A Quick Guide to Planning Your Trip to Rainbow Springs

hiking gear

If you’re looking for a unique adventure in Florida, Rainbow Springs State Park is the perfect destination.

With three waterfalls and a rainforest atmosphere, this park is a must-see for any nature lover.

And if you’re visiting during the hot summer months, a refreshing dip in one of Florida’s largest springs will surely make the top of your list.

Other popular things to do in Rainbow Springs are tubing, kayaking, and hiking.

Key Takeaways

  • Rainbow Springs State Park is a great place for tubing and wildlife viewing
  • The park is a short distance from Orlando and makes for a perfect day trip.
  • Arrive early and plan your itinerary ahead of time to make the most of your visit.

garden oasis and waterfalls in rainbow springs state park

How Far is Rainbow Springs From Orlando?

Rainbow Springs is located in Dunnellon, —a small city west of Ocala, and is approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes from Orlando via Florida’s Turnpike and I-75 N.

However, if you prefer a more scenic route, you can take the local roads which will take you about 1 hour and 48 minutes, depending on the time of day.

Keep in mind that this route will take you mostly through the countryside, so it may take a bit longer, but it is worth it for the views.

spring water flowing through the rocks

Wake up Early and Be There Before The Park Opens

If you want to enjoy the crystal waters of the Rainbow River, it’s crucial to arrive before the park opens, especially on weekends and during summertime.

It’s important to mention that this is a very popular spring in Florida and can reach maximum capacity quickly.

Most of the time cars will already be forming a line outside the gates from early morning hours. When the state park reaches capacity, the gates will be closed and no cars will be allowed to ‘wait in line’ or park on the roads outside the park.

boardwalks in Florida state parks

Therefore, to avoid missing out on this amazing springs and waterfall experience, I recommend you start driving early to get there on time.

As a rule of thumb, the best time to visit Rainbow Springs is on weekdays and during the fall and spring seasons (if you can stand the cold water), and want to have a more laid-back experience.

It’s Time for Waterfalls, Hiking, and Tubing

With easy hiking trails, an exciting tubing experience along the Rainbow River and of course, waterfalls, Rainbow Springs makes for an incredible full-day adventure!

1. The Waterfalls

Back in the 1930s when Rainbow Springs was built as a tourist attraction, three waterfalls were built as part of their image of a tropical and rainforest vibe.

waterfalls in rainbow springs

No doubt, the walkway leading to these waterfalls is like a garden oasis that takes you through lush tropical plants while giving you some of the prettiest views.

The distance between each waterfall is short, so it’s easy to get to all three in just a matter of minutes.

The sound of the waterfalls is magical, making this state park the perfect spot for a relaxing picnic or a peaceful walk. For the best possible views of the waterfalls, you can visit after rainfall.

2. Tubing in Rainbow Springs

Since tubing on the Rainbow River is a seasonal activity, it’s very popular among those looking to float on this clear sapphire waters.

tubing in rainbow springs

The tubing experience lasts 2 hours and it includes the tram service from the headsprings to the tubing entrance.

However, it’s important to mention that tubing is only allowed from April to September and there are specific times for the tram service that you need to consider when planning your visit.

🎟 The tube rental fee is $24, in addition to the $2 state park entrance fee.

hiking trails in Rainbow Springs

3. Hiking Trails for All Skill Levels

Overall, the hiking trails in Rainbow Springs are easy and suitable for all hiking levels.

Starting at the visitor center, you’ll take the walkways through the waterfalls and follow the paved trail that takes you to the abandoned animal cages of what used to be a zoo.

Then, you’ll follow along the nature trail that will take you to the park’s three blazed trails, which all connect at some point.

Other fun activities that you can do in the park include camping, snorkeling, and birdspotting.

🥾 Rainbow Springs Hiking Trails: Yellow Trail 1.73 miles | Blue Trail 0.72 miles | White Trail 1.96 miles.

Plan Your Visit to Rainbow Springs

What are the Admission Fees?

