There are ways to manage expenses when planning a camping trip to Florida. Campers have options in the national forests, such as the Apalachicola, Ocala and Osceola. The benefits of heading into the backcountry in these forests include having access to biking and hiking trails, canoeing, kayaking and bird-watching opportunities. If traveling by RV, there are options for free parking and camping.
Apalachicola National Forest
Backcountry campers can head into the Apalachicola National Forest. If you are driving into the forest parking areas, you will be charged an entrance fee. Those wishing to avoid the fee can simply walk in. You can find parking outside the designated areas and use alternate methods of getting to trailheads and common areas. You can camp for free in any of the backcountry forest areas. If you wish to stay at one of the campgrounds or camping sites within the forest, you will be charged a fee. All backcountry camping in the forest is primitive. You will need to bring water purifiers and all necessary camping and survival gear. The forest is a "pack-it-in, pack-it-out" park and asks campers to adhere to the leave-no-trace backcountry ethic.
Apalachicola Ranger District
11152 N.W. State Route 20
Bristol, FL 32321
RV travelers looking for a free place to park and camp can use Wal-Mart parking lots. The mega-retailer has extended parking lot camping privileges to RV travelers for many years. Benefits of parking and camping at the retailer's parking lots include safety. Many of the Wal-Marts have security guards or cameras that watch and patrol the lots. RVs need to be self-contained and have enclosed gray water and black water systems. Generators are the only source of electric. When using the RV generators, be aware of the surrounding neighborhood, or other campers, and respect quiet hours at night.
Ocala National Forest
The Ocala National Forest covers over 300,000 acres in north-central Florida. Camping at one of the designated grounds requires a fee, but backcountry camping can be done by hiking in or canoeing into primitive regions of the forest for no fee. There are parking and entrance fees if starting from a parking lot or entrance station. Backcountry campers need to have water-filtration systems. The Ocala National Forest asks campers to adhere to the leave-no-trace ethic. In addition, food storage and preparation should be done with "bear awareness." There are black bears in the Ocala National Forest. Check with park rangers regarding proper food storage techniques before going into the backcountry.
Ocala National Forest
325 John Knox Road
Tallahassee, FL 32303
Article Written By Eric Cedric
A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.