Paynes Prairie is biologically, geologically and historically unique. This park became Floridas first state preserve in 1971 and is now designated as a National Natural Landmark. Noted artist and naturalist William Bartram called it the great Alachua Savannah when he wrote about his visit to the prairie in 1774. Over 20 distinct biological communities provide a rich array of habitats for wildlife, including alligators, bison, wild horses and over 270 species of birds. Exhibits and an audio-visual program at the visitor center explain the areas natural and cultural history. A 50-foot-high observation tower near the visitor center provides a panoramic view of the preserve. Eight trails provide opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, and bicycling. Ranger-led activities are offered on weekends, November through April. Fishing on Lake Wauberg is allowed and a boat ramp provides access for canoes and boats with electric motors. Gasoline powered boats are not allowed. Full-facility campsites are available for overnight visitors.
s. h. on Paynes Prairie Loop Trail
Great starting point for tourists interested in exploring Florida wildlife. There is an easy trail called La Chua trail which is simple, flat, and straightforward with a marked path. There are gators in the swamps which are easily viewed from the trail. We went early in the AM (the park opens at 8:30AM).... we saw gators, all kinds of wild birds (like cranes), frogs, and some horses, and plenty of beautiful floral and fauna around the trail. The trail is about 1 mile long. I advise going early if you want to avoid too many tourists around.
Just moved here from the super dog friendly town of Carolina Beach, NC and this preserve is what I needed to relax. My dog Griffin and I recently hiked the Appalachian Trail and were itching to get out and these trails did the trick. The "fire lines" which aren't trails but beach off from them are quite beautiful and not so maintained which make them perfect for us. All in all great trails for the dog oriented human.
Definitely not worth it. We started at the south end of the trail. right after you park you hike less than 100 yards and find yourself at the edge of the lake with some picnic takes and bathrooms. That part is nice, but after that you're just walking on a dirt car trail. Not much shade and not anything to see, really. It dead ends into a paved road and then you turn around and head back. There are much better trails at the park, but don't forget you have to pay to get in.
This trail was pretty amazing to be honest. You pass through so many different habitats. One minute you're amongst deer & horses, the nest you're walking past alligators. There is little shade and no available water fountains, you're hiking in a true wilderness so be prepared and bring lots of bug spray. I also don't recommend going in the middle of the summer like I did! :P