A turquoise pool of water seen through thick foliage with anchored boats in the distance

A Day at Silver Glen Springs 

Silver Glen is a wildly popular spot to enjoy Florida's natural springs. Our guide covers the best times to visit and insider tips for an unforgettable day in the water.

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Bent palms trees hanging over a shallow pool of shimmering blue-green water. A soft, white sandy bottom. Darting fish and manatees lazily floating from one patch of seagrass to another.

Silver Glen Springs has all the makings of a tropical paradise.  

It pumps out 65 million gallons of water per day, spilling into Florida's second largest lake, and creating a 22 acre playground of water.

Unsurprisingly, this playground is both one of the largest natural springs in Florida and also one of the most popular.

That popularity has resulted in some changes over recent years, including a vehicle reservation system for access on certain days.

To plan ahead for your visit, you'll want to read up on everything there is to know about Silver Glen Springs. We're sharing insider tips, including the best time to go to avoid fees and crowds, what you can do there, and when you might even be able to spot some manatees.

Quick Overview

Hours | Open daily from 8AM - 6PM

Cost | $13 per person + $20 per vehicle (summer weekends)

Water temperature | About 72F (22C) year round

What Can You Do Here?

One look at Silver Glen Springs and you'll immediately understand why it's such a popular destination. The turquoise colored water and lush green vegetation framing it make this place absolutely postcard worthy.

The water is what draws people in, widely considered some of the clearest of all Florida's freshwater springs. And while you're here to swim and cool down, you should take some time to enjoy the other attractions of Silver Glen and the surrounding Ocala National Forest.

Swimming & Snorkeling

Don't forget your snorkel gear when you head out for a day at the springs.

The water is fantastic. A perfect place to be on a hot, sunny Florida day. But there's plenty to see under the surface as well. The crystal clear water here makes it one of Florida's best snorkeling destinations. If the sunlight hits it just right, you may even see rainbows dancing around on the bottom of the spring.

You're sure to see some marine wildlife. Striped bass are a common occurrence here in the summer months, when they come into the springs, seeking cooler water. For the opposite reason, manatees venture in for the consistently warmer temperatures during winter months. Your best chance to see them is between November and March, especially on a cold morning.

A woman stands on the rocky edge of a turquoise natural spring swimming area surrounded by palm trees

To separate swimmers from boat traffic there's a designated swimming area that's roped off. Make sure to stay in that area. It'll keep you safer, and also protects the natural underwater habitats, which have seen recent decline from overuse.

Snorkeling is welcomed in the springs, but scuba diving isn't permitted.

Boating & Kayaking

As Silver Glen Springs spews out gallon after gallon of water, it makes its way along Silver Glen Run, out to Lake George. The roughly half mile spring run is another great way to enjoy these waters.

It also draws a shocking number of boaters, especially on the weekends. Boat owners will bring their vessel up the run and anchor just outside the designated swimming area, where they set up for a day of partying or relaxing.

You might even come across a business savvy local selling hot dogs, snorkel masks, and other concessions out of a boat here.

If paddling is your thing and you'd like to get a taste for this other half of Silver Glen, bring your kayak, canoe, or SUP for a mid-day paddle or rent one. Just be sure to keep all watercraft out of the swimming area and respect the fences and boundaries setup on the property.

Call ahead if you're planning to put in from Silver Glen Springs, because as of October 2023 the kayak launch was closed to both rentals and private vessels due to flooding.

Boats anchored across from a green blue body of water

Hiking

Need to stretch your legs a bit? You've got two options from Silver Glen Springs, a 2.4 mile out-and-back on the Lake George Trail, or a shorter 0.9 walk along the Spring Boils Trail.

The Lake George Trail will take you on a leisurely walk through old growth pines, cypress and Spanish moss covered trees to a view of the lake. Keep an eye out for alligators once you get there, as you may see them snoozing out in the water or along the shoreline.

In the opposite direction, you can make your way through the canopy to Jody's Spring, where a wooden platform lets you watch the water bubbling up from underground.

While walking the grounds, please be respectful of any signs or boundary markers. What's now a recreation area was actually once a Native American village, so it still holds significant archaeological and cultural importance. You may be able to see large mounds, or middens, which are basically ancient trash dumps, full of fossilized shells and other items.

Picnic

A large and mostly shaded picnic area surrounds Silver Glen's swimming area. There are dozens of picnic tables and grills spread out, so pack a lunch for the day, grab your picnicking essentials, and spend some time outside the water.

Just keep an eye on your food and don't leave anything out in the open. We counted no less than 20 vultures on our visit, lurking in the treetops, waiting to see what they could scavenge.

Raccoons, crows, and black bears are also known to come by and swipe whatever they can from picnickers including food and shiny objects.

An open picnic area with a fence surrounding a natural spring that border a wooded area

Planning Your Visit to Silver Glen Springs

Convinced that you need to experience Silver Glen Springs for yourself?

