Progress Energy Trail – Clearwater – Pinellas County, Florida

Before You Go:

This is, other than the bridge to nowhere further north, the only section of the Progress Energy Trail.  I have read that there is finally some news on extending the trail, there is budgeting for extending the trail to the north in the 2014 budget.

There is no shade along the trail proper.  There is shade at the beginning of the trail that is part of the Ream Wilson Trail. Sunscreen and sunglasses are highly recommended during the afternoon hours.

Getting There:

The starting point of this trail is the same point I started on the Ream Wilson Trail.  The link to the post is Ream Wilson Trail Recap.

Trail Length:

This loop is only 7.18 miles.  Five miles of the trail is comprised of the Progress Energy Trail.  It is about 1.1 miles from the Long Center to the intersection with the Progress Energy trail.

The Trail:

The trailbed is in decent shape.  It is nice that they didn’t make the trail arrow straight but, rather, built some curves into the design.

The trail, being so short, can be turned into a longer ride by adding the Ream Wilson Trail (link is above).

Facilities:

  • There are facilities at Long Center at the start of the trail.

The Cons:

  • The length of the trail; too short.
  • There are some very busy streets to cross.  Mainly the crossing at Highway 60.  Be careful!

The Pros:

  • The curves built into the design.
  • Easy access to the Ream Wilson Trail.
  • The electrical easement is wide enough that there are opportunities to view minor wildlife along the trail.

Links:

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Fort Pickens, Gulf Islands National Seashore – Pensacola Beach – Escambia County, Florida

Before You Go:

There is absolutely no shade on this trail.  Make sure to apply sunscreen unless you choose to do this ride in the early morning or late afternoon. Be sure to bring along a helmet since a large portion of the trail is shared with motorized vehicles.

Getting There:

Take Interstate 10 either east or west (depending on your location).  Take the Interstate 110 exit south to Pensacola.  Take Highway 30/US Highway 98 East and then South across Pensacola Bay.  Head south on Highway 399 Pensacola Beach Boulevard.  Where Pensacola Beach Boulevard becomes Via Deluna Drive, you will see the parking area for the Pensacola Beach Gulf Pier.  This is where I began my ride.

Trail Length:

The trail is 21 miles – from the Pensacola Beach Gulf Pier parking lot out west to Fort Pickens and then looping back to the Pensacola Beach Gulf Pier parking lot..

The Trail:

The eastern part of the trail runs along Fort Pickens Road as a separate trail for about 4 miles.  At a large parking area, there is a dedicated bike lane the rest of the way to Fort Pickens.

There are many opportunities to head off to the beach front on either the north or south side.  Sunglasses are a definite necessity as the sand is extremely white and reflects quite a bit of glare on a sunny day.

Wading birds abound and be sure to explore the fort grounds.

A beautiful ride in the Florida panhandle.  There is a lot to see and do along this pristine stretch of the Florida Gulf Coast.

Facilities:

  • There are facilities just before the entrance to Fort Pickens proper and then again on the the Fort Pickens grounds.
  • Facilities are available at the Pensacola Beach Gulf Pier

The Cons:

  • As you near Fort Pickens, the sand can obscure the shoulder.
  • Since it is a tourist area, the dedicated trail portion can be frustrated. There are a lot of pedestrians walking the trail that are oblivious to approaching riders.

The Pros:

  • The fort and its history.
  • Pensacola Bay to the north and the Gulf of Mexico to the south.

Links:

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LOST – Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail – Port Mayaca to Mile 50E, Martin & Okeechobee County, Florida

Before You Go:

This trail can be tricky. Lake Okeechobee is the 2nd largest fresh water lake in the continental United States.  The trail bed is built upon an earthen dike that surrounds the lake.  The terrain is relatively flat and the section I rode through was absolutely treeless. Sunscreen is definitely required as well as a good pair of sunglasses.  I would also recommend insect repellant. I rode this in November and there were numerous insects.

Getting There:

The trail head I chose for this ride was Port Mayaca Locks and Dam.  The trailhead is located on the northern side of the lock off U. S. Highway 441/98.  Watch for the signs as you approach from either the north or the south.

Trail Length

The trail is 29 miles – from the northern side of the Port Mayaca Locks and Dam to mile 50E and back to the Port Mayaca trail head.

