Wild Adventures in North Central Florida
While Orlando and Tampa theme parks have cornered the Florida market for rollercoasters, North Central Florida offers heart-pounding adrenalin-surging thrills of a different nature- the wild kind. Surround yourself with wild Florida on these challenging adventures. From paddling with monkeys to hiking with gators, soaring across water-filled canyons like a bird to navigating a natural water obstacle course and more. Be warned, these adventures are not for the faint-hearted!
Zip Across Canyons
The whirr of metal on metal sounds overhead- the only other noise in the air, aside from your own breath. Suddenly, the ground falls away beneath your feet and you find yourself soaring across a giant canyon. Built across old limestone mines, this zip line adventure takes you from learning the ropes on the bunny lines to the great Break Out zip line across the biggest canyon. There’s night zipping available as well. Fly through some of Florida’s prettiest natural scenery during this eco-adventure. The Canyons Zip Line and Canopy Tours are located at 8045 NW Gainesville Rd, Ocala, Florida 34475 ( exit 358 on I-75).
Paddle with Monkeys on the Silver River
Paddling over the world’s largest artesian spring in the Silver River State Park is just the beginning of this paddling adventure. You will also pass over some of the over 200 springs that make up the 5.4 miles of glittering waters of the Silver River. But the springs are not what makes this trip unique. Paddle deeper into the heart of old Florida and you’ll begin to spot monkeys gathering along the fallen trees and hanging from the palmettos, curiously staring back at visitors to their swamp. This feral colony of Rhesus monkeys arrived in the area in the 1930’s courtesy a tour boat captain who wanted to spice up his tours. The monkeys, left on an island in the river, decided they needed a larger living area and swam to the neighboring shore, where they continue to survive and thrive, adapting to the Silver River ecosystem. The Silver River, the only place in Florida where you can paddle in a jungle with feral monkeys, is one of North Central Florida’s little-known secrets. Take a guided tour down the Silver River or go solo. Silver Springs State Park is located at 1425 NE 58th Avenue in Ocala, Florida 34470
Adrenalin Rush Vortex Cycling Adventure
Take the mountain bike challenge on the bike trails built around the remnants of the old cross-Florida barge canal. There are over 110 miles of trails for biking, hiking and equestrian use on this area of the Cross Florida Greenway. The renowned Santos trails include bike paths of various levels, from easy to the extreme Vortex trail. The formidable Vortex includes ramps, jumps, bridges and the challenging Corkscrew, a ramp run that winds back under itself. Santos Trailhead is located at 3080 SE 80th Street in Ocala. The Vortex Trailhead can be found at 9150 SE 25th Avenue in Ocala. Bring your own bike or rent from the nearby bike shop.
The Natural Obstacle Water Course Challenge of Juniper Run
Take the challenging twist and turns on the 7-mile intermediate paddle trail through the wilds of Juniper Prairie Wilderness in the heart of the Ocala National Forest. Though shallow in the beginning from the starting point at Juniper Springs Recreation Area, this waterway picks up speed and paddlers must use their wits to navigate around and under trees, take 45° turns and even face rapids. It’s less about speed and more about navigational skills and steering abilities. This paddling trail takes 3.5 to 5 hours to complete. Juniper Run Paddle Trail is located in the Juniper Springs Recreation Area in the Ocala National Forest at 26701 FL-40, Silver Springs, FL 34488
Dive the Springs
Don a snorkel and mask and venture into the underwater world of natural Florida. North Central Florida offers the perfect opportunity to get up close and personal with their best natural resource- the Florida Spring. With over 900 springs in the state, Florida has the highest concentration of springs in the world. Florida also has thirty-three 1st magnitude springs that spurt out more than 64 million gallons of water daily. Swim the pristine Rainbow Springs of the Rainbow River in Dunnellon, or head over to the Ocala National Forest and choose between investigating the limestone formations of the lush lagoon of Alexander Springs, the lesser magnitude of Silver Glen, or the saline waters of Salt Springs. You may never look at swimming the same way again.
Hike with Gators on La Chua Trail
Not for the leery, this hike takes visitors along the gator gauntlet on the northern rim of Paynes Prairie State Park in Gainesville. Though not far from the University of Florida, you are definitely surrounded by the wild. The trail to the prairie observation deck follows a levee with a creek on one side and the wetlands on the other. On La Chua Trail alligators gather in masses to sunbathe along the muddy creek embankments and also on the wetlands. And these gators are huge! Wild horses and bison also roam free- you are the intruder in this zone. Once you leave the safety of the boardwalk, there are no fences on this trail- just you and the wildlife. This adventure is not for little children. And leave those pets at home! La Chua Trail is a part of Paynes Prairie State Park, which has different entrances to various sections of the park around the prairie. La Chua Trailhead is located at 4801 Camp Ranch Road, Gainesville, Florida.
So if you’re looking for some heart pounding thrills, consider the wild adventures that north central Florida has to offer. After a taste of wild Florida adventures, you may never look at theme park thrills the same way again.
Other Posts You May Like:
- Kayaking the Rainbow River
- The Insider Guide to Crystal River
- Family Paddle Adventures on the Chassahowitzka
- Outdoor Adventure Guide to High Springs
- Exploring Big Talbot Island
I knew there were some adventure stuff to do in Florida, but not that much!! Next time I go, I definitely want to try that zip-line!
You have to try it, Alice. I zipped across the canyons for my birthday. It was definitely the coolest zip line I’ve ever done!
I definitely learned something new about Florida!
Most visitors skip this area over because the other places like Orlando and Tampa are well advertised, but if you are in Florida, check it out! (Less crowds too!)
I had no idea Florida was so full of adventure. Would love to try the kayaking – both trails sound so unique and adventurous.
My son & I did both trails & they are so cool. We went with the guided tour on the Silver River & learned so much about birds & the wildlife & history that I was glad we didn’t DIY it. Our guide also took photos of us (& the monkeys) so we could relax and enjoy the day. On Juniper Run you are on your own lol- but it’s a challenge!