The International Mountain Biking Association grades two Florida trails -- Alafia River State Park in Hillsborough County, above, and Santos Trailhead outside of Ocala -- as Epic, its highest rating. (Maurice Rivenbark)

    Mountain Biking – Yes, Mountain Biking – in Florida

    By Brandon D. Shuler

    Think mountain biking, and Florida may not immediately come to mind. But it should.

    Florida not only has a vibrant mountain biking community, it also can boast hundreds of miles of mountain bike trails that welcome the beginner and challenge the best mountain bikers in the world.

    In fact, the International Mountain Biking Association, a non-profit advocacy group that teaches best trail management practices and works in the halls of Congress to provide equal access for mountain bikers in our nation’s wild spaces, rates two of Florida’s trails—Santos Trailhead  and Alafia River State Park—their highest trail designation: Epic.

    There are five criteria that qualify a trail to be epic, and Alafia and Santos meet them all:

    •   Demanding, mostly single-track trail experience in a natural setting

    •   A true backcountry riding experience in remote settings

    •   One that is technically and physically challenging

    •   More than 80 percent single-track

    •   At least 20 miles in length.

     

    SANTOS TRAILHEAD

    Pulling into the car park at the Santos Trailhead, deep in the tall Florida pines right outside of Ocala, it’s apparent you’re in the backwoods of old Florida. What is not so apparent is that you’re also ground zero to some of the best mountain biking in the American southeast.

    Santos is the center of Florida’s mountain biking universe for good reason. Although the American mountain-bike scene appears to orbit the steep trails of the American West, Santos all alone on the East Coast was the first trail system to earn the IMBA Epic trail designation since it “emerged as a model trail system, with flowing singletrack, bombproof wooden structures, a bike skills park with progressive challenges and jaw-dropping technical features at the Vortex quarry.”

     

    THE SANTOS RIDES

    Vortex

    Carved from an old quarry, the Vortex Trail is world renowned. With belly-taking drops, the famous Banana Hammock wood feature, and rocks and roots thrown across an already challenging up-and-down trail, the Vortex is the centerpiece of Santos and wraps right around the Santos Trailhead.

    Bryar Patch

    Bryar Patch is a short, but taxing trial right of the central connecting trail, Blue Highway. A quick loop section, about a mile, has a number of challenging wood features, one a bridge about 8 inches wide. These wood features make a lot of riders nervous and challenge the handling skills of even the best riders, but it’s the switchbacks and speed you can carry through the section that make it the most fun. With some 180-degree switchbacks and loose sand, it is easy to lose your front tire and find yourself sliding. The speed and experience are great warm ups for the more technical trails like Vortex and Anthill.

    Twister

    Twister is for the speed demon in you. The trial is a slight downhill with very few technical sections, unless you consider a couple of hammocks that with speed can launch you skyward technical. The trail has one wooden feature switchback that can be the highlight of the run. At just under three miles, this is a great warmup trail before moving to the more technical aspects of Bryar Patch and then the black expert trails of Vortex or Anthill.

    Anthill

    Anthill is short, but challenging. With its rocks and short, steep climbs, it can rival some of the hard technical trails of the American West. The trial has rocks galore and more switchbacks and walled climbs than you can imagine. In the summer, the trails can get really dry and slippery, adding to the challenge. You may even find yourself standing on the pedals in your lowest gears wondering if you should get off and push. It’s the kind of trail that leaves you wishing for something easy to cool down on, like Spider Kingdom North.

    Spider Kingdom North

    Spider Kingdom North is a little over three miles and has easy to intermediate sections that are perfect for a warmup, cool down, or spin with a group of mixed abilities. Word to the wise: Note the name. Early mornings can result in all kinds of spiderwebs across the trail and, therefore across your face. The trail is a gentle climb that meanders through pine forest and provides some striking views in the winter, including deer and the occasional turkey. It’s a fun ride and well worth slowing down a bit to take in Florida flora and fauna.

     

    mountian biker navigates the pit at Santos Trailhead

    Santos is the center of Florida’s mountain biking universe for good reason. Here, a biker navigates the pit.