The Trail

A word of warning to those not familiar with Florida during the summer. There is absolutely no shelter on this trail.  It is relatively treeless and you are riding atop a dike surrounding the 2nd largest freshwater lake in the continental United States. Pay attention to the weather forecast and the sky. Lightning strikes, during the summer months, are a reality and you ARE the tallest thing around for miles.  You could probably find shelter at one of the locks that you cross every so often.

Second words or warning. Bring insect repellent – even in the dry months. I rode the trail in late November around Thanksgiving and was stung and had to turn back.

Third words of warning, again weather related. Pay attention to the winds and plan accordingly. What might seem an easy ride may be much harder on the return. The winds off Lake Okeechobee are notorious for being persistent and strong. There are no natural wind breaks along the lake.

The trail bed itself is in relatively good shape. By the way you cannot circumnavigate the entire lake without venturing on surrounding roads.  And, if your goal is to circumnavigate the lake, be aware that the entire trail in not paved.  Being spoiled, I only plan to cover the paved portion of the trail.

All in all a fine ride. Do exercise caution crossing Old Highway 50 – it tends to be a fairly busy road and the crossing occurs near a curve in the road.

Facilities:

  • There are no facilities along this section of the trail. You could, though, venture off the trail at one of the lock crossings and probably find water and restrooms.

The Cons:

  • The scenery can get monotonous.
  • No facilities.
  • You are pretty much alone.  The day I rode, I didn’t see anyone else on this portion of the trail.  Make sure to bring your cell!

The Pros:

  • Lots of opportunity to watch wading birds along the shoreline.
  • The Port Mayaka locks. It is interesting to watch boats navigating through the lock.

Links:

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Lake Minneola Scenic Trail, South Lake Trail plus Hancock Extension – Clermont, Minneola – Lake County, Florida

Before You Go:

There are sections that are well shaded but there are also large areas that receive full sun – sunscreen is strongly recommended when biking during the heat of the day. There are some hills that shouldn’t be overly taxing if you are decent shape – others might struggle with some sections of the ride.

I’ve found this ride listed under several different combinations of names. I chose to go with the signs that are posted along the trail itself as the official name for the trails.

Getting There:

I began my ride at the western trail end where Clermont fronts along Lake Minneola.  I chose that location over the eastern end of the trail which serves as the trailhead for the West Orange Trail (Kilarney Trailhead).  The Kilarney trailhead is a very busy affair so I preferred the less traveled Clermont trailhead.

From either east or west, take exit 55 on Interstate-4 and head north of U.S. Highway 27.  At Highway 27’s intersection with Highway 50, head west toward Clermont.  Head north of 12th Street.  You will see Lake Minneola appear on your right.  Park along the shores of beautiful Lake Minneola and enjoy the ride!

Trail Length

The trail is 23 miles – from the western trail end at the southwest corner of Lake Minneola, to the southwest end of the Hancock Road Extension, to the eastern end at the Lake County/Orange County Line (the Kilarney Station trailhead that serves the West Orange Trail and back to the trail end in Clermont.

The Trail

There is a lot of diversity along this trail.  The beautiful lakefront ride along Lake Minneola on one side and the charm of Clermont on the other. There are open vistas near the Hancock Extension where you feel like you are looking over all of central Florida.  Ponds and pastures along the Old Highway 50 as well as some heavily wooded portions as you near the eastern end of the trail.

All in all a fine ride. Do exercise caution crossing Old Highway 50 – it tends to be a fairly busy road and the crossing occurs near a curve in the road.

Facilities:

  • There are facilities and restaurants along the Clermont waterfront.
  • Facilities can be found at the Kilarney Trailhead at the eastern end of the trail.

The Cons:

  • Some may find the climb along the Hancock Extension taxing.  This section could easily be skipped to avoid any major climbs.
  • The crossing at Old Highway 50.

The Pros:

  • Lake Minneola and the Clermont waterfront.
  • The climb along the Hancock Road extension. It provides a beautiful view of the surrounding area.
  • The wooded area around the Minneola Pavilion.
  • Believe it or not, the tunnels along the Hancock Extension. Since I live along the coast, tunnels aren’t usually part of the riding experience.

