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Visiting Gilchrist Blue Springs with Kids

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Remember all those awe-inspiring childhood moments like going swimming with your dad in the wild or simply sitting under a cherry tree? Want to recreate the same outdoor experiences for your children as you had growing up? Then Florida’s springs are the perfect choice. They’re ideal for hiking, swimming, and just chilling out. And in particular, visiting Gilchrist Blue Springs with kids, with its cool springs, offers an unforgettable adventure for families. Also the Springs are one of the best ways for kids to have fun within nature and one of the many things to do for kids in the Orlando area.

With clear blue skies and warm, pleasant temperatures, Florida’s weather is perfect for vacationing with the kids, and even more so when it involves swimming! The state is famous for its extraordinary natural springs, and the Gilchrist Blue Spring is without doubt one of the most favorite destinations for families. Here you can cool off during the hot summers and also teach the kids to swim, snorkel and paddle in a natural pool that isn’t as crowded as the rest of the springs nearby. Keep reading to discover what else this amazing and natural oasis has in store for your family!

the boardwalk at  Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park?
Boardwalk leading to the Gilchrist Blue Springs

Where is Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park?

Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park is situated in Gilchrist County, which is located about 5 miles to the west of High Springs and 20 miles from Gainesville. If you are coming from the Florida-Georgia border along I75, it will take you about an hour to reach the property. Gainesville is the closest town to the springs, situated about 45 minutes away. Some of the nearby springs include Ginnie Springs and Poe Springs. 

The first mile into the park is through a dirt road, but vehicles can still pass through rather smoothly. Make sure to be cautious during heavy rains as the driveway gets slightly tricky to navigate. The driveways easily accommodate RVs and trailers up to 40 feet in length. 

What is Gilchrist Blue Springs?

Springs in Florida are natural sources of water that are formed when groundwater bubbles up from the Floridian Aquifer through layers of limestone, getting discharged on top to become surface water. Interestingly, springs account for 90% of drinking water for the entire state. It’s also fascinating to know that these springs are accountable for supporting the majority of marine ecosystems as well.

Gilchrist Blue Springs is one of  the newest and largest of the numerous springs at Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park. It is also the only one that allows swimming. This 2nd magnitude spring spews over 44 million gallons of water every day, and like many other springs in the region, eventually leads to the Santa Fe River. 

 The springs are a popular place to visit for many reasons. It’s shallow, so children and adults of all ages can enjoy the water here. There’s also a campground at the state park, making the place ideal for short day-trips and extended stays alike.

What Are The Opening Times For Gilchrist Blue Springs

Gilchrist Blue Springs Park is open between 8 am until sunset all days of the week for the entire year. However, if you are camping, you are allowed to swim in the spring whenever you want, from early morning to late in the night till 9 pm. If you and your family do plan on arriving after sunset to set up camp, be sure to inform the authorities beforehand. It is also worth noting that those who are camping must have their camps set up before 11 pm.

How Busy Is Gilchrist Blue Springs 

Gilchrist Blue Springs, like most springs in the state, sees visitors all throughout the year, but is especially busy during the hot summer months. You may find it difficult to find a parking spot during summertime, so it’s recommended that you either arrive there early (by 10 am or so), or make a reservation prior.

The best time to visit the spring is during the off-season (the winter and spring), as the park tends to be less busy. Weekdays are always better than weekends for short trips if you’re really keen on skipping the crowds. Just be sure to try and avoid overnights during the rainier months when rain could drain right through your campsite, making it unpleasant and muddy.

How Much Does It Cost to Visit Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park?

The entrance to the park is $6 for two to eight people in a vehicle. If you’re a single occupant in a vehicle, the entry fee is $4, while kids below the age of six can enter for free. There is an option to buy a single-use day pass online. Note that while these general entry rules apply as a norm, if the park hits capacity, only registered campers are allowed entry. Camping costs 18 dollars per night, along with a reservation and utility fee. Keep in mind that onsite payment is accepted only in cash. 

There are kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards available for rent onsite, with pricing that varies from $45 for an all-day canoe rental to $7 for an all-day inner tube. The snorkeling kit costs $20. Do keep in mind that while renting may be a good option for those who forget their own gear, it may turn out a little expensive when with the whole family. That’s why bringing your own things should be your go-to option if you’re trying to cut costs. In fact, one of the best things about the Gilchrist Blue Spring is that you are permitted to bring your own tubes, blow up boats, and kayaks; basically, anything to push off in the water. 

What is the water temperature at Gilchrist Blue Springs?

The Gilchrist Blue Spring is 24 feet deep, with a year round water temperature of 72 degrees. The crystal clear water body, enclosed by lustrous flora and fauna, is the perfect pool for a cool swim. Although some may still find it slightly chilly at first, most start enjoying it within just a few minutes of diving in. The swimming area is relatively shallow, allowing even the shorter members of your posse to stand in it comfortably. It’s really this surface area before the deep blue vent that makes it possible for the spring to host swimmers the whole year. The spring is surrounded by a leaping platform and a white-sand beach, giving your little swimmers two options for getting into the water. 

Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park has several other family friendly springs on its premises that are worth exploring too. Little Blue Spring is a small swimming hole under a cypress canopy, and Naked Spring is a scenic swimming hole accessible through the nature walk or by following Naked Run from the main Blue Spring Run. The most exciting part about this spring is its proximity to the camp sites. If your family is camping here for a short duration, you will all be able to jump into this natural swimming hole first thing in the morning before the day-trippers even get there!

Can you tube At Gilchrist Blue Springs?