    - Brandon D. Shuler

     

    SANTOS EVENTS

    Aside from the riding opportunities, Santos has a great social calendar that offers a variety of events, from lung- and leg-burning endurance races to family friendly rides.

    12 hours of Santos

    Pain, suffering, up and downs, flats, headlamps, cheering fans, and pain. If you’re a racer, the 12 Hours of Santos is one of the Southeast’s, if not the nation’s, premier 12-hour endurance races.

    The 12 Hours of Santos draws riders from all over the nation to challenge themselves against the Vortex and Santos’s harder trials, and to find that center of pain in themselves to see if they can beat it down. Not for the faint of heart, the 12 Hours of Santos is challenge that leaves riders nowhere to hide.

    The race, though, is an event, and the local mountain bike community attends to cheer on the masochists. The race is a gathering, and as racers wind back into the Santos Campground, they are greeted with a wall of well-wishers, the smells of BBQ, and sometimes a wall of music. As racers speed through the campground, they are tempted with adult beverages from the sidelined fans, a cool jump over a fire-lined ramp, and hot dogs or energy bars dangled from overhead fishing rods. Hey, Florida is the Fishing Capital of the World after all.

    The 12 Hours of Santos, even if you are not crazy enough to challenge yourself for a dozen straight hours of pedaling, offers a fun bike-filled weekend with like-minded cyclists.

     

    Santos Fat Tire Festival

    The Santos Fat Tire Festival is one of the nation’s best-loved mountain bike events of the year. With more than 3,000 visitors each year and 50 to 100 vendors from the most obscure trinket manufacturer to the best-known bike builder, the Santos Fat Tire Festival is a must-see.

    Sprawled across the parking areas of the Santos Trailhead, the Fat Tire Festival hosts a bevy of Florida’s best food trucks, great local bands, and a gaggle of stoked mountain-biking gearheads. The entire scene is predicated around celebrating the mountain bike lifestyle with a 50-mile supported trail ride, jump demonstrations, and trials demonstrations that challenge the bounds of gravity.

    The Fat Tire Festival is a cherished event and tickets often sell out within days of open ticket sales on Nov. 1.

    Ride of the Living Dead (Recently renamed the Fall Epic)

    The Santos Ride of the Living Dead is a fun event for the entire family that meets at the Santos Landbridge Trailhead. Sponsored by Greenway Bikes and Retro City Cycles, the Ride for the Living Dead is a rolling Halloween costume party on some of Santos’s easiest and best maintained trails.

    The best costumes win bike swag and opportunities abound for the younger crowd to get excited about mountain biking while gathering healthy Halloween treats.

     

    WHERE TO SLEEP

    Though there are hotels within 30 minutes of the Santos trailhead, but if you’re after the outdoors experience, there are camping opportunities from primitive toss-your-hammock-between-two-trees to plugging in that pro team bus electrification and enjoying the AC between biking sessions.

    Santos Campground

    The Santos Campground is right in the middle of the action. It is located in the heart of the Vortex and a stone’s throw from the jump park. The campground is a community, so come with a healthy attitude and enjoy the family friendly vibes.

    The campground has 24 sites with water and electricity, a dump station for RVs, a pavilion, bathhouse, potable water for refills, and easy access to trails and some of the best roads and terrain for road cycling in Florida.

    Silver River State Park

    If you’re looking for an experience with all the family accoutrements, check out Silver River State Park, just to the east of Santos. The state park has cabins and over 50 camping hookups.

    In addition to spacious and ample camping opportunities, Silver River offers canoeing, hiking, and a visitors center with interpretive tours of the surrounding wildlife.The river is known for being some of the most scenic and peaceful in Florida due to its remoteness. There are two launch points that are perfect for the family and a cool place to take a dip after a long day on the trails.

    Rainbow Springs State Park

    Rainbow Springs State Park is one of the crown jewels of the Florida State park system. Even without Santos, Rainbow Springs is a destination in itself, filled with cool, spring-fed swimming holes, incredible canoeing and hiking, and a well-maintained camping ground with cabins.

     

    WHAT TO BRING

    Santos has plenty of bike shops near the trailheads, but once you’re in the belly of the beast, you’re on your own.