Links:

Send me an email. I would love to hear from you!

Happy Trails ~ John

Legacy Trail – Sarasota – Sarasota County, Florida

Before You Go:

Just a note that I had to switch over to a new plugin for my trail maps.  It seems that GPSIES.Com is DOA.  If you are riding early or later in the day, you can get by without sunscreen.  Any other time of day, you will definitely want to protect yourself from the sun.  The normal equipment is recommended – helmet, gloves, sunglasses.

Getting There:

I started my ride at the McIntosh Road trailhead.  From either the north or the south, take exit 305 off of Interstate 75 and head west on Clark Road (Highway 72) to Honore Avenue.  Head south on Honore Avenue to Palmer Ranch Parkway.  Head west on Palmer Ranch Parkway to its end at McIntosh Road.  Head south on McIntosh road and watch for the signs marking the location of the trailhead.

Trail Length

The trail 22 miles.  From the McIntosh Trailhead south to the Venice Train Station then looping back north to the northern terminus of the trail and back to the McIntosh Trailhead..

The Trail

The Legacy Trail is not a very old trail so the trail bed is in fairly good shape.  Like most rail to trail projects, the trail is fairly arrow-straight; it runs in a southeast to northwest direction.

In case you wonder, the concrete markers with the numbers on them are in the style that, in the past, marked the distance from the northern terminus of the railroad in Richmond, Virginia.

Near Oscar Scherer State Park entrance, stop and enjoy the old railroad trestle that is preserved along the western side of the trail.

Check out the links and pictures below.

Facilities:

  • There are facilities at the Venice Station.
  • There are various covered “stations” along the trail to rest and enjoy a snack or some water.

The Cons:

  • Some may find the arrow-straight direction of the trail monotonous or tedious.
  • This is an urban trail so there are quite a few street crossings.  Especially along the southern 1/2 of the trail.

The Pros:

  • The sculptures along the trail.
  • Oscar Scherer State Park.
  • Dona Bay.
  • Roberts Bay.

Links:

Send me an email. I would love to hear from you!

Happy Trails ~ John

Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail – Gainesville, Hawthorne – Alachua County, Florida

Before You Go:

There is a lot of shade along the trail.  85% of the trail is tree lined on both sides so you could probably get by without sunscreen.  The western end of the trail is fairly hilly.

Getting There:

I chose to start my adventure from the Hawthorne end of the trail.  There is plenty of parking and the trailhead is much less used than its counterpart Boulware Springs Trailhead in Gainesville.  Either traveling north or south on U.S. Highway 301 to the town of Hawthorne, travel west on West Lake Avenue, head south on North Johnson Street, turn west on 71st Avenue and, finally, turn south on Southwest 3rd Street.  Southwest 3rd Street dead-ends into the trailhead parking.

Trail Length

Just shy of 32 miles.  A loop from the Hawthorne Trailhead to the Boulware Springs Trailhead and back to Hawthorne.

The Trail

The trail bed is showing signs of wear.  Mainly due to tree roots growing under the trail-bed.  As you approach Gainesville, you will right through the hills and curves section of the trail.  It should prove an excellent challenge to coastal riders who are used to the relatively flat and straight corridors.  That is another one of the reasons I chose to ride from the Hawthorne Trailhead.  I didn’t want to start and end a session but, rather, preferred to make the hilly section part of the middle of the ride.

Check out the links and pictures below.

Facilities:

  • I only noticed 1 area with a restroom along the route.  Unfortunately, I didn’t make note of its location but it appears along the south side of the trail closer to the Gainesville trailhead.

The Cons:

  • Those that find hills taxing will likely view the hills as a con rather than a pro 🙂
  • Some cyclists, in the hills and curves section, were not mindful of cyclists traveling in the opposite direction.  There are limited site lines along this portion of the trail.  Cycle pro-actively.
  • There are a few sections of the trail-bed that are a little rough in spots as you near Gainesville.

The Pros:

  • The hills I mentioned above.
  • There are curves built into the trail which is a nice change from the mostly arrow-straight trails that abound in Florida.
  • The cutoff to the overlook of Lake Alachua (not actually a lake – more a savannah or prairie).
  • The scenery.

