Mountain biking in Florida? It’s here, and it’s good. We’ve got tons of trails perfect for beginners, but what about trails for advanced riders? I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite mountain biking destinations that have top-notch trails for riders of all skill levels.
Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway – Santos Trailhead
Freeride, cross country and huge jumps – no rider feels left out at Santos. Technical double black diamond trails challenge those hardcore riders in your group, while yellow trails with names like “puppy” and “pine tree” are perfect for a warm-up ride or for those who like things a little more relaxed.
In the Vortex area, bring your skills and bombproof bikes to the freeride or dirt jump sections. For those who like long rides, there’s an incredible 42-mile roundtrip IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association) Epic ride.
Want to ride or explore for more than a day? Santos has a full-facility campsite available, and trails for other activities. For more information, visit the Ocala Mountain Bike Association’s website.
Alafia River State Park
Several advanced singletrack trails can be found at Alafia River State Park and are maintained by SWAMP (Southwest Association of Mountain Bike Pedalers). Get ready for an adrenaline rush on the Moonscape and Rollercoaster trails, where steep dips and technical turns provide a first-rate challenge for serious riders.
Casual bikers with beginner or intermediate skills aren’t left out either; the Sand Pine, River Loop, Rock Garden, as well as several others will give you that “just right” experience. Like Santos, the trails at Alafia River State Park are so good that they have been given the IMBA Epic ride designation, and the park also offers camping, hiking, paddling and fishing activities. Check out the Alafia River State Park website for details.
Broward County’s Markham Park is another one of those great “do it all” locations. Almost 11 miles of excellent singletrack are available for riders, and are maintained by Club Mud. The expert trails, complete with steep climbs and drops, are known as one of South Florida’s most popular places to ride. Saddle up and test your mettle on the Rock Garden or Area 51 trails, and for those who just like a laid-back ride, the Middle Earth or Deep Dark Forest trails will leave you smiling. A trail map for Markham Park can be found at the Club Mud website. A complete rundown of all the park’s activities is available at http://www.broward.org/parks/markhampark/Pages/Default.aspx.
Oleta River State Park
Get your ride on without leaving the Miami metro area at Oleta River State Park. The trail network consists of more than 10 miles of expert and easier singletrack, and is rated as another of South Florida’s must-do rides. Drops, climbs, and switchbacks make rides at Oleta River State Park exciting and challenging. Don’t have a bike or in Miami on vacation? The Blue Moon Outdoor Center inside the park offers rental bikes - even full-suspension models to hit the expert trails. Oleta River State Park also offers a wide range of other activities to enjoy, and there are 14 primitive cabins available as well. For information on Oleta River State Park, visit www.floridastateparks.org/oletariver.
Before You Go
Make sure you know your skill level before getting out on the trails; this can mean the difference in a really great day or a really bad one. Always wear a helmet, regardless of the difficulty of the trail. A hydration-compatible backpack will make rides more comfortable and enjoyable. In case an accident or bike breakdown occurs, bring along a first-aid kit, an extra tube, multi-tool and cell phone.