    Daypack and Equipment

    A daypack that can carry two liters of water, a change of socks, a light raincoat, an additional pair of cleat replacements, a bike multitool, and more nutrition than you’d normally carry isn’t just a great idea, it’s a necessity.

    Cartridges, Pump, Tubes

    We also recommend bringing not only CO2 cartridges, but a portable pump as well, with plenty of extra tubes. Yes, tubeless tires can go flat. Santos, though well maintained and with plenty of other riders cruising the trails, is vast. When things go south quick, you can be miles from your launch point, so come prepared to keep things fun and stress free.

    Bikes

    Per bikes, Santos offers every type of riding opportunity you can imagine. So, when you’re staring into the garage wondering which bike to toss onto the roof rack, grab the hardtail, the dual suspension, the fat tire, and the BMX. There’s a trail or jump section for every bike.

    Clothing

    Prepping your clothing for Florida’s unique mountain biking can be a challenge. We highly recommend light jerseys for the summer with light arm warmers or sun sleeves to protect you from the blazing sun. We highly recommend light summer bibs and low ankle socks or no socks. There are plenty of cabbage palms and spiky scrub to hook your socks on. And, though it sounds counterproductive to bring a light jacket, summer can surprise you with rain showers that can actually leave you chilled after a long day in the saddle. Riding miles in the Florida summer with teeth chattering can and does happen, so be aware.

    For winter months, pack winter clothing. Ocala can reach freezing temperatures and its always better to be warm and in layers that can be stripped as the day warms rather than chilled all day wishing you had a hoodie. Also, winter can get really wet, so bring a heavier raincoat with a removable liner. You’ll thank yourself for it.

    Sunscreen, Bug Spray

    In addition to clothing, bring plenty of sunscreen, a lot of bug spray, and a small well-stocked first aid kit. Florida has tons of sun, baby-stealing sized mosquitoes and invisible no-see-ums, and enough pointy rocks and flora that you’ll want to doctor up any skinned knees or poked limbs before going to bed.

    Helmets

    Finally, always, absolutely always, bring and wear a helmet. In fact, on any bike trip, always pack two. And, this being Santos, pack a ton of bravado and a lot of stoke.

     

    FLORIDA’S TOP 27 MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAILS

    If you’re making a tour of Florida mountain biking opportunities, Florida has a lot to offer.

    Categories

    Because of its unique topography and ecosystems, Florida’s mountain biking can be difficult to categorize. To make it easier, we split Florida into six regions based upon roadways. Splitting the peninsula along the spine giving us an east to west axis, using the Florida Claude Pepper Memorial Highway 27 from south Florida to the Florida Highway 27/US 301/Interstate 75 junctions in Ocala.

    Splitting the state into three north to south sections, we create our northern section using Florida State Road 40 from Yankeetown on the Gulf to Daytona Beach on the Atlantic. The central section runs from Florida State Road 40 to Florida State Road 70 from Sarasota on the Gulf to Fort Pierce on the Atlantic. The southern section runs from the Florida State Road 70 corridor south.

    The criteria for choosing the top mountain bike trails in Florida was based on three factors: length, difficulty, and accessibility.

    Length: We selected trails systems that had at least a minimum of 10 miles of open and rideable track.

    Difficulty: Mountain bike systems are graded just like ski runs: dot being the easiest, square for intermediate, diamond for difficult, and double diamond for those bikers with a death wish. For the purposes of Florida’s best trails, we made sure that at least two levels were present in each system we selected. For our rating purposes, we give a general range, then a collective rating. For example, Difficulty: beginner to expert; intermediate, meaning there are trails for the beginner and the expert, with the overall rating intermediate.

    Accessibility: Though a couple of our selected trail systems are far off the beaten tourist path, we attempted to find trail systems that were close to urban centers and easy to get to and from. All trail systems are at least within two hours of the nearest airport.

    Now get prepared to start checking these trails off your to-do list.

     

    THE PANHANDLE

    Timberlake Mountain Bike Trails

    Nearest City: Fort Walton Beach
    Difficulty:
    Beginner to Expert, Intermediate
    Distance:
    20+ Miles
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    Bob’s Bicycles; 21 Hollywood Boulevard, Fort Walton Beach, Florida 32548; 850.243.5856

    The Timberlake Mountain Bike Trail system is nestled on the southern range of Eglin Air Force Base. The trail system offers all levels of riding, and is well maintained by local riders, not the Air Force. A recreational license, which can be purchased at the link above, is required to access the Timberlake Trail System.