We have a few tips that should help you really enjoy your visit.

The first is regarding when you should go. When we say Silver Glen Springs is popular, we mean that it can be jam packed with boats lining the run and people blaring loud music.

Maybe that's your thing, maybe it isn't.

We usually like to time our visits outside of those peak season days. So to limit crowds, it's best to avoid weekends and holidays, especially during the summer. A weekend, even in the winter months, can bring in large numbers of people since the water maintains a year-round temp of about 72 degrees.

But, in an attempt to reduce overcrowding, the Forest Service is now requiring a vehicle reservation on weekends and holidays between May 27th and Sept 4th.

A reservation costs $20, is separate from the per person day-use fee for entry, and guarantees you a parking space when you arrive. You can purchase one ahead of time by visiting the Reserve Ocala website, where they also address FAQs about the new reservation system. If you make a vehicle reservation, just be sure to print it out or take a screenshot on your phone before arrival, because you won't have cell signal inside Ocala National Forest.

Our advice is to just skip the busiest days and choose a weekday if at all possible. You'll save the $20 reservation fee and, as long as you arrive fairly early, you'll still be sure to get in and avoid crowds.

A day pass for the springs will cost $13 per person, which you'll need to pay at the entrance station after parking.

There are port-o-potties and a changing area just inside the entrance.

Another reason we'd encourage you to go early is because the swimming and day use areas may be closed fairly early during some parts of the year. The official explanation of that is 'to account for changing sunset times'.

All we know is that we came in the afternoon and the staff was asking everyone to exit the water several hours before the sun went down. It was more than a little disappointing to have a day cut short, especially after paying the entry fees. If you're not told on arrival, just make sure to ask when everything is closing so you know ahead of time.

Lastly, you'll need to leave any pets at home or back at the hotel. According to USFS rules, no pets are allowed in the day use area.

Getting to Silver Glen Springs

Silver Glen is located on the eastern side of Ocala National Forest, in an area full of beautiful and historic natural springs.

Drive times from major cities are: Orlando, about 70 minutes. Gainesville, 70 minutes. Jacksonville, about 1 hour 45 minutes.

It also makes a great day trip if you're staying in one of the beach towns along Florida's Atlantic coast, like Saint Augustine, Daytona Beach, or Cape Canaveral.

Where to Stay

Hotels & Rental Properties

To find a hotel near Silver Glen Springs you'll need to venture outside the National Forest. The closest city would be DeLand. There you have plenty of good options, including the Courtyard by Marriott DeLand or Hampton Inn & Suites DeLand.

A short term rental would put you closer to the springs and Lake George.

This riverfront property has two boat slips and a dock, with a modern interior that sleeps 6.

Camping

We always prefer to find free camping and boondock, especially in a place like Ocala National Forest, which allows dispersed camping for up to 14 days.

If you prefer to secure a spot for the night, there are several campgrounds within the forest, managed by USFS, where you can reserve a site ahead of time. Just keep in mind that within the national forest services are limited and you'll need to either tent camp or get by without hookups.

Alexander Springs Campground | Non-electric sites for car or tent camping with a picnic table, grill, and fire pit.

Clearwater Lake Campground | Non-electric lakefront sites. Bathhouse with hot showers and flush toilets.

Juniper Springs Campground | Popular campground within walking distance of Juniper Springs. Non-electric sites with picnic tables, grills, and fire pits.

Hopkins Prairie Campground | 21 primitive sites on a first come first serve basis, for $15 per night. Vault toilets and a hand pump for water.

And if you need full hookups, your best options are on the outskirts of the national forest.

Lake in the Forest | To the west, about 30 minutes away from Silver Glen Springs. Family run campground with RV sites, a swimming pool, and laundry facility.

Astor Landing | Waterfront RV or tent camping at a marina on St. Johns River, with about a 20 minute drive.

A campervan parked in a wooded area during sunset

Exploring the Surrounding Area

For spring hoppers, you'll definitely want to add Alexander and Juniper Springs to your list. Both are just as popular, with their own appeal, and close by.

A pool of water surrounded by a terraced concrete seating area and dense vegetationa

If you're coming or going from the Orlando area, we highly recommend a stop at King's Landing. There you'll find the emerald colored waters of Rock Springs Run with kayak and canoe rentals for day use or a night of camping along the river.

A man pulls a canoe out of a river in a heavily wooded area

Sixty seven miles of the Florida Trail, a route that stretches all the way from the panhandle to the southern tip of the state, cut roughly north-south through Ocala National Forest. You can find out more about doing a day hike in Ocala by visiting the Florida Trail Association's website.

Water lovers can rent a pontoon boat from several local outfitters ($250-300+ for the day) and go out on St. Johns River or Lake George. There's also tons of opportunity for freshwater fishing, either from the water or the Volusia County fishing pier on the east side of the lake.

Want to swim at Silver Glen? Pin it for later!

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