This was our very first camping trip with our popup camper that we bought 2 weeks before. We were so excited about this first trip that we ignored the hot weather (June in Florida). Although Shirley did a great job making sure we had everything we needed and organizing so we knew where it all was, we did learn some valuable tips. We’ll be posting those tips and more on a camping checklist and guide very soon. This is our review of our Lake Griffin State Park camping experience.
Lake Griffin State Park Fruitland Park, FL is a small Florida State Park and small campground as well. There are only 40 campsites. The good part of the small number of campsites is less traffic through the campground.
An interesting fact about Lake Griffin State Park is that it’s not on Lake Griffin. It has a boat ramp and kayak launch site on the Dead River which leads out to Lake Griffin.
Getting to the Lake Griffin State Park Campground
We drove a little over 2 hours from the Tampa Bay area. Once through the Tampa traffic, it was an easy drive on the 75 north, then 275 north. Highway 44 (exit 329) was an easy drive too. Speeds range from 45 to 55 mph. Then north on Thomas Ave to Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Left on Highway 441 and the entrance to Lake Griffin State Park is on the right.
Coming from the north take Interstate 75 to Highway 44.
Coming from the east you could take Florida’s Turnpike or Interstate 4. Or, if you’re coming from the northeast take Interstate 95 to the 4 to the 44 through Deland.
Note- perhaps the most difficult part of the drive is taking a left (if entering the Park from the north) from Hwy 441. Or, when exiting the Park and taking a left to go south on Hwy 441. Hwy 441 is a 4-lane road with a 55-mph speed limit and median separating the north and southbound lanes. There are no lights at the park entrance so crossing the oncoming lanes with a trailer can be tricky.
Check-In at Lake Griffin State Park Florida
Check-in time is 3 pm and check out is 1 pm. We checked in about 15 minutes early but saw many over the next 2 days checking in far earlier.
Lake Griffin State Park Campsite Guide
There are so many Florida State Park campgrounds that we may not be back to Lake Griffin soon. But when we do come back, we will make sure we use our newfound knowledge to pick the right campsite. Two items are important when choosing a campsite at Lake Griffin State Park. The sun/shade factor and the slope of the terrain in the campground.
Sun/Shade- Granted we did camp at Lake Griffin in June. It was very hot and humid so having a shady campsite (which we did not) would have made a huge difference in the comfort of our location. However, at any time of the year, you might want to pick one of the more shady campsites. See our Lake Griffin State Park campsite list below.
The Slope of the Campsites- As you might imagine the terrain of the area slopes downward toward the Dead River which borders the park. If it doesn’t rain, you’ll have no worries. But if it does you may end up with some rain under your tent, shade tent, or outdoor carpet. We have made a note about the slope of the campsites in our campsite guide below.
All sites at Lake Griffin State Park have water and electricity. Some have 30 amp and some have 50 amp electric. A few of the sites have sewer. See the Reserve America website for details on hookups for each site.
Lake Griffin State Park Campsite Directory
Because the campsite we chose had virtually no shade, we walked the campgrounds and made notes about each campsite at Lake Griffin so you would have a great Lake Griffin State Park camping experience. This guide will allow you to reserve the best campsite available at the time.
Lake Griffin State Park Camping Sites List
Campsites 1 – 10 (lower left of the map)- Note- there are only 3 paved sites (1 and 2, and #27 below).
1- Paved, shade, small and near the entrance
2- Paved, shade. Nice site. May get wet when it rains.
3- Sloped. May get wet when it rains.
4- Shade. Small site
5- Shade. Small site
6- Large site, shady. Some slope. This is one of the nicer sites.
7- Shady. No slope. One of our top picks.
8- Very spacious. Large tree in the middle providing shade. No slope. One of our top picks.
9- Not level. Perhaps one of the worst sites.
10- Small but a good tent camping site.
Campsites 11-20 (left side and top of map) – there is very little concern with rain as the park slopes down from here.
11- Very little shade. Spacious.