    University of West Florida Mountain Bike Trails

    Nearest City: Pensacola
    Difficulty:
    Intermediate to Expert, Hard Intermediate
    Distance:
    13 miles
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    Bikes Plus on 9th Avenue; 6307 9th Avenue, Pensacola, Fl 32504; 850.478.1521

    This trail system is not for the faint of heart. The trails are part of an old logging site, which gives the terrain some of its up and down nature. Where nature and loggers didn’t build the challenge, students with engineering degrees and a lot of youthful zest built the rest. A must-see for any travelers seeking a Florida mountain bike experience.

    Tom Brown Park Mountain Bike Trails

    Nearest City: Tallahassee
    Difficulty:
    Beginner to Expert, Intermediate
    Distance:
    7 miles
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    Higher Ground Bicycle Company; 1410 Market St, Tallahassee, FL 32312; 850.562.2453

    Okay, so we cheated, with a shorter-than-10-mile trail in here (just wait, there are one or two more), but if Tom Brown is good enough for the Florida State Short Course Mountain Bike Championships each year, well, it’s good enough for a destination trip. This system is all up and down, has daring wood features, and a couple of human-made technical sections that will leave you gripping your handlebars for dear life. This is an excellent trail system and a must start for riding Florida.

    Lake Overstreet and Redbug at Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park

    Nearest City: Tallahassee
    Difficulty:
    Beginner to intermediate
    Distance:
    18 miles
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    Higher Ground Bicycle Company; 1410 Market St, Tallahassee, FL 32312; 850.562.2453

    Though the trail system is two distinct trails, Lake Overstreet Trial and RedBug, both can be accessed from the Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park and looped together to make a great ride. The trails here are more scenic than technical and more cruise than flow, but it’s a great place for a family day on the bike followed or preceeded by taking in some of Florida’s prettiest gardens.

     

    NORTHEAST

    San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park

    Nearest City: Alachua
    Difficulty:
    Beginner to Expert; Intermediate
    Distance:
    25 miles
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    Santa Fe Bicycle Outfitters; 10 N Main St, High Springs, FL 32643; 386.454.2453

    Not difficult by technical standards, San Felasco Hammock Preserve is one of the best XC (cross-country) tracks in the Southeast. The preserve is a great place for families preferring to ride through the woods and take in the sights of old Florida over “catching air” and diving through belly-dropping technical sections.

    Fort Clinch State Park

    Nearest City: Fernandina Beach
    Difficulty:
    Beginner to Intermediate, Beginner
    Distance:
    14 miles
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    PK’s Bike Shop; 95754 Amelia Concourse, Fernandina Beach, Fl 32034; 904.310.9960

    Nestled along the Atlantic Ocean, Fort Clinch State Park’s mountain bike trails offer some of the most scenic and beautiful views in Florida. Though the trails aren’t very challenging, the loose to deep sand can burn your legs, especially during the dry months. Punctuated by tall root stands and beachfront sand, the trails will test your ability to power through its somewhat technical sections while keeping your balance at a standstill.

    Kathryn Abby Hanna Park

    Nearest City: Jacksonville
    Difficulty:
    Beginner to Expert, Intermediate
    Distance:
    20+ miles
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    ZenCog Bicycles; 883 Stockton Street, Jacksonville, Fl 32204; 904.619.0496

    Hanna Park is an impressive trail system maintained by Jacksonville Parks and Recreation. The park has every amenity for a traveling family, with activities for those in your group that do not ride. There is a small fee to enter, but those fees maintain the entire park and are well worth the support. Though there is little elevation, there are plenty of switchbacks and sand to challenge even seasoned vets.

    Little Big Econ State Forest

    Nearest City: Geneva
    Difficulty:
    Beginner to Intermediate, Intermediate
    Distance:
    12 miles
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    Retro City Cycles; 1810 N. Orange Avenue, Orlando, Florida, 32804; 407.895.2700

    This is a great trail system than can be as easy as you make it or as challenging as you want to push it. There’s plenty of sand, tight and winding trails, and few technical root sections, but for the most part, this is a heads-down and hammer trail with some long flow sections to glide through. If you want to see old Florida backwoods, this is the place.

