Gainesville is charmed with unique restaurants and bars, but its natural features are even more impressive. With many different trails to choose from, our area is filled with adventurous outdoor opportunities worthy of your time and indulgence. Embark on an intense workout or enjoy a light stroll at one of these five spectacular local hot spots — the perfect way to escape for an afternoon or morning with your family, friends or even just by yourself. But remember, this is still Florida, so be prepared to take on the heat — and don’t forget the bug spray.
San Felasco City Park
NW 64th Blvd., Gainesville, FL
Whether you’re looking to sweat out your sorrows or just to relax for the day with your family, this park is perfect for all outdoor adventures. Located just north of Devil’s Milhopper, San Felasco City Park’s beautiful scenery is consumed by vibrant wildflowers, pine trees and wildlife for all to enjoy. Although bikes are not permitted, you can embark on a refreshing walk or jog along miles of beauty. Observe deer and other wild animals in their natural habitat. Later, stop by the picnic pavilion to grill out with friends and family. The park is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the months of May through October and from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the months of November through April. Entry is free of charge.
Morningside Nature Center
3540 E University Ave., Gainesville, FL
If you’re looking to stop and smell the roses — literally — check out Morningside Nature Center. This 268-acre preserve contains hiking trails ranging in length from a half mile to six miles, which is great for both the least and most experienced of hikers! As you make your way along the trails, you’ll be led through breathtaking forested habitat containing various wildflowers, birds, deer and much more. The park is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the months of May through October and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the months of November through April. Entry is free of charge.
Bivens Arm Nature Park
3650 S Main St., Gainesville, FL
If you’re a less experienced hiker, this nature park will be perfect for you. One of Gainesville’s hidden gems, Bivens Arm Nature Park contains winding paths that will ensure a light workout and refreshing break from bustling city life. The trails pass through a variety of habitats, such as wetlands and upland forests, and contain a series of loops that will have you wandering up to one and a half miles. Watch out for alligators, though, as they sometimes take a break from their marshy home to join hikers along the trails. Due to the alligators and other wildlife, pets aren’t welcome. Bivens Arm Nature Park is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m daily and does not require an admission fee.
Alfred A. Ring Park
1801 NW 23rd Blvd., Gainesville, FL
For those with a little more hiking experience, check out the trails at Alfred A. Ring Park. The park contains one and a half miles of scenic view overlooking Hogtown Creek and shady forests. Enjoy old-growth trees and a variety of rare wildflowers as you stroll along the trail. If you’re not feeling “one with nature,” walk along the boardwalk for a less intense approach to the scenic view. Bring the kids and enjoy a relaxing afternoon at the park shaded by a large pavilion. The park is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the months of May through October and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the months of November through April. Entry is free of charge.
Sweetwater Wetlands Park
325 SW Williston Road, Gainesville, FL
A manmade wetland habitat, Sweetwater Wetlands Park provides more than three and a half miles of trails to enjoy. The park is known for its captivating wildlife and bird watching, which will keep you entertained as you bask in the Florida sun. If you want to soak up all that the park has to offer, join a guided walking tour. If a group setting is not your forte, wander the trails alone or amongst friends for a blissful, yet challenging workout. Unfortunately, horseback riding and bike riding are not allowed, but luckily, you won’t need either to enjoy this jewel of a trail! The park is open from 7 a.m. to sunset. Admission is $5 per car or $2 per person. And if you’re hooked on all Sweetwater Wetlands Park has to offer, you can purchase an annual pass to enjoy it for the rest of the year.