Hiking and Biking at O’Leno State Park

December 22, 2017

After hanging out with cows at Goethe State Forest, we headed to O’Leno State Park to meet back up with The Learning Banks.

As a bonus, Kevin’s brother and family were camping in the Florida panhandle and came to stay with us. They set up their tent on our site, and we got to cook out, hike, and have an awesome time during their brief stay.

tent and rv sharing a campsite at oleno state park.

O’Leno State Park

O’Leno State Park is one of Florida’s gems. Located on the Santa Fe River in the north-central part of Florida’s wang, there is so much to do in the park that it’s a beautiful vacation destination on its own. Hike, bike, kayak, swim – there’s a little something for everyone.

Camping at O’Leno State Park

RV camping at Oleno State Park.

The campsites at O’Leno State Park are similar to the ones you’ll find at many of the Florida State Parks. These sites were partially shaded and had enough foliage and space between them that they felt reasonably private. Some of the campsites weren’t quite level so try to research online before you make a reservation. At the time we stayed, the campground wasn’t full, and it was possible to change sites. Your mileage may vary.

O’Leno State Park has two campground loops for RVs. We stayed in the Magnolia Loop which is the one furthest from the entrance. But the Dogwood Loop seemed like it was also quiet.

Warning: if it rains, your site may flood. But don’t worry, it’ll go away in an hour or so almost like it was never there. If rain is in the forecast, bring in anything you don’t want to get muddy. We failed to do that.

flooded campsite at oleno state park.

flood waters gone in just a couple of hours.

Hiking at O’Leno State Park

O’Leno has hiking trails for all levels. We walked the River Trail, the yellow one on the map, a few times and even took small children.

oleno state park trail map.

Start off the hike on a wobbly suspension bridge.

oleno state park suspension bridge.

And then enjoy plenty of river views.

santa fe river at oleno state park.

water view at oleno state park.

river trail oleno state park.

turtles on a log at oleno state park.

You’ll also encounter a few cypress groves.

kevin and a cypress tree.

cypress grove at oleno state park.

cypress knees.

cypress trees and knees.

Don’t miss the sign near the suspension bridge that shows the flood levels. It’s hard to believe the water got that high!

Biking at O’Leno State Park

If you look at the trail map above, bicycles are allowed on all trails except the River Trail. We biked the Limestone and Dogwood trails several times, and they were a blast! It is a single track, so we took it slowly in case we ran into another cyclist or hikers. We never did on those trails though.

restricted sign on limestone trail.

Here’s a video we took while riding those trails so you can get an idea of what they are like.

We also attempted the Parener’s Branch Trail, but it wound up being too sandy for our bikes. You might need a fat bike for that one.

Wildlife at O’Leno State Park

If you’re a fan of reptiles, you’re going to love O’Leno State Park. The nature center has rescued gopher tortoises in an outside habitat. If you come by at the right time, you can watch them eat.

rescue gopher tortoises at oleno state park.

We also saw turtles cruising around a few different times.

water turtle.

turtle going places.

wild gopher tortoise.

baby turtle.

And lizards were everywhere.

lizard at oleno state park.

lizard at our campsite.

close up of lizard.

Deer hang out at the nature center and near the campground around dusk. And maybe dawn, but we weren’t out that early.

deer at oleno state park.

Side Trip to Gainesville

O’Leno State Park is about 40 minutes from Gainesville. So we decided to take a day and go there to eat food, work, eat food, and then watch the bats leave their houses.

Karma Cream

Karma Cream has coffee, baked goods, sandwiches, and ice cream with loads of vegan options. So that was an excellent place to start the day.

karma cream gainesville florida.

Kevin had a latte, and I had the kombucha.

latte and kombucha at karma cream.

This vegan breakfast biscuit ruled.

vegan breakfast biscuit at karma cream.

A Tofurky Reuben.

vegan sandwich at karma cream.

Vegan grilled cheese with tempeh bacon.

vegan sandwich at karma cream.

Vegan ice cream!vegan ice cream at karma cream.

So many vegan baked goods.case of vegan baked goods at karma cream.

Kevin is excited about vegan ice cream. But who wouldn’t be?

kevin with his vegan ice cream.

A close up of the ice cream.

vegan ice cream close up.

Boca Fiesta

After working all afternoon, we met up with Taylor and Beth for an early dinner at Boca Fiesta.

Now, this is not a vegan or vegetarian spot. But they did have vegan options, including deep fried mac and cheese balls.

boca fiesta vegan deep fried mac and cheese balls.

There aren’t many places where you’ll find deep-fried vegan mac and cheese balls, that’s for sure.

inside the mac and cheese balls.

The lentil taco, TVP taco, and side of black beans were pretty good. We’ve had better, but it’s fantastic that these are an option.

vegan tacos with a side of black beans.

University of Florida Bat Houses

After dinner, we headed over to the University of Florida to see the bats emerge from their houses at sunset. If you do this, don’t forget to bring a plastic bag or poncho to cover up. Unless you like having thousands of bats pee and poop on you. No judgment though. To each his own.

gainesville florida bat houses.

The best time to view the bats is on a warm evening 65º F or warmer just after sunset. There was a pretty big crowd when we went in late March so plan to be there early enough to find parking.

We weren’t the only ones waiting for the bats to emerge. See the hawk under the bat house?

hawk waiting for the bats to emerge.

We had a Facebook live video going as we waited for the bats to emerge. To save you a bunch of waiting, I cut the video to the point when we start to see bats. There were so many bats!

By the way, bats play an important role in the ecosystem. The planet wouldn’t be the same without them! If you want to learn more about bats, Bat Conservation International is a good place to start.

We loved our stay at O’Leno State Park and think it had loads to offer weekend campers and full-timers alike.

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Laura Nunemaker

About the Author

Laura Nunemaker

vegan. digital nomad. cycling. scuba. intj. former vegan bakery owner.

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  • […] Our time at O’Leno State Park was briefly interrupted when we were able to get a last minute reservation at Paynes Prairie. We only got a couple of nights there, but we jumped on it because they have bison and wild horses! […]

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