     

    WEST CENTRAL

    Withlacoochee State Forest: Croom Section

    Nearest City: Brooksville
    Difficulty:
    Beginner to Expert, Intermediate
    Distance:
    50+ Miles
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    Crank Works Bicycles; 20120 Cortez Boulevard, Brooksville, Florida 34601; 352.593.4176

    With nearby camping, a closed, paved trail for road riding, and over 50 miles of every type of mountain bike terrain you can imagine, Croom holds a special place in the Florida mountain biking scene. Though never too technical, the sheer distance you can cover and the heights you can climb (almost 2,200 vertical feet altogether), Croom can sneak up and bite you. Croom also has Florida scenery at every turn, with sandy cabbage palm trails, pine-covered single track, and cypress-knotted creek bottoms, Croom is a great weekend getaway for families and for the hardcore kneepad-wearing crew.

    Jimmie Cotton’s Trail

    Nearest City: Fort Meade
    Difficulty:
    Expert
    Distance:
    7 miles (Doesn’t meet the 10+-mile criteria, but let’s make it an honorable mention.)
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    Road and Trail Bicycles; 5113 US Highway 98 South, Lakeland, Florida 33812; 863.937.8058

    Situated between two retired phosphate mines, Jimmie Cotton’s Trail offers some of the hardest and most technical elements of Florida mountain biking. Due to its short distance and technical pieces, to ride Jimmie Cotton’s Trail requires an invite from the Ridge Riders Mountainbike Association.

    Loyce E. Harpe Park (Carter Road Mountain Biking)

    Nearest City: Mulberry
    Difficulty:
    Beginner to Expert, Hard Intermediate
    Distance:
    12 miles
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    Road and Trail Bicycles; 5113 US Highway 98 South, Lakeland, Florida 33812; 863.937.8058

    Couched right in the middle of a sports complex, the Carter Road Mountain Bike system is mapped out through an old phosphate mine. Though a small system, Carter has some surprisingly challenging sections in the Fingers. The coolest part of Carter, though, is that most of its harder trails come off a connecting beginner to intermediate trail that allows parties of all abilities to rider together, though the less experienced may have to wait while the experts get their thrills on the challenging offshoots.

    Santos

    Nearest City: Ocala
    Difficulty:
    Beginner to OMG are you kidding, Intermediate
    Distance:
    85+ miles
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    Santos Bike Shop; 8924 US-441, Ocala, FL 34480; 352.307.2453

    Santos is the center of the Florida mountain biking scene and arguably one of the best trail systems on the East Coast. Santos has everything for every level and every rider. From a jump section at the Vortex to miles and miles of flowing singletrack, Santos is all about discovering what makes you happy.

    Balm Boyette Scrub Preserve

    Nearest City: Wimauma
    Difficulty:
    Beginner to Expert, intermediate
    Distance:
    38 miles
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    Flying Fish Bicycles; 2409 S MacDill Ave, Tampa, FL 33629; 813.839.0410

    One of the best-kept secrets in Florida. Most riders have heard of it, but its bigger, more popular cousin to its east, Alafia River State Park, gets most of the recognition and attention. Boyette is known as a shredder’s haven, but it does have a long 12+-mile loop for beginners. Boyette, though right on the way to Alafia, is often overlooked due to its nondescript parking lot and lack of big signs. If you stop in for Alafia, add an extra day to your itinerary and check out Boyette; you’ll be very happy you did.

    Alafia River State Park

    Nearest City: Lithia
    Difficulty:
    Beginner to expert, intermediate
    Distance:
    20+ miles
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    Flying Fish Bicycles; 2409 S MacDill Ave, Tampa, FL 33629; 813.839.0410

    Santos often gets most of the kudos for Florida trials, but Alafia River State Park is also designated an IMBA Epic trail. Riding into the park, you quickly understand why. Shaded, twisty, up and down, rocky, rooted, great wood features, and miles and miles of all types of terrain. Alafia is a mountain biking haven and also has a mechanic shop and rental place on site. Parking is easy access to the trailhead, and the community at Alafia is tight. If you really want to open up with the speed, the weekdays year-round are uncrowded and allow you to try sections over and over until you get them nailed. This is a technical trail system, but it has something for all comers.