12-The best site in the campground. Very spacious and shady. However, it was occupied by the campsite host.
13- Spacious but less shady.
14- Very narrow and tight. A good tent camping site.
15- Open, spacious but no shade. A good site with #16 for two families camping together.
16- Long site. Some shade. A good site with #15 for two families camping together.
17- Nice site. Flat but not much shade. One of our 2nd tier picks.
18-narrow but very shady.
19- Narrow and secluded but not much shade.
20- Very shaded site but small. Good for a small trailer or tent camping.
Campsites 21-25 (right side of map) – all these sites including #20 above are smaller. Good for small to mid-sized trailers. They are very shaded and border a very wooded area. The park does slope that way so during a rainstorm expect water heading your way.
21- Very shaded site but small. Good for a small trailer or tent camping.
22- Long and narrow. Definitely sloped.
23- Very narrow.
24- Very small and sloped.
25- Near the campground entrance. Very sloped.
Campsites 26 – 30 (lower middle of map)
26- Good for a van or tent camping
27- Paved site. Shady but borders the walkway to the bathrooms.
28- The site we had. Pull thru. No shade at all. Very exposed and on the corner. Everyone coming into the campground must pass by. One of the worst sites.
29- Very little shade.
30- Small tent camping site but there was a pop up in there. Near walkway to bathrooms.
Campsites 31-40 (top middle of map)
31- Small trailer or tent camping. Nice site with some shade.
32- Nice site with shade but water will run into it if it rains
33- Corner pull-thru. Very exposed. No shade.
34- No shade. But a good site with #35 for two families camping together.
35- No shade. But a good site with #36 for two families camping together.
36- Pull thru site. Some shade but exposed to campground traffic.
37- Very shady. Sloped downward so rain will flow away from the site.
38- End site. Pull-thru. Very shady but slanted. Located near dump station.
39- The worst site in the campground. Very small. Uneven from road. Next to walkway to bathroom.
40- Small and next to walkway to bathroom.
The best Lake Griffin State Park camping sites (6, 7, 8, 12, 17).
Although this is our first Florida State park campground experience, I can’t imagine a campground being cleaner. The bathrooms and showers were clean and well supplied. The campground and park, in general, were also very clean and well attended.
Hospitality and Neighbor Campers
The Park Rangers at the gate were very friendly and helpful at check-in and thereafter. Once there, we added a 3rd night via the Reserve America website. The next day we told the Ranger on duty about it but that was not communicated to the Ranger on duty that 3rd night. But it was very nice that she called us as she thought we hadn’t checked in yet.
The campground hosts were also very nice and very available. You often saw them driving around in their golf cart checking in on things.
Of course, one of the aspects of camping that can be a bit frustrating is camping next to people that create more noise than you would like. We had a group of about 8 to 10 people with at least 3 tents and 2 vehicles next to us. Even though the number of people, tents, and vehicles were outside campground rules, that wasn’t the issue for us.
They were Ham Radio operators. Apparently, it was the weekend that once a year that all ham radio people in the U.S. and Canada test out the communication system in the event that all other forms of communication fail. An admirable pursuit, no doubt. However, for 2 days we heard a noise that was similar to the old dial-up connection on computers and Morse Code. The tap-tap of Morse Code for 12 hours straight is a bit much. But they left on Sunday morning and we had at least one day of quiet. It was a nice test of my patience and understanding.
Things to Do in the Park (Hike, Bike, Kayak)
The downside of Lake Griffin State Park being small isn't that there is much to do. This is perhaps why we saw very few children here. There are just a few miles of hiking trails in the park. Other than riding around the campground itself and down to the boat ramp, there aren’t any accessible biking trails. The hiking trails are off-limits to bikes.
The 2nd Oldest Oak Tree in Florida
A must-see is the 2nd oldest oak tree in the state of Florida. Estimated to be between 300 and 500 years old it is also massive. I walked off the trunk and estimate it to be about 15 feet in diameter.