Just like most Florida State Parks, an entrance fee is required for Rainbow Springs State Park.

As of 2024, the fee for a vehicle with up to 8 passengers is $6.00, and the fee for a single-occupant vehicle is $4.00. Pedestrians, bicyclists, and extra passengers in a vehicle are charged $2.00 per person.

Are There Kayak Rentals in Rainbow Springs?

Yes. Kayak rental services are available at the park through Guest Services Inc. The rental fees for kayaks vary depending on the duration of the rental.

Are There Camping Facilities Available?

Yes. The park’s campground is located adjacent to the Rainbow River, just a few miles from the main entrance.

The campsites can accommodate RVs up to 103 feet and include water, electric hookups and a dump station. There are also ADA-accessible restrooms.

owls in rainbow springs state park
Keep an eye out for the beautiful owls that call the park home!

Is Rainbow Springs Safe to Swim?

Yes, it’s safe to swim in Rainbow Springs. However, there are safety regulations you need to follow. For starters, you are not allowed to jump or dive into the water from any of the park’s structures or trees.

Additionally, swimming outside of the designated swimming areas is not allowed.

General Information and Directions

Headsprings/Main entrance hours: Open daily from 8 am to sunset | Tubing entrance: Opens at 8 am. Closing time varies–check the park’s website for more info.

Park entrance fees: Headsprings $2 per person. Under 6 years of age are admitted free. | Tube rental fees: $24 per person.

📍 Get directions

Looking for more adventure trips in Florida? Check out:

10 Things to Do for an Epic St Augustine Weekend

7 Hiking Trails with Breathtaking Views near Orlando

Rock Springs Tubing in Central Florida

Have you seen any waterfalls in Florida? Let me know in the comments!

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Yanitza Ninett
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Yanitza is an avid adventurer with 15+ years of hiking experience and outdoor travel. As a PADI-certified scuba diver, she's also passionate about ocean conservation. When she's not exploring the great outdoors, Yanitza obsesses over The Vampire Diaries and dreams of traveling to Mallorca, Spain.

12 thoughts on “A Quick Guide to Planning Your Trip to Rainbow Springs”

  1. I like finding this special wild places in Florida. People think Florida is all theme parks but there are some wonderful rivers and parks. This one is new to me. I’ve explored wilderness areas near Orlando so I’ll add this one to the list.

  2. What a beautiful park! I can see why it’s so popular. Thanks for so many helpful insider tips! I’d be so disappointed if I got there and the park was already at capacity. Also, I’d love to try tubing so good to know that’s a whole different entrance!

  3. Those waterfalls are gorgeous! Are they really man made? They look so natural in that setting. To be honest, I didn’t know that Florida lacked waterfalls, so I would never have guessed that these are not natural.

    Like Claire, I looove the idea of going for a dip here. It just looks so calm if you manage to visit before the crowds arrive.

    p.s. Squeeee, I love that you got to see three owls! You must have been so excited!

    • They really are gorgeous! But yes, they are man-made to perfection, I would say. OMG! Yes! I was so excited about the owls! I was only able to get a picture of one of them because the other two were very high and I didn’t have a telephoto lens with me. And although this one picture isn’t perfect, it’s such a beautiful keepsake for me.

    • It is a zillion times better than my recent attempt at an owl photo! She was up in a tree so too far away to get more than a silhouette.

  4. Look at that crystal blue water, wow! Usually my focus in most parks is on the hiking opportunities, but looking at these pictures I suddenly want to take a refreshing dip and just relax haha. I grew up on the TX side of the Gulf Coast and our beaches and lakes were always kind of disgusting, like brown and smelly. Florida consistently blows me away when it comes to water. Thanks for the tip about getting there early! Honestly I’m glad they eventually close it to new cars, seems like it wouldn’t be as fun if it were to get extra overrun and crowded. More parks should do that.

    • I honestly love visiting this park during the week because it’s so peaceful! I can’t imagine going when it’s super crowded. I do agree, Florida is definitely a treasure when it comes to water. Thank you so much for reading!

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