     

    EAST CENTRAL

    Orlando Wetlands Park

    Nearest City: Christmas
    Difficulty:
    Beginner to Intermediate, Beginner
    Distance:
    18 miles
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    Retro City Cycles; 1810 N. Orange Avenue, Orlando, Florida, 32804; 407.895.2700

    Orlando Wetlands Park is the perfect place to get the family into the bike saddle and onto the trail. Maintained by the Orlando City Parks and Recreation service, the Orlando Wetlands Park bike trails wind their way around well-maintained wetlands. The park is a great place to stretch your legs and see some of the critters that call Florida’s wetlands their home.

    Chuck Lennon Trails

    Nearest City: Deland
    Difficulty:
    Beginner to Expert, Hard Intermediate
    Distance:
    10.5 miles
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    DeLand Cyclery; 111 W Indiana Ave  DeLand, FL 32720; 386.822.9422

    The Chuck Lennon Trails are quickly building themselves a reputation for technical and fun Florida mountain biking. Though most websites say that Chuck Lennon has beginner trails, the vast majority of the park is for intermediate to very skilled riders. The trail system has a pump track, a dirt jump section, and plenty of wood features on the trails that can challenge the best riders. If you’re up for a challenge, please check out Chuck Lennon Trails.

    Malabar Scrub Sanctuary

    Nearest City: Malabar
    Difficulty:
    Beginner to Expert, easy intermediate
    Distance:
    10 miles
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    Infinity Bike Shop; 804 East Hibiscus Boulevard, Melbourne, Fl 32901; 321.984.4193

    Though the technical aspects of this system are weak, If you carry speed through the system’s sugar sands, the switchbacks and tight turns can challenge your bike-handling skills. The system is maintained by the Brevard County Parks and Recreations, and this is a fully multi-use park with a large wetlands and an ecological education program. Be mindful and be an ambassador for the sport, and enjoy the ride for its wealth of nature and fun speed sections.

    Grapefruit Trails

    Nearest City: Palm Bay
    Difficulty:
    Expert
    Distance:
    ~3 miles
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    Infinity Bike Shop; 804 East Hibiscus Boulevard, Melbourne, Fl 32901; 321.984.4193

    The Grapefruit trail system doesn’t have much in the way of cross-country riding, but it makes up for it in technical riding and jumps. This is an expert-only trail, not for the faint of heart. Visit Grapefruit only with your A-game or if you have a camera and are ready to watch some real shredders tear up the dirt track.

    Halpatiokee

    Nearest City: Stuart
    Difficulty:
    Beginner to Intermediate, Easy intermediate
    Distance:
    11 miles
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    Beyond Bikes; 2044 SE Federal Highway, Stuart, Fl 34994; 772.781.2565

    This is a great place to stretch your legs and go for speed. Very light on the technical side, but worthy of a couple of rides on a cyclocross bike. The trail system here is in a regional park and the trails are well maintained. Most of your challenge here will be quick switchbacks or sweeping turns. This is the place to get a good cardio workout, while seeing old time Florida sights.

     

    SOUTHWEST

    Caloosahatchee Regional Park

    Nearest City: Alva
    Difficulty:
    Beginner to Intermediate, Beginner
    Distance:
    10 miles of Singletrack
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    Coastline Cyclery; 10654 Colonial Blvd Unit 3, Fort Myers, FL 33913; 239.288.4819

    The park is part of the Lee County park system and offers a family friendly mountain bike system. The trail is mostly defined by its narrow, sandy single track, with some areas offering a bit more challenge with cypress knots, roots, and rocks to wend around. Perfect for groups with younger riders in tow or those just wanting to get some shade-lined miles in.

    T. Mabry Carlton Jr. Memorial Reserve

    Nearest City: Venice      
    Difficulty:
    Beginner to intermediate
    Distance:
    33 miles
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    Bicycles International; 1744 S Tamiami Trail, Venice, FL 34293; 941.497.1590

    The scrub brush and fast hardback covered with soft sand challenges your handling skills in the turns. This is a growing gem and the Sarasota Off Road Riders are doing it complete justice.

