14 Pet-Friendly Local Nature Spots

By Amanda Roland
local nature spots

Finding a place to spend the weekend in the sun is an easy task for humans, but what about the places you can also take your four-legged friend? Get your dog’s tail waggin’ and your horseshoes stompin’ by taking them to one of these local nature spots.

*Please note that due to COVID-19, some parks might have adjusted their visiting hours or closed.* 

SQUIRREL RIDGE PARK (free)

1603 SW Williston Road, Gainesville, FL 32608

leashed pets welcome

Need a place for your active pet to run around? Look no further. This grassy park gives your dog plenty of space to stretch their legs. It offers water and shade for when your panting pup needs a break. There’s also separate fenced areas for small and big dogs. And if your dog wants to cool off, take advantage of the hoses, buckets and doggie pool. Open 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

O’LENO STATE PARK

410 SE Oleno Park Rd, High Springs, FL 32643

$5 per vehicle; leashed pets and horses welcome

Another favorite among horse lovers, this nature park provides shaded trails stretching for 11 miles. Try your hand at canoeing or fishing along the Santa Fe River during your visit. This trail also connects to the River Rise Preserve State Park trail, adding 35 miles of multi-use trails which applies to horseback riding. Open 8 a.m. to sunset daily.

BARR HAMMOCK PRESERVE (free)

300 SE 175th Ave, Micanopy, FL 32667

horses welcome

Although this park doesn’t allow dogs due to its alligator sightings, it’s a great place for equestrians to horseback ride. There are two trails designated for horses. The Piney Woods Loop offers a trail reaching 4.5 miles in length. It takes you through the forest on sandy and partially shaded ground. The Still Branch Crossing path crosses the creek. Preserve hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

  

POSSUM CREEK PARK free

4009 NW 53rd Ave, Gainesville, FL 32653

leashed pets welcome, off-leash area available

Let the games begin! This family-friendly park caters to your recreational needs, featuring a skate park, mowed fields, playground and picnic pavilion. Aside from this, it allows an off-leash dog area, so your pet can fully enjoy the serene atmosphere. Open dawn to dusk daily.

DEVIL’S MILLHOPPER GEOLOGICAL STATE PARK

4732 Millhopper Road, Gainesville, FL 32653

$2 per cyclist or pedestrian, $4 per vehicle, leashed pets welcome

Walk around this natural landmark. Although pets are not allowed on the staircase into the sinkhole, there are nature trails on either side so you have a chance to hear its surrounding waterfalls. Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

BOULWARE SPRINGS NATURE PARK (free)

3300 SE 15th St., Gainesville, FL 32641

leashed pets and horses welcome

A therapeutic retreat from Gainesville, Boulware Springs is the trailhead for the 17-mile Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail. Unload your horses to ride along the moss-ridden, equestrian trail, which is largely used by hikers, bicyclists and horseback riders. Visit its historic building or take a seat at the picnic areas for a quick snack. And observe Sweetwater Preserve and Payne’s Prairie from your walk! Open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

KANAPAHA VETERAN MEMORIAL PARK (free)

7400 SW 41st Place, Gainesville, FL 32608

leashed pets welcome

There’s a little something for everyone here — playground equipment, sports fields, nestled nature trails and a veterans memorial. Covered pavilions make the perfect setting for a party or picnic. And it’s an open, well-maintained space for pets to roam. Open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

GILCHRIST BLUE SPRINGS STATE PARK

7450 NE 60th St, High Springs, FL 32643

$4 to $6 per vehicle, leashed pets welcome

Although pets aren’t welcome to swim, feel free to walk them on the nature trail around the clear blue springs, which is a 1.75-mile hike. Open 8 a.m. until sunset daily. Be sure to consider parking because its first come, first serve.

MARJORIE KINNAN RAWLINGS HISTORIC STATE PARK

18700 S, Co Road 325, Cross Creek, FL 32640

$3 per vehicle, guided tours $2 to $3 per person, leashed pets welcome

Enjoy a little piece of history with your pet at the late Pulitzer- winning novelist’s estate. Immerse yourself in Marjorie Kinnan Rawling’s life and see the natural surroundings that inspired her novel “The Yearling,” which became an Oscar-winning film. Tour her home with your pet in tow – pets must be carried on house tours. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

DEPOT PARK (free)

874 SE 4th St., Gainesville, FL 32601

leashed pets welcome

People breeze past on roller blades and little twinkles sound from a bell rang by children at the play area. Depot Park is that wide open space you need to take a breath of fresh air. It’s open to pets on leashes, but only service dogs are allowed in the Children’s Play Area. There’s no shortage of things to do here. An outer trail tracing the edge of the park is an 0.8-mile loop, which connects to the 6th Street Rail to Trail. After you walk your pet on the trail, stop at the Pop-a-Top General Store. It has snacks, food, drinks and toys. The pathways are shared by walkers and cyclists, but leave plenty of room for you and your pooch. Grassy areas and picnic tables allow for relaxation. The lit areas in the park are open from dawn to 11:30 p.m.

SAN FELASCO HAMMOCK PRESERVE STATE PARK

11101 Millhopper Road, Gainesville, FL 32653

$4 per vehicle – correct change is required. $2 for pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers. Leashed pets and horses welcome

A great place for hikers, bicyclists and horseback riders alike, the San Felasco park offers adventurous trails for everyone. The southern two-thirds of the park are designated for hiking, only to ensure a quiet wilderness experience, while the northern third features horse trails, off-road cycling as well as hiking. Like most of these horse- friendly trails, equestrians must carry proof of a negative Coggins test. It’s open 8 a.m. to sunset daily.

ALFRED A. RING PARK (free)

1801 NW 23rd Blvd, Gainesville, FL 32605

leashed pets welcome

This dense forest features old trees and rare wildflowers along its trail. It’s 1.5 miles around, and brings you close to the Hogtown Creek. Be sure to keep your pets and children away from the creek as swimming isn’t permitted. Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

LAKE ALTO PRESERVE (free)

South Trail, 18795 NE 132nd Ave., Waldo, FL 32694

horses welcome

This 4.6-mile unpaved trek through the forest offers a generally flat trail for horseback riders. Although there are no restrooms or picnic facilities, there’s a dock that gives a beautiful look over the preserve. Equestrians and cyclists can walk a trail parallel to the hikers’ path along the canal bank.

FOREST PARK (free)

4501 SW 20th Ave, Gainesville, FL 32607

leashed pets welcome, off-leash area available

This simple park is a quiet solace for you and your pet. If there’s a games at one of the park’s surrounding sports fields, feel free to let your pet off the leash at the designated off-leash area. Open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

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