Withlacoochee State Forest is located in the western part of Florida near Lecanto. It has been listed as one of the coolest places to visit in North America by the World Wildlife Fund. Is that not enough to convince you to pack your RV for a visit?
The nature is breath-taking, and the extensive 157,497 acres provide ample space for visitors to hike, bike, horseback ride, canoe, and kayak. When you enter the state forest you will be met with views of towering slash pines, longleaf pines, pond cypress, oak, and maple. The dense canopy provides shelter from the hot summer sunshine, and the perfect habitat for many animals.
The best way to enjoy the nature is to take some time off and camp in one of the many campgrounds. There are improved campgrounds which provide full facilities, and others that are completely primitive. You can chose to camp near a quiet lake, hidden dense in the forests, or even with your horse at the equestrian camping site. There are nine campgrounds to chose from depending on your requirements, but many have sufficient space for large campervans, RVs, and trailers. Read on for highlights on three of these featured RV campgrounds.
Explore the beautiful landscapes on horse back or on foot on one of the many nature trails which give you an insight into the flora and fauna. There are only certain sections which allow pets, so keep your eye out for designated markings.
The Withlacoochee State Forest is located a short drive from Lake Lidsey in Florida where you can get most of the supplies for your camping. Fuel and ice are a mere five minute drive away. Many visitors arrive from Cape Canaveral, Tampa, and Orlando, as those big destinations are within a two-hour drive. The state forest has many paved roads, parking spots, and boat dock areas. Campervans, RVs, and trailers will all have sufficient space to drive around and park whether you are a day visitor or overnight camper.
There are several campgrounds in the Forest which have extensive facilities designed for people to get away from the city, but still have comforts of home. These campgrounds have dump stations, running water, toilets, picnic areas, fire rings, bath house, and campground hosts. Here you will be able to get advice on the best hiking trails, set up your RVs in designated spots and benefit from the facilities available.
Crooked River Campground is one of the favorites, as it is rustic with many hiking trails nearby and close access to the river for boating and fishing. There is a lot of privacy at each campsite, due to the shrubbery in the campground. There are hookups, but there is a bathhouse.
If you are looking for a quieter campground, then Tillis Hill Recreation Area Campground is much better than the other options. It is not by a lake, but is situated in a forested area in the Citrus Tract. Every campsite has a fire ring, and a picnic table. Most campsites have water and electric hookups too. All the sites are grassy sites with no privacy in between. However, every campsite has plenty of room for big RVs and campervans. Horses are also welcome at this campground, as there are horse stalls and many trails near by for riding. There are flushing toilets, warm showers, and potable water. The road in the campground is paved, however the road to the campground is all gravel.
If you want to camp on the shore of a lake, then you should check out the Silver Lake Campground. It is right next to the Silver Lake Day-Use Area, where there is a picnic shelter and boat ramp. The campground is close to many recreational activities including boating, kayaking, wildlife viewing, hiking, and fishing.
There are 23 pet-friendly campsites available with water and electric hookups. The amenities at this campsite include vault toilets, fire rings, picnic areas, running water, and a dumping station. You can also purchase firewood from the campground hosts. All the campsites can accommodate tents and RVs up to 40 feet in length, along with plenty of space to turn around in.
There is absolutely no better way than to experience beautiful nature than on the back of a horse. Withlacoochee State Forest has plenty of trails that are horse friendly. They are wide enough so you can ride next to your buddy, and chat while exploring the dense forests. Thanks to the tall canopy of trees over head, the trails stay cool for you and your horse to be able to ride through summer. There are also plenty of water ways where you can give your horse a drink.
The trails also continue into open areas which pass by rivers and lakes, giving you a stunning views of the country side. Grab yourself a map of the trails and set out for a day of exploration. A great place to ride to is Nobleton where you can grab lunch at with a view of the river. There are several horse farms in the nearby area which can take you on trail rides if you do not have your own horse.
Grab your hiking boots, water, and protective clothing out of your camping trailer and head out to one of Florida's longest backpacking loops in the State Forest. The Citrus Hiking Trail will take you for 43 miles of rugged landscape featuring beautiful views and a good challenge for outdoor lovers.
A shorter hike is the Johnson Pond Trail that passes through sand hills, meadows, and oak scrub. It is a 2.7-mile hike from south of the Withlacoochee River. Another fantastic short hike which gives you a stunning window into the past along the Withlacoochee River is the Hog Island Nature Trail. You will be met by unique views while hiking through the Hog Island Recreational Area in the State Forest. One more trail to check out is the Florida Trail along the Croom River Trail that leads you along the banks of the Withlacoochee River showcasing the unique Florida flora and fauna.
Grab your canoe or kayak and head on over to the Withlacoochee State Forest to paddle along the Withlacoochee River. The river starts in the Green Swamp in Orlando and continues for 141 miles to the Gulf of Yankeetown.
There are several boat launches located within the State Forest, where you can bring your boat, park your trailer, and lower your boat into the water. There is plenty of parking for everything. Kayaking is one of the most popular activities and allows visitors to see the expanse of nature of Florida.
The best way to see the feathered local inhabitants of the State Forest is to grab your binoculars and head out on one of the nature trails early in the morning. Just before sunrise is when all the birds come out. You can expect to see a large number of pileated woodpeckers along with many typical forest birds. Some of the other birds you can see include Backman's Sparrows, Northern Bobwhites, Florida Scrub-jays, Limpkin, and Sandhill cranes.
There are 14 separate biking trails located in the State Forest on Croom Mountain. Twelve of them are beginner level trails, with the two other ones slightly more advanced. The most popular trail ride is the Drunken Monkey, which is a mile-long intermediate track. It got it's name because as you ascend the track continuously changes directions with short tight turns, narrow ridges, and ups and downs. You will follow one side of the ravine and then descend along a steep wall back down.
Another fantastic trail is the easy Sugar Mountain Loop. It is only 2 miles long and features gradual climbs until the final bit to the summit of sugar mountain. From there, you will get a beautiful view of the surroundings.
The State Forest is the home to many animals who tend to stay hidden from sight. You have to have hawk eyes to spot them in the nature. During the day, you may catch glimpses of raccoons and squirrels darting along the pathways. The canopy of trees overhead are also the home to many species of birds. There are occasional sightings of wild hogs in the area.
There are also some instances of venomous snakes sunning themselves on the pathways, so tread carefully during the heat of the day. If you are interested in hunting and fishing in the surrounding areas, then make sure to grab yourself an appropriate permit and check the hunting regulations during the season of your visit.