitude, the crystal-clear spring basin is popular for snorkeling, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and swimming. Everyone will have plenty of room to splash and play!

Silver Glen Springs - Family Fun

Silver Glen Springs is an important archaeological site with hiking trails where you can explore and learn more about the history and ecology of the area.  The natural setting is surrounded by forests of oak, cedar and pines, providing the perfect scenery for photography and birding. If you happen to visit the Spring in the winter, you may see manatees visiting from the cooler waters of the St. Johns River.

Castaways on the River offers many boats for rent for your next cruise. Consider staying with us as well and wake up to beautiful sunshine in our many cottages and motel rooms that will accommodate almost any party size. We would love for you to come visit and experience the beautiful oasis Astor has to offer.

-Castaways on the River