Gilchrist County is home to the largest collection of springs in north Florida. It’s located less than an hour away from Gainesville, FL, and features many hiking trails, scenic landscapes and an assortment of recreational amenities. Below is a one-day-trip guide that highlights the best of Gilchrist’s natural northern countryside:
Gilchrist County Blueway Trail
The county boasts Gilchrist Blueway Tail, a 55-mile trail which connects the county’s world-renowned springs. The trail is a playground for all kinds of nature lovers, offering numerous land activities like biking and birding, and water activities such as snorkeling and tubing.
Blueway Trail has an accumulation of 43 unique, natural springs, including Ginnie, Blue, Fanning and Hart Springs. Each spring is comprised of refreshing, crystal-clear water, cool, soft sand and thousands of shade trees. Gilchrist County springs are a world-class destination for scuba diving, attracting thousands of visitors annually from more than 78 different countries to explore the spring water. Many of the springs along the Blueway Trail offer scuba diving gear and equipment to those certified, as well as free-diving equipment.
Additionally, many of the springs are a part of the county’s park system. For example, Hart Springs Park is home to Hart Springs, and offers numerous water recreational activities including canoeing, kayaking, swimming, boating and paddle boarding. The park also offers overnight lodging and camping sites, picnic tables and sports complexes, which are ideal for a one-day trip. The springs’ crystal clear waters encourage fishing, as the springs brim with wildlife such as bass and catfish. Boating is allowed in designated waters along the trail, and information about ramp and dock locations can be found on the Gilchrist County website. Another spring in the area known for its amenities is Blue Springs. Visitors are encouraged to walk the quarter-mile boardwalk or jump off the diving platform into the 72-degree spring water.
Nature Coast State Trail
Gilchrist County is also home to the Nature Coast State Trail. It’s located approximately 20 minutes from
the Blueway trail, and is the perfect destination for outdoor explorers. It features 32 miles of trails ideal for runners, bikers, hikers and inline skaters. Visitors are also encouraged to travel the Nature Coast State Trail by horseback, which is a combination of paved and unpaved trails.
The Nature Coast State Trail spans a section of the Atlantic Coastline Railroad, a historic train route of the early 1900s. It connects five rural towns across Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties, and features many pavilions, picnic areas and designated rest areas. The trail feature various observation decks, where visitors have sighted various types of north Florida wildlife, including white-tailed deer, gray squirrels, hawks, barred owls and more.
Gilchrist County offers numerous lodging opportunities from RV camping, hotel and motel lodging, and outdoor camping. Places to stay include Hart Springs House and Park House at Hart Springs Park, the Ginnie Springs Cottages, the Waccasassa Plantation and Otter Springs. Popular restaurant destinations near the trails include Akins Bar-B-Q, the Burger Spot and Hobo’s Restaurant. Additionally, many of the parks and trails have tables, benches and pavilions perfect for picnics.