The tree is located near the park entrance at the end of a short trail. It is therefore accessible by nearly everyone including those on golf carts. There is a bike rack at the entrance to the trail as bikes are off-limits to trails in Lake Griffin State Park.
Dead River kayaking, canoeing, and boating are the highlights here. There is a boat ramp and ample trailer parking so you can launch your boat into the Dead River and out to Lake Griffin. Kayak, paddle, and life vest rentals are available from the Park Ranger.
The Dead River is black water. You cannot see below the surface at all. In the Reserve America description of the park, it warns against swimming as there is a “healthy alligator population”. Shirley wasn’t comfortable with kayaking in this river, and it was close to 100 degrees, so we opted out of Lake Griffin State Park kayaking. But we did talk with other campers that had kayaked in the river and they didn’t see but a few gators.
Bears and Alligators
As mentioned above, there is an abundance of alligators in the river. But there are also warning signs of alligators on the hiking trails as some of the trails border the swamp. We hiked most of the trails in the park and didn’t see any alligators or snakes either.
This is Florida bear country. We got verbal warnings about bears and there is a sign at the bathroom area giving instructions about what to do when seeing a bear. We didn’t see any but the campground host did come around the park one late afternoon/early evening to warn of us of a bear that might make its way through the park.
Because of the bear warnings we were careful to dispose of our trash in the campground dumpster before going to bed. And put our food containers in the car for the night. Except for the last night. We had one sealed plastic bin with boxed snacks under a table near the camper that we forgot. At about 3:30 am Shirley woke up to a noise that she immediately knew was a critter. It started to drag the container on the gravel and dirt. We shewed it away and recovered our snack bin. Although we didn’t see the critter at the time, in the morning we did see raccoon paw prints all over the campsite.
Things to do outside Lake Griffin State Park (Mt. Dora)
A friend of ours gave us the recommendation to take a drive to Mt. Dora. Mt. Dora is located about 20 miles east of the park on the eastern shore of Lake Dora. It was a nice 30-minute drive and so worth it. We walked the entire downtown area and walked through a farmer’s market (perhaps open only on Sunday) with booths down near the lake.
Mt. Dora is perhaps the cutest and coolest downtown area in the state of Florida with the exception of Key West. We love Dunedin near us just north of Clearwater, but it doesn’t come close to Mt. Dora. There are so many great little shops, restaurants, and bars. Because of the heat and Covid-19 limiting exposure to people in tight quarters, we didn’t spend as much time walking into the shops as we would have liked.
The Lakeside Inn
Then, as I was taking some pictures near the lake, a gentleman stopped and told us to head around the corner to the Lakeside Inn to get the “best picture in the state of Florida”. Oh my. He was so right. The Lakeside Inn is a beautiful property out of the 19th and early 20th century. It was built in the 1880s and has had distinguished guests such as Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and President Dwight Eisenhower.
There are the main building and several smaller buildings all in the same southern motif for people to stay. The view from the main building down to the lake is spectacular. We walked the whole area then went inside to have a bloody mary and learn about the history of the Lakeside Inn.
We have decided that when the weather cools down in the fall that we’ll come back to spend a weekend in Mt. Dora. There seems to be much fun to be had there.
The Ocala National Forest
If walking around Mt. Dora doesn’t appeal to you, you may want to take a 45-minute drive north to the Ocala National Forest. We didn’t do that, so I have nothing to report. But if you want to keep the nature vibe going it seems a logical choice for a day trip.
Nearby Stores and Facilities
On the main road (441) outside the park entrance, you will find everything you need in either Fruitland Park or further into Leesburg just 4 miles away. Gas, ice, alcohol, even a Walmart Supercenter are just a few minutes away.
In Review of Lake Griffin State Park Camping
All in all, Lake Griffin State Park camping gave us a great few days. It was perfect for our first adventure with our popup camper. Will we be back? Given that there are 54 Florida state parks with campgrounds we have a lot of others to explore first.
A better selection of shady campsites
More hiking and biking trails nearby
Clearer water in a river to go kayaking