(Last Updated On: December 30, 2022)

dock on the water at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

Discover the real Florida inside this 21,000 acre nature preserve just 10 miles south of Gainesville in Alachua County. Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park features beautiful Lake Wauburg, 30 miles of nature trails, and a 50 foot observation tower that offers guests a panoramic view over the park.

Visitors to this Florida state park enjoy hiking, biking, horseback riding, kayaking, picnicking, bird watching, camping, fishing and viewing some of the park’s diverse wildlife including bison, wild horses, alligators, deer, snakes, and birds.

Activities

Take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life and spend a few relaxing days and nights inside this serene preserve! Camp, kayak, fish, hike and relax in one of the picnic pavilions equipped with tables and grills. Restrooms and a playground are located nearby to make your stay that much more enjoyable.

The park’s four observation platforms allow guests to gaze out over the prairie and see all of the flora and fauna within it. The visitor center features exhibits, displays and audio-visuals that highlight the area’s flora, fauna and history; and an amphitheater near the lake creates just the right atmosphere for weddings and other special events.

Here are some of the many activities that you can do during your visit to Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park:

Boating at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

Bring your own canoe, kayak or small non gas powered boat and spend a relaxing day out on Lake Wauburg. Boaters may access the lake from a public boat launch along the east side of Lake Wauburg.

boardwalk through the trees at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

Hiking at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

Pick up a map inside the Visitor Center and explore the 30 miles of trails that wind throughout the park’s hardwoods, pine flatwoods, prairie, open fields, marshland and along the lake. Be aware that due to potential encounters with alligators, bison and snakes some trails close early and some are off limits to pets.

Here are a couple of trails at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park:

  • Bolen Bluff Trail – Easy 3.0 mile trail through the shaded hardwood forest of oaks, palm, hickory, palm, magnolia and sweetgum. It leads out to an observation deck
  • La Chua Trail – An easy 2.9 mile trail that winds around the northern edge of the prairie, past the marsh and leads out to the observation tower. For their safety, no pets are allowed on this trail.
  • Wacahoota Trail – Easy 0.8 mile trail that winds through the lush hammock and out to a 50-foot observation tower along the prairie.

Biking at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

Guests may bring their bicycles, mountain bikes and any flat-tire bikes into the park and ride along the main drive and on designated multi-use trails within the park. All riders under the age of 16 are required by Florida law to wear helmets.

Horseback Riding at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

Equestrian riders enjoy the peace and quiet along the Chacala Trail inside Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. This 6.5 mile multi-use trail loops through the hardwoods and along open ponds, pine flatwoods and open fields. A negative Coggins report must accompany all horses that enter the park.

group of horses at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

Fishing at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

Canoe out to a quiet spot on Lake Wauburg and see if you might catch a speckled perch, bass or bream. Limited areas around the lake’s shoreline are also ideal for anglers.

Be sure to pick up a Florida fishing license if you plan to fish during your visit to Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.

Birding at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

More than 270 bird species have been sighted throughout Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park and along this section of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail.

Observation platforms overlooking prairie, marsh, swamp, lakes and streams offer visitors a chance to see bald eagles, hawks, sandhill cranes, whooping cranes, ibis, sparrows, owls and many migrating waterfowl.

Nature and Wildlife at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park is home to some 420 species of wildlife and more than 800 types of plant life including the colorful Marsh marigolds, pickerelweed and American lotus.

Inside the park’s 25 distinct natural communities guests may also see birds, snakes, lizards, turtles, alligators, bison, wild horses, white-tailed deer, wild turkey, gray foxes, raccoons, bobcats and otters.

Observation platforms and prime viewing areas are scattered throughout the park.

oak tree by the water at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

Pets at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

Pets are allowed at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park as long as they are supervised and remain on a hand held leash no longer than 6 feet. Pets are not allowed inside any park buildings; and for their safety they are not allowed on the following trails: Bolen Buff, Cone’s Dike and La chua.

Camping at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

Enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep tucked up in your tent or RV surrounded by shady hardwood forest and pine flatwoods.

The park’s camping areas include modern sites and primitive sites. RV campsites, located near the lake, have water and electric hookups, a picnic table, fire ring and grill. Restrooms and hot showers are close to the camping area.

The primitive group camping area is accessible by foot, horse or bicycle along the Chacala Trail. This site features a picnic shelter with tables and grills, a campfire circle, a water pump, restroom and a horse hitching area.

Park Location

Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
100 Savannah Blvd
Micanopy, FL 32667
Phone: 352.466.3397

Park Website
Reservations

Map

Video

Here is a short video with some aerial footage of Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park: