Rainbow Springs State Park, home to Florida’s fourth largest spring, was a very popular privately-owned attraction — complete with a zoo, sub-boats, a monorail, and a rodeo — for about 40 years. Today it’s as popular as ever, a jewel in the Florida State Park system. While the zoo, rodeo and rides are no longer in operation, several beautiful man-made waterfalls/cascades still flow, much to the delight of visitors and photographers.
The main attraction is still the headspring and the scenic Rainbow River. Tubing is seasonal (April through September), but swimming, snorkeling, kayaking and canoeing remain popular year round. Regardless of the time of year, plan to arrive early – before 10 a.m., especially on weekends – as this park fills typically fills to capacity.
What most visitors miss is the roughly 2.5 mile Nature Trail that runs along the river, then loops back past an old phosphate mining pit, offering hikers a beautiful stroll through a natural oak hammock and classic Florida sandhill environments. I ran into only 1 other person on my hike (on a weekday).
For this visit my plan was to photograph the waterfalls, hike the trail, take photos of the headspring area, then do the tubing run. It was a perfect day, as I worked up a sweat with the hike first, then cooled off with a leisurely float down this crystal-clear river.
I should point out that there are 3 entrances to this park; one is for tubing, one is for camping and one is the main entrance to the headspring area. Normally my Google GPS leads me right to where I want to go, but she insisted on taking me to the tubing entrance. Even Google maps has it wrong. No worries, as it’s easy to get from one to the other, but they’re something like 9 miles apart.
For the main entrance, use 81 Place Road, Dunnellon, FL 34432 or GPS coordinates 29.103615, -82.439172 if you’re using Google maps. The tubing entrance is 10830 SW 180th Ave Rd, Dunnellon, FL 34432 and the camping entrance is 1.4 miles north on the same road.
Let the pictures tell the story by visiting the Photo Gallery. Check out the WonderMap of the trail (below), as well as the links provided. I’m sure you’ll agree that this Florida Natural Wonder is a must-see. For other wonders throughout the state, visit our Bucket List and Where-to-Go. Whatever you decide to do, get out there and enjoy yourself…remember, #ThisLandIsYourLand!
Rainbow Springs State Park hiking WonderMap. Tip: Click on waypoints for GPS location photos.