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

Boca Grande Bike Path – Gasparilla Island, Boca Grande – Charlotte & Lee County, Florida

Before You Go:

If you are doing this ride in the early morning hours (before, say, 11AM), then you can probably get by without sunscreen.  As the sun clears the trees on the east side of the trail, you will need sunscreen since there are very few trees lining the western side of the trail.  Also, if you stop for any time along the beaches in Gasparilla Island State Park, you will definitely be in need of sunscreen and a pair of sunglasses (the white, sugar sands are blinding).

Getting There:

I took exit 193 off Interstate 75 and headed south and west on Jacaranda Boulevard.  Jacaranda Boulevard dead-ends at Englewood Road (County Road 776).   Take Englewood Road southeasterly.  It will become first North Indiana and then South Indiana before finally becoming S. McCall Road.  Head south on Placida Road and finally turn onto Boca Grande Causeway.  There is a toll and they do not accept Credit, Debit Cards or SunPass.  I am not aware of any designated trailhead parking.  I simply parked at the first Shopping Center I encountered at the northern end of the trail.

Trail Length

13.6 Miles – From the shopping center just south of Boca Grande Resort to the Port Boca Grande Light and back.  The mileage also includes a ride out to the nearby Boca Grande Fishing Pier.

The Trail

For more information on the trail itself or the community of Boca Grande, check out the links and gallery pictures below.

This is a fairly short trail.  There is a lot to see and do along the trail – take your time and explore this lovely barrier island.  The trail is flat and travels right through the heart of central Boca Grande.  All in all, a fine ride.

Facilities:

  • There are facilities at the Gasparilla Island State Park Beach access located about 2/3rds the way down the trail.

The Cons:

  • Just too short but, what can you do, you only have the length of Gasparilla Island to work with.  🙂
  • The golf carts that everyone uses around the island can be a hindrance at times.

The Pros:

  • The trailbed is in excellent shape.
  • The beautiful Gulf of Mexico beaches.
  • Gasparilla Rear Range Light
  • Port Boca Grande Light.
  • Boca Grande Fishing Pier

Links:

Gasparilla Island State Park

Boca Grande Chamber of Commerce

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

Happy Trails ~ John

Nature Coast State Trail – Fanning Springs to Cross City (Loop) – Fanning Springs, Old Town, Cross City – Gilchrist & Dixie County, Florida

Before You Go:

Along the eastern portion of this ride, there is a fair amount of shade.  The western portion, however, has very little shade.  Your riding arsenal should include sunglasses, a good pair of cushioned gloves, sunscreen and, if you are going to spend time exploring around the Suwannee River Bridge, some insect repellant.

Getting There:

This is the last in a three part review of the Nature Coast Trail.  This final installment will start at the Fanning Springs Trailhead.  Travel either north of south on U.S. Highway 19. Head north on Florida Street. The trail head is on the east side of Florida Street.

Trail Length

28.6 Miles – From the Fanning Springs Trailhead out to the western terminus in Cross City and back.

The Trail

For more information on the trail itself or the communities of Fanning Springs, Old Town and Cross City, check out the links and gallery pictures below.

If you missed the first post, click here for a link to Part I.

If you missed the second post, click here for a link to Part II.

As you did in the last section, you will head north out of the Fanning Springs Trailhead.  Keep a lookout for the direction signs that will guide you toward the Suwannee River Bridge, Old Town and Cross City.  Once you are heading due west, you keep on this heading, for the most part, all the way to the western terminus west of Cross City.  This section of the trail was my least favorite but contains one of the most scenic sections along the entire trail.  The Suwannee River Bridge and the views of the Suwannee River are not to be missed.  I must say, the section once you leave the tree lined portions of the trail are a bit monotonous.  There are also a lot of road crossings and quite a bit of traffic once you reach Cross City.  Additionally, there is the ever present traffic along U.S. Highway 19 that parallels the trail for most of the western half of the trail.

It’s a long dusty ride out to Cross City and back.  I would recommend a decent ride from Fanning Springs, out to Trenton, the west to the Suwannee River Bridge and then back to the Fanning Springs Trailhead.

Facilities:

  • There are facilities at the Fanning Springs Trailhead.
  • There are facilities at the Cross City Trailhead.

The Cons:

  • The straight trail may be monotonous to some.
  • The numerous road crossings in and around Cross City.
  • The constant traffic along U.S. Highway 19.

The Pros:

  • The trailbed is in excellent shape.
  • The Suwannee River Bridge and surrounding area.

Links:

Nature Coast State Trail – Office of Greenways & Trails

Nature Coast State Trail – Florida State Parks

Old Town, Florida

Cross City, Florida

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

Happy Trails ~ John

Nature Coast State Trail – Fanning Springs to Trenton (Loop) – Fanning Springs, Trenton – Gilchrist County, Florida

Before You Go:

There is long stretches with no shade along this trail so wear sunscreen.  Sunglasses are always a necessity when traveling in Florida; also, a good pair of cycling gloves help cushion your palms.

Getting There:

This is the second of a three part review of the Nature Coast Trail.  This second section and the final installment will both start at the Fanning Springs Trailhead.  Travel either north of south on U.S. Highway 19. Head north on Florida Street. The trail head is on the east side of Florida Street.

Trail Length

17.7 Miles – From the Fanning Springs Trailhead out to the Trenton Trailhead and back.

The Trail

For more information on the trail itself or the communities of Fanning Springs and Trenton, check out the links and gallery pictures below.

If you missed the first post, click here for a link to Part I.

You will head north out of the Fanning Springs Trailhead.  Keep a lookout for the direction signs that will guide you toward Trenton.  Once you are heading due east, you will head arrow straight toward the town of Trenton. Of the three sections, this happened to be my favorite. Perhaps it was the rain shower I encountered or the picturesque town of Trenton. There are a few road crossings but traffic was mostly light. The only traffic is the constant whir of traffic along State Road 26 which parallels most of the ride into Trenton.

The day I rode into the Trenton Trailhead, it was a lively place. It seems to be a social gathering spot for the town.

If you have the time, a stop in the town of Trenton would be worth the time exploring.

Facilities:

  • There are facilities at the Fanning Springs Trailhead.
  • There are facilities at the Trenton Trailhead.

The Cons:

  • The straight trail may be monotonous to some.

The Pros:

  • The trailbed is in excellent shape.
  • Relatively light trail traffic. You won’t be fighting through any crowds.
  • The Trenton community. I found it to be very friendly

Links:

Nature Coast State Trail – Office of Greenways & Trails

Nature Coast State Trail – Florida State Parks

Trenton, Florida

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

Happy Trails ~ John