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Ocala, FL: Juniper Prairie Wilderness

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Star Star Star Star Star

Explore log bridges, pine forest, and white sand dunes in one of Florida's most pristine wetlands.

Leading from the lush tropical paradise of Juniper Springs Recreation Area to the crystalline waters of spring-fed Hidden Pond, this dayhike on the Florida Trail offers a rare opportunity to cool down at both ends.

From the entrance road near FL 40, turn right and hike 1.2 miles north into the Juniper Prairie Wilderness. Walk the well-trod footpath through a maze of young sand pines, then cross over a mosaic of prairies, flatwoods ponds, and oak hammocks. Logs bridge the gap at Whispering Creek where the whiskey-colored tannic water sluices under the bridge. Emerging from the shaded route, enter a scrub forest where the heat shimmers on the white sand of the ancient dunes. Skirt around a large sinkhole to reach Hidden Pond, then cool off in the shallow water before heading back to Juniper Springs.

-Hike courtesy of Sandra Friend, "The Florida Trail: The Official Hiking Guide" (Westcliffe Publishers)

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