First developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the 1930s, O'Leno State Park is one of the oldest state parks in Florida. Happily, it's also one of the best.
Located seven miles north of High Springs in northern Florida, O'Leno State Park sits alongside the pretty Santa Fe River. From sinkholes and swamps to a river that disappears underground, there's plenty of natural scenery to enjoy in the park. There's also a whole lot to do, with excellent hiking, canoeing, and fishing some of the highlights.
Throw in a 61-site campground and O'Leno State Park becomes the perfect place to explore in a rental RV. Here's what you need to know to plan your visit.
One of the best things about RV camping is the opportunity to immerse yourself in nature. In a place like O'Leno State Park, the easiest way to do that is to strap on your walking shoes and take a hike.
There are several great trails to enjoy, such as the River Trail, which offers lovely Santa Fe River views as it leads you to the spot where the river disappears underground. For something a little more physically challenging, check out Parener's Branch, a peaceful loop trail that takes hikers past several of the park's natural sinkholes.
If you've brought your bicycle along for your vacation, you'll be pleased to learn that there are 11 miles of multi-use trails in total within the park. Bikes aren't allowed on the River Trail or the suspension bridge, but other than that you're free to explore as you like. And with the trail system also linking up with an additional 35 miles of trails in nearby River Rise Preserve State Park, there's no shortage of adventures to be had.
If you work up a sweat while out walking or riding, it's only natural that you'll want to cool off in the river. There's a designated swimming area available and while the tea-colored water may not look particularly inviting, it's clean and entirely safe for swimming. However, there's no lifeguard on duty, so you enter the water at your own risk.
A different way to enjoy the river is to rent a canoe from the park's ranger station and go on a paddling adventure. It's a tranquil way to chart the river's course and check out the surrounding woods, but you can only paddle up-river away from the swimming area and the River Sink. You can also try your luck at fishing if you'd like, but the fish in this part of the world have a reputation for occasionally being fussy eaters.
Camping at O'Leno State Park
If you want to camp with an RV at O'Leno State Park, rent a camper in Columbia County and then pick out the perfect spot in one of the park's two camping loops: Magnolia and Dogwood.
There are 61 campsites in total, all boasting electrical and water hookups. However, electrical hookups vary between 30-amp and 50-amp options. Site sizes vary as well, with a maximum permitted RV length of 50 feet, so make sure the site you select matches all your needs before making a reservation.
Sites also get picnic tables and grills, while the well-maintained restroom building is centrally located. A dump station and dumpsters are also provided nearby, and leashed and well-behaved pets are welcome to stay in the campground.
Magnolia loop has its own playground and each loop has one site designed to be accessible to people with disabilities. However, it's worth noting that this is quite a small campground and roads in the park are narrow, so positioning a larger rig on a site might take a fair bit of maneuvering.
Exploring the Area
You'll need to spend at least a few days in O'Leno State Park to experience all the best activities and attractions the park has to offer. But when you're ready to hit the road again, there are plenty of other awesome spots worth visiting nearby.
If you steer your rental RV north towards Lake City, you might want to rent a kayak and check out the Santa Fe River Paddling Trail.
If you'd like to spend some time exploring another of Florida's excellent state parks, head west towards Branford to swim in the pristine waters of Ichetucknee Springs State Park .
Of course, if you feel more at home in the big city, Gainesville is just a 40-minute drive to the southeast. While you're there, make sure you stick around until Wednesday to check out the farmers' market in downtown Gainesville.
Whether you're looking for a quick detour or an extended escape, you'll find plenty to enjoy in the local area. So rent an RV near O'Leno State Park and get ready for a memorable camping vacation.