Tubing is a fun activity to do with the kids, and Gilchrist Blue Spring is the great place for first-time tubers to get comfortable in and around the water. Start by getting your little ones used to splashing safely in the shallows before they hop into their own tubes. As a general rule of thumb, children above the age of five can begin their tubing journey safely under supervision. However, the waters are gentle enough for babies and toddlers to accompany their parents in their tubes without much hassle.

The spring is accessible for swimming and tubing only until the main Gilchrist Blue Springs zone. The area is marked by a rope, beyond which there is a 1/4-mile spring run that leads to the Santa Fe River. Tubing is prohibited in this region due to safety considerations. 

Are There Alligators At Gilchrist Blue Springs?

As you explore the springs, you’ll notice signs warning visitors to beware of alligators, but don’t be alarmed. The alligators are primarily found in the spring run beyond the swimming area where tubing and swimming are both prohibited anyway. You should be more careful when you’re going towards the vent or the river with little children. As a general rule, alligators are known to be wary of people, so you should be okay as long as you’re swimming in locations where other people are present.

Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park Camping Information

Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park has 25 campsites, including 17 RV, and 8 tent-only locations where you get 30-amp power hookups and water. The pull-through and back-in camping sites both provide a picnic table and a fire pit. Onsite reservations are accepted here, so you can get yourself a site without any prior reservation on a first-come, first-served basis. However, since the driveways are relatively small, it is best to reserve a spot beforehand (they can be booked up to 11 months ahead of time).

As far as reservations go, site no. 17 and 18 are said to be two of the roomiest sites to consider when selecting yours online. They’re slightly secluded, very close to the bath house and only a short walk to the head spring with the trail starting right beside it as well. Although there is a restroom with hot showers, one thing to keep in mind while camping is that the park does not have a dumping station. keep in mind that the restrooms are cleaned every day at 8 a.m., so it’s recommended you get the kids ready for the day before the park hits its total capacity. 

One of the best things about the Gilchrist State Park camping campground is its proximity to the springs on site, ensuring you get to swim as long as you want! Between 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., there is a period of complete silence due to day-visitors not being allowed on the campgrounds during this time, making it perfect for some private swim-time. There’s even a floodlight on a beam outside the spring that shines light onto the water until 9 p.m. every night, ensuring it is safe and comfortable for families. Trust me, Nothing beats the feeling of having the entire spring to yourself!

Things To Do At Gilchrist Blue Springs With Kids

Picnicking and exploring 

The park offers lots of picnic areas throughout the park where you can take your kids for some fun games and activities. There’s also a scenic boardwalk that surrounds a beautiful stream, where you will want to take lots of pictures to create some forever memories with your family. Along the scenic pathway, you may also want to stop down by the rental shacks where you can rent anything from tubes to kayaks to canoes.

Hiking

There’s a 1.7 mile trail on the Gilchrist Blue Springs Loop, which is fun for kids and adults alike, that leads you through the beauty of the natural springs and the stream next to it. It even features a lake along it’s path! You can start from the parking area and return to where you started. It makes a loop(marked in blue, a smaller one marked in yellow) through the park as you start from the parking area and return to where you started.

Watercrafting

Stand up paddle boarding, kayaking and canoeing are all great activities for keeping older kids and teens engaged (read:wearing them out)! With waters so blue and clear, they’ll be able to see right down to the bottom of the stream – it’s an experience like no other. 

If you want to paddle into the Santa Fe River, you’ll need to make arrangements beforehand. For canoeing, Santa Fe Canoe Outpost, near US 441, is a good option. It is about 10 minutes away from High Springs, but it’s a wonderful place to explore nature as well. Adventure Outpost also offers guided kayak and canoe tours, which are a fun experience for everyone.

Geocaching

Geocaching is a fun way for children to get out and explore nature. Download the Geocaching app, and it will take you to the locations nearest to you where you can start your adventure. With the help of the app, you can follow the steps to find the geocache. You and your child will love exploring the outdoors at Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park – scavenger hunt style! 

Snorkeling

There’s nothing like snorkeling in the crystal-clear water with your daring young ones. The sight of a variety of friendly fish, plants, and even the occasional manatee underwater will thrill and energize your family. You can choose to either buy the snorkeling kit on site or bring your own. 

Family Tips for Gilchrist Blue Springs

  • Make sure to carry a cooler, some tents, sleeping bags, food, a few flashlights, a camp stove, and other essential camping and cooking supplies if your family is planning on camping there during the summer.
  • Bug spray is a must-have. Gnats are particularly annoying in this area, so it’s crucial to protect yourself for a fun time. You can also consider a candle scented with citronella for the same purpose.
  • The property doesn’t sell it, so if your family plans to camp there in the colder months, make sure you have plenty of your own firewood before you get there.
  • Consider carrying a first aid kit which has some bandages, medicine and a Swiss knife. Make it a point to get contact numbers of staff and rangers from the Rangers Office in case of emergencies.
  • Be sure to apply plenty of sunblock periodically throughout the day, and use the water-proof kind if you are going swimming. 
  • Bring Ziplock bags to keep your essentials safe. Fill one with a map or compass and a working GPS system. Use another to carry snacks, and a separate plastic cover to store wet clothes separately. Do not forget to carry a water bottle – even, multiple if you can! 

Visiting Springs Near Orlando With Kids

Planning on visiting one or several of the beautiful natural Springs Florida has to offer? Many of the spectacular state parks have fun activities for all the family to enjoy. From watersports; kayaking, canoeing, tubing, snorkelling; to geocaching, pancake making and camping on site. Our guides below detail what is on offer for kids of all ages at the springs closest to Orlando.

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