    Boldly Go

    Nearest City: Venice
    Difficulty:
    Beginner to intermediate
    Distance:
    10 miles
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    Bicycles International; 1744 S Tamiami Trail, Venice, FL 34293; 941.497.1590

    The challenge with this trail is the speed you can carry into tight, sandy, pine needle-covered switchbacks and turns. The trail is well maintained, and most riders here have a sense of mountain biking community. Boldly Go is a great place to introduce a new mountain biker to the scene, but make sure they stay a bit right of the trail because there are a few really fast mountain bikers and cyclocrossers who use the trail for speed training.

     

    SOUTHEAST

    Fort Pierce Mountain Bike Trail

    Nearest City: Fort Pierce
    Difficulty:
    Intermediate to Expert, Intermediate
    Distance:
    10 miles
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    Treasure Coast Cyclewerks; 8611 U.S. Highway 1, Port St Lucie, Fl 34952; 772.446.7771

    FTP is one of the coolest trails in Florida, and probably the best trail system in Southeast Florida. Winding its way through citrus and palm groves, the trail’s sand and wood features can give you a real workout on twisting and diving paths. One of the coolest features of this system? It goes under Interstate 95 a number of times, giving riders a break from the intense sun but also some great drops under the road. Access is by membership only, but your membership to Airborne Mountain Bike Group pays for trail maintenance for FTP and Halpatiokee and Grassy Island.

    Camp Murphy Trails at Jonathan Dickinson State Park

    Nearest City: Hobe Sound
    Difficulty:
    Beginner to Expert, Intermediate
    Distance:
    10 miles
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    Beyond Bikes; 2044 SE Federal Highway, Stuart, Fl 34994; 772.781.2565

    Some places just have a welcoming and family vibe to them and the Camp Murphy Trails at Jonathan Dickinson State Park is one. Fast and flowing, the trail is well maintained and the system has everything from flat, well-packed easy trails for the youngest in your family to a two-mile black diamond section with great opportunities for big airs. Come stoked, but bring your waves because the mountain bike community here values fun and family over attitudes.

    Oleta River State Park

    Nearest City: Bal Harbour
    Difficulty:
    Beginner to hard Intermediate, Intermediate
    Distance:
    14 miles
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    Fusion Pro Bike Shop; 14811 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, Fl 33181; 305.944.1280

    Great mountain biking not far from Miami. Though there is little climbing, the roots and rocks in this system can give even the most experienced mountain biker a time. The trails are well marked and mostly wind through a dense overhead canopy, limiting sun exposure, but are not as well maintained as some other state park trail systems. For the most part, the trails lend themselves to beginner ratings, but a couple of sections, like Gilligans, can get the adrenaline flowing and the lungs burning.

    Amelia Earhart Park

    Nearest City: Miami
    Difficulty:
    Intermediate to Expert, Hard Intermediate
    Distance:
    8 miles
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    Fusion Pro Bike Shop; 14811 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, Fl 33181; 305.944.1280

    Though most trail rating systems give Amelia Earhart Park a beginner to intermediate rating, don’t be fooled. Due to its proximity to Miami and some of the leftover asphalt from Miami Airport construction, this system has some diehard aggressive riders and some challenging jumps and obstacles for even the expert rider. This is one of the crown jewels of Florida mountain biking and can leave some riders feeling they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. It’s a hard course with some great places for monstrous air and flow. This course requires speed and lots of it.

    Markham Park Mountain Bike Trails

    Nearest City: Weston
    Difficulty:
    Beginner to Expert, Intermediate
    Distance:
    14 miles
    Nearest Bike Shop:
    Alex’s Bicycle Pro Shop; 16098 W State Rd 84 #3, Weston, FL 33326; 954.990.0836

    This is a true mountain biking haven. The park is dedicated to mountain biking, and the park’s mountain biking community is welcoming and inclusive. The park has trails for all comers, including adaptive and disabled cyclists. The Markham Park Mountain Bike Trials are defined by step drops, twisty and fast technical turns, and some of the best wood features in Florida mountain biking.

    Places to Remember

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