Florida offers RVers many scenic and interesting places to see and stay, but not many places capture so many unique features in one place like Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. The park, centrally located in Florida, was the state’s first state preserve. Today, the park is a National Natural Landmark.
Aside from the hiking, fishing, camping, and other recreational activities, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park is the center for more than 20 biological communities. While Florida is known for waterfowl and alligators, visitors may be shocked to know that this park is also home to wild-roaming bison and horses. Staying at the park will give any visitor a new and distinct look at a natural and cultural-historical hotspot.
Bring your RV and plan to stay for a few days (or more)! Climb the 50-foot-high observation tower near the visitor center to see an aerial view of the park. While you are at the visitor center, explore the exhibits and take an audio-visual tour that explains the history of the park. Once you’ve learned a little about Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, you will want to stay a lot longer! Because there is so much to see and do here, you will want to come back for another stay sooner than later!
RV Rentals in Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
Transportation in Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
The park is located in central Florida. It is ten miles south of Gainsville, and 101 miles northwest of Orlando, Florida. The main entrance of the park, the Savannah Boulevard entrance, is off of US 441.
Florida State Parks charge a daily vehicle fee that is an additional cost added to camping and recreation fees.
Campgrounds and parking in Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
Campsites in Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park Campground
The Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park Campground is a pet-friendly, heavily-shaded, year-round campground. The gravel driveways allow for either RVs, trailers, or tents. Each back in space, ranging in size from 46 to 60 feet have a ground grill and a picnic table, and 30 or 50 amp electrical hookups.
The campground provides showers, restrooms, hydrants, and a dump station nearby for registered campers. If you need to use a generator, please silence them between the hours of 11 pm to 7 am. Please be aware that the park entrance gate is locked at sunset. Registered campers can get a gate combination in case they need to leave the park after hours.
Seasonal activities in Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
Every month, the park presents several special events and classes for registered guests. At Paynes Prairie Preserve, park rangers give trail chats where they teach visitors information about the importance of the wildlife native to the area. Rangers will help the guests spot some of the animals commonly seen in the park such as birds, snakes, bison, and alligators. The park also gives living history presentations. A living history presentation is when a character from the past presents information to a group of people while taking on the full persona of that character. The presenter uses real details to teach and educate the audience in a fun and interactive way. Contact the park for the most up to date event information.
There is no better way to explore a Florida State Park than by foot. Get the family prepared for a day in the sun and walk along some of the park’s hiking-only trails. Pay close attention while walking, because you might see many different kinds of wildlife, including alligators, snakes, and bison! The Savannah Boulevard Trail is an easy walk, located just along the park entrance road. Take the Wacahoota Trail for an easy quarter-mile round trip walk that begins at the visitors center and loops along the edge of a prairie. If you are looking for a longer hike, try the La Chua Trail, a three-mile round-trip hike from the north rim of the prairie to the observation tower. Because of wildlife, pets are not allowed on the La Chua Trail.
Bring your fishing pole and spend some time fishing on Lake Wauburg. Fishing areas are limited along the banks of the lake, so bring your boat for the best fishing experience. The public boat ramp is located on the east side of the lake, and only non-gasoline engined boats are allowed. All anglers must adhere to Florida’s fishing laws, and all people over the age of 16 who wish to fish will need a valid fishing license. The most common fish caught in Lake Wauburg are bass, bream, or speckled perch. Spend a day on the water and see what you can reel in!
For people who enjoy taking in the scenery on two wheels, bring your fat-tired bikes and ride the multi-use trails that allow cycling. Start out easy by riding the Lake Trail which is less than a mile long and runs from the Lake Wauburg parking area to Savannah Boulevard. Next, give the Bolen Bluff Trail a try at only two and a half miles round trip. Jackson’s Gap Trail is a one and a half-mile trail that connects to Cone’s Dike, an eight-mile trail, to the Chacala Trail, a series of loop trails that is about six and a half total miles. The longest trail, the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail, is 16 miles long and allows hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Children under the age of 16 are required to wear a helmet while riding bikes. Because of wildlife, pets are not allowed on the Bolen Bluff Trail or the Cone's Dike Trail.
On Saturday nights during the colder months, the park ranger-led campfire programs bring the campground community together. The campfires are held at the campfire amphitheater, and they focus on topics including the Timucua Indians, pottery of the past, wild horses, bison, tales of Cracker Cowboys, local animals, and other cultural and historical issues. Bring your blankets and marshmallows and head to the amphitheater located on the edge of Lake Wauburg to the right of the picnic pavilions.
Are you an experienced geocacher? Do you and your family like a tech-driven adventure? Bring your handheld GPS units and locate the caches hidden in Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. There are hidden treasures for all levels of cachers. The Florida Park Service works with Operation Recreation GeoTour to provide a fun experience for adult and kid geocachers, so find out more about this exciting activity, and give Geocaching a try!