I met a friendly guy from St. Johns River Water Management District at Silver Springs State Forest. He said that SJRWMD was working to slow the flow of water from Sawmill Creek into the Silver River. So the idea is to keep the river clearer while also preserving water to (potentially) pump back into a local, Marion County aquifer.
He also said this land was recently owned by Rayonier, a timber company. This would account for all the service roads, great for biking.
NOTE: Beginning in 2021, this area now allows hunting. Remain mindful of deer and turkey hunting season during the cool months.
Biking or Hiking Silver Springs State Conservation Area
Service roads comprise about one third of the trails. These are packed well and great for biking. In fact, following the White Blaze Loop, I was struck by how searing white the trail appeared in the sun. All trails are firm with no sweet sand and quite flat.
I also hiked the Red Blaze Trail Loop – over 11 miles starting at a white blaze entrance with way points marked at AllTrails.
You will generally find plenty of parking either from either County Road 315 or from 326. And the White Blaze Loop offers 6 miles of great hiking or biking from either end of the conservation area.
Most trails are wide and well kept, so you won’t need to swat away spider webs or worry too much about mosquitoes. The packed earth portions provide easy biking as well as hiking, and the grassy, off-loop trails rarely become overgrown.
Also, both the red and white systems are well marked. I hiked both and could hardly believe I was the only person there on a Sunday. If you want a great outdoor opportunity not far from town, this is ideal.
More than Service Roads
The packed earth loop trails offer plenty of grassy, side trail opportunities for additional hiking. And you are sure to encounter an abundant variety of flora including wildflowers. Also, you may spot an abundance of animals. Springs, particularly on the red loop, attract a variety wildlife including feral hogs, deer, bear, bald eagles, and waterfowl such as ibis and egrets. Just be careful – I’ve spotted a Florida bobcat too!
Autumn livens up in yellow, orange and red thanks to copious sugar maple and deciduous vines.
And watch for the little things. Among the photos below is also an odd find, an Arrowhead Orb Spider (Verrucosa arenata) notable for the yellow arrowhead shape on its abdomen. I also had the good fortune to find a large flower rose gentium – Marsh Pink. See both in images below.
Trail Images Below
Arrowhead Orb Weaver Spider
Gulf Fritallary Butterfly
Lanceleaf Arrowhead Flower
Palms and Pine
Sabatia grandiflora, largeflower rose gentium – Marsh Pink