Links:

Send me an email. I would love to hear from you!

Happy Trails ~ John

Fort Fraser Trail – Bartow, Lakeland – Polk County, Florida

Before You Go:

There are a lot of open areas along the trail so, if you are biking during the heat of the day, sunscreen and sunglasses are recommended.  Also, there are some rises in elevation if you are sensitive to small climbs.

Getting There:

From Interstate 4 either east or west, take exit 32 (Highway 35/U.S. 98) south (North Florida Avenue).  Head east on Bartow Road (Highway 35/U.S. 98/County Road 548).  The road will take a turn to the south and east.  There is parking at the University of South Florida in Lakeland campus.  Further south, head east on Hancock Avenue SE and take 4th Street SE to the northwest.  The trailhead is on the west side of 4th Street SE.

Trail Length

15.5 Miles – A loop out and back from either of the spots mentioned above.

The Trail

The trail bed is in excellent shape.  It is relatively straight and follows a power utility easement parallel to U.S. Highway 98 (Bartow Road).  If there has been recent rains, the crossing at the Peace River can be pretty (looking away from U.S. 98).  An interesting feature of this trail are the inspirational signs that appear along the way.

Facilities:

  • The main trailhead at 4th Street SE.

The Cons:

  • The straight nature of the trail.  Some may find it monotonous.
  • Depending upon your tolerance for small rises in terrain, the northern end may be a struggle for the casual cyclist.
  • Busy and noisy U.S. Highway 98 runs the length of the trail.

The Pros:

  • The trail bed is in excellent shape.
  • There are a few rises and dips along the northern end of the trail.  A nice change from the normal flat trails along coastal Florida.
  • The eastern side of the trail is very scenic.

Links:

Send me an email. I would love to hear from you!

Happy Trails ~ John

Flatwoods Park Trail – New Tampa – Hillsborough County, Florida

Before You Go:

There is a mix of sun and shade along this trail.  If you just do a single loop and are riding in the early morning and early evening, you should be fine without sunscreen.  During the rainy summer months, insect repellant is strongly recommended.  Just stopping to snap some pictures and I was swarmed by mosquitoes.  Also, there is a fee to use the park.  It is on the honor system and the fee is currently $2.00.  Bring cash (or a pen to write an IOU *smile*).

Getting There:

From either north or south on Interstate 75, take exit 270, Bruce B Downs Boulevard.  The trailhead will be about a mile east on the south side of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

Note:  I am trying a new plugin for generating my GPX files.  Hope you like it better than the previous plugin.

Trail Length

14.2 Miles – From the Bruce B. Downs Trailhead out to the Morris Bridge Road entrance and back to Bruce B. Downs Trailhead.  It also includes the short spur to the east when returning for Morris Bridge Road just before the pylons prohibiting motorized traffic.

The Trail

The trail bed is in excellent shape.  During the rainy season, the dip in the trail near the Hillsborough River can be flooded.  There is a bridge cut around that you can use.  Please be courteous since the bridge is narrow and there isn’t enough for cycling across the bridge.  It would be safer for all involved if you walk your bike if using the cut around.

Facilities:

  • There are facilities at the Bruce B. Downs trailhead.
  • There are facilities at the Main Entrance at Morris Bridge Road
  • There are several spots along the trail with fresh water and they seem to keep the water stocked throughout the day.

The Cons:

  • There are a lot of casual bikers and joggers throughout the park.  Some of them don’t seem aware of approaching cyclists.
  • The trail is a little on the short side.
  • If you have never been to the trail, and since a lot of people don’t carry cash any more, the $2.00 fee can be a problem.  There doesn’t seem to be an alternative payment option.

The Pros:

  • The trail bed is in excellent shape.
  • Nice pine uplands and scrub habitat
  • In the rainy season, Trout Creek flowing across the trail bed.

Links:

Send me an email. I would love to hear from you!

Happy Trails ~ John

Flagler Beach to Marineland Trail – Flagler Beach, Beverly Beach, Painters Hill, Marineland – Flagler County, Florida

Before You Go:

Except for a couple of miles of wooded area in the northern section of this trail, there is virtually no shade along the trail.  If not riding in the early morning or early evening, sunscreen and sunglasses are definitely recommended.  There are not a lot of opportunities for fresh water along the trail so carry some along to stay hydrated.

