Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway
- DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2009)
- Intrinsic QualitiesNatural
- Length123 miles
Providing more than 60 miles of exploration by car, the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway - a National Scenic Byway- is a network of scenic roads between Silver Springs and Ormond Beach, including SR 40 through the heart of the Ocala National Forest.
Ocala National Forest
Trout Lake Nature Center
Ocala Marion Transportation Planning Organization
City of Umatilla
Lake County Florida
United Southern Bank
Story of the Byway
Connecting Silver Springs with the city of Ormond Beach, the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway is filled with long, undisturbed stretches of natural Florida and pine-scented air. The preservation of forest lands and lack of urban sprawl have kept this area removed from condos, strip malls and the Disney/Universal attractions that have claimed much of the old Florida. This Byway and its corridor’s greatest strength is this expanse of natural recreational lands and waterways. The corridor and surrounding area are rich in existing attractions, which provide travelers a variety of experiences. The greatest resources of this byway are best experienced by stopping and getting off the byway to visit the springs, forests, trails, rivers, and lakes.There is an amazing collection of Springs, each with its own personality, the world-famous Yearling Trail, many horse and bike trails, and great fishing areas. People come from all over the world to experience this piece of “authentic Florida”. This is one of the most pristine spots in Florida and preservation is the heart of this Byway, whether it’s the preservation of the ecosystems, the forests, the rivers, the springs, the culture, or the history.
This road leads you to a mosaic of natural sites and communities surrounding one of Florida’s most distinctive ecosystems known as the Big Scrub. The Big Scrub is the largest continuous sand pine forest created from ancient sand dunes capped with vegetation adapted to a lack of water. Traversing eastern Marion County and parts of Lake, Putnam and Volusia counties, the 60-mile long corridor along SR 40 serves as the backbone for a network of scenic roads and interpretive trails.
See an array of wildlife in the Ocala National Forest, the centerpiece of the byway. Designated in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt, the forest is home to rare and endangered plants and animals found nowhere else. The Ocala National Forest is the second officially named national forest east of the Mississippi River. It is also home to huge springs that discharge incredible amounts of cool, crystalline water that feed clear streams lined with lush subtropical vegetation. Visitors often come to camp, swim, canoe, kayak, and even scuba dive. At 72 degrees year-round and crystal clear, Juniper Springs makes for a blissful yet challenging route. After working up an appetite, consult the byway’s app for nearby restaurant recommendations.
Along the byway, discover the many small mom-and-pop restaurants such as Blackwater Inn, which overlooks the St. Johns River and is known for its fried fish. The area itself is very rural and gives visitors a taste of old Florida.
Located west of the Ocala National Forest is the Silver Springs Park, one of the largest spring systems in the world. It is famous for its signature glass bottom boats, where you can ferry across the springs and take a look at the life below.
Catch a glimpse of the beautiful views given by the Ocklawaha, St. Johns, and Tomoka Rivers; motorcycle along with the cycling clubs that regularly use the byway for long distance rides; hike the Florida National Scenic Trail; or enjoy the 28 developed recreation sites in the Ocala National Forest.
Start the byway at the intersection of State Road (SR) 40 and SR 35 approximately one-half mile east of the city limits of the City of Ocala. From Ocala, travel east on State Road 40 into the Ocala National Forest. In the Ocala National Forest, State Road 40 turns into Fort Brooks Road. Leaving the Ocala National Forest, Fort Brooks Road turns back into SR 40. The byway ends near the intersection of SR 40 and Interstate 95 in the City of Ormond Beach. To travel the northern spur of the byway (32.3 miles): Start at the intersection of SR 19 and SR 40 in Ocala National Forest. Travel north on SR 19 for 32.3 miles to the intersection of SR 19 and Buckman Lock Road, where the spur ends. To travel the southern spur of the byway (2.5 miles): Instead of turning north on SR 19 at the intersection with SR 40, turn south. Follow SR 19 south through the Ocala National Forest. The terminus of the south SR 19 spur is located at the southern boundary of the Ocala National Forest. To travel the Alexander Springs Loop of the byway (20.9 miles): Begin at the intersection of SR 40 and SR 19. Follow SR 19 south from SR 40 for 9.4 miles to the intersection with Lake County Road 445. Follow Lake County Road 445 east and north for 11 miles to the intersection with Lake County Road 445-A. Take Lake County Road 445-A northeast for 0.5 miles to the intersection with SR 40. The intersection of Lake County Road 445-A with SR 40 is located 4.8 miles east of the intersection of SR 40 and SR 19. The 7.2-mile Fort Gates Ferry Spur is used to provide access to the historic ferry crossing on the St. Johns River. It is unpaved and consists of US Forest Service Road 43. The spur begins at the intersection of Forest Road 43 and the North State Road 10 Spur in Salt Springs and runs north and east to the St. Johns River.
Points of Interest
Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area
This beautiful spot along the edge of the Big Scrub offers a spring run that pours into Lake George, the largest of the St. Johns River Chain of Lakes. Both a popular day-use recreation area and an important archaeological site, Silver Glen Springs showcases the delicate balance between enjoyment of the outdoors and preservation of irreplaceable resources.
A 0.9-mile loop through an excellent representation of habitats found in and around the Big Scrub, the Timucuan Trail remembers the people who once lived along the shores of Alexander Springs. The trail winds past small bubbling springs, climbs up into scrub forest and descends through river bluff forest thick with Southern magnolia. It also traverses a hydric hammock beneath a dense canopy of cabbage palms along the far shore of the spring pool.
Take a trek back in time to Pat's Island on the Yearling Trail, a walk through the Big Scrub to an island of pine that the Long family once called home. This interpretive trail system leads you past a variety of historic structures, including an old cattle dip vat, a cistern, the remains of several homestead sites, and the Long family cemetery. In the center of it all is a giant sinkhole where the pre-1900 settlers collected drinking water.
Starting from Silver Springs, heading west along Florida Route 40, take an exciting drive through the rugged and authentic Florida. As you cross over the Ocklawaha River, you will enter into the Ocala National Forest, known for its large areas of sand pine scrub.
About 13 miles from Lynne, you will discover the Juniper Springs Recreation Area. This recreation area is one of the oldest and best known on the entire east coast, built by the CCC in the 1930s. Take a dip in one of the swimming areas with crystal clear waters. Trails such as the Juniper Prairie Wilderness trail allow you to get up close to the Big Scrub.
After a morning of outdoor activity, continue along the byway for 12 miles until you reach Astor. This charming town is a great place for lunch along the St. Johns River at one of the local restaurants. All the restaurants here will give you a taste of authentic Florida cuisine.
After a stop for lunch, drive the 30 miles along Florida Route 40 to Ormond Beach, where the byway ends. Ormond Beach offers a first-class resort experience without sacrificing its small-town grace. Throughout the year, visitors can enjoy a variety of cultural and recreational events. This town is known as an ideal location for a myriad of water activities. After an afternoon of exploring the Tomoka River and the Atlantic Ocean, stop for dinner at Ormond Beach’s historic downtown along Granada Boulevard.
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