Getting There:

Getting there is fairly simple.  Take either Interstate 95 North or South and proceed to Exit 284 which is Highway 100 (East Moody Boulevard).  Head east to the waterfront.  There is free parking at the Flagler Beach Pier.  I didn’t see any signs limiting the duration of parking but things do change so be aware of any posted signs regarding parking or metering.

Trail Length

38.2 Miles – From the Flagler Beach Pier, south to the Flagler County Line, north through Flagler Beach, Beverly Beach and Painters Hill to the southern outskirts of Marineland.  Heading back south from Marineland and arriving back at the point of origin at the Flagler Beach Pier.

The Trail

For much of the trail’s length, the Atlantic Ocean is to your east.  Unlike the Pinellas County coast (where I live), the Flagler County coastline is not lined, wall to wall, with high-rise hotels, condominiums and timeshares.  The coast has long stretches of undeveloped coastline.

This trail is much longer than the normal trail (or trail sections) that I recap.  It is a flat course and the trailbed is in relatively good shape.  There can be congestion around more populated areas such as Flagler Beach.  Exercise caution as it seemed most people walking on the trail were oblivious to bikes sharing their space.

Facilities:

  • There are facilities at the Flagler Pier.
  • There are facilities at the welcome center for Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Center (across from the main entrance).
  • There are facilities at Varn Park (where the trail crosses over to the east side of Ocean Shore Boulevard).
  • There are facilities where the trail currently ends at the Marineland City Limit.

The Cons:

  • Very little shade.
  • The constant traffic along 1A (North Ocean Shore Boulevard).
  • Some riders may find the coastal area monotonous.

The Pros:

  • The trailbed is in excellent shape.
  • The Flagler Beach Pier.
  • Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area.
  • Marineland.
  • The Atlantic Ocean.

Links:

Flagler Beach, Florida

Marineland, Florida

Washington Oaks Gardens State Park

Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area

Send me an email. I would love to hear from you!

Happy Trails ~ John

Cape Haze Pioneer Trail – Placida, Rotonda West, Englewood East – Charlotte County, Florida

Before You Go:

I didn’t notice a lot of shade along the trail so sunscreen and sunglasses are a necessary item.  Though I didn’t experience any issues, some of the areas are wetlands so biting insects could be an issue during certain times of the year so, perhaps, insect repellant might be in order.

Getting There:

I rode this trail on the same day that I rode the Boca Grande Bike Path.  I would not recommend riding your bike from one trail to the other.  The Boca Grande Causeway is not designed for bicycle traffic.  The roadbed is very narrow with sandy shoulders for most of its length.

Looking at Google Maps, the most direct route is to the northern most trailhead.  Take exit 179 off Interstate 75 (either south or north).  Head south on N. Toledo Blade Boulevard.  At the intersection with El Jobean Road (County Road 776), head southwest on El Jobean Road.  El Jobean Road will become South McCall Road.  At the intersection with County Road 771, turn south onto CR 771.  The trailhead is about 1,000 feet south of the intersection of S. McCall & CR 771.  The trailhead is located on the west side of CR 771.

Trail Length

15.5 Miles – From the Mercer Trailhead (northern terminus) to the boardwalk overlook just north of the Gasparilla Road bridge and back to the Mercer Trailhead.

The Trail

For more information on the trail itself or the community of Placida and Rotonda West, check out the links and gallery pictures below.

This is a fairly short trail.  If you are looking for a flat and fast trail to do a workout, this will fit the bill  The trail bed is in excellent shape.  There aren’t an excessive amount of road crossings and traffic in the area is relatively light.

Facilities:

  • There are facilities at the main Trailhead.

The Cons:

  • Very little shade.
  • The arrow straight trail may seem dull to some riders.

The Pros:

  • The trailbed is in excellent shape.
  • The Gasparilla Road Bridge.
  • The Coral Creek Bridge and surrounding estuary
  • The Placida Bunkhouse at the main trailhead.

Links:

Placida, Florida

Rotonda West, Florida

Cape Haze Pioneer Trail

Send me an email. I would love to hear from you!

Happy Trails ~ John