Undiscovered Florida Cycling Trails
Think you've cycled all of Florida's trails? Think again. Remote trails, out-of-the-way paths and newly constructed routes mean there's always a fresh and exciting ride waiting. Check out some of Florida's hidden gems, from the Keys to the Emerald Coast and everywhere in between.
A ride along the 19-mile Timpoochee Trail (the bike path along Scenic 30A) in Walton County will make it clear why the area is referred to as the Emerald Coast. The paved pathway meanders through the popular beach towns of Dune Allen, Santa Rosa Beach, Blue Mountain Beach, Grayton Beach, WaterColor, Seaside, Seagrove, Seacrest and Rosemary Beach, staying on the beachside of the highway. Stunning marsh lakes, spectacular dunes and views of the - you guessed it - emerald Gulf waters make the ride a popular one for families and couples. Visitors can pick up the path anywhere along Scenic Hwy. 30-A. For more information call Visit South Walton at 800-822-6877.
Located in Tallahassee and Leon County, east of Capital Circle Northeast and running parallel with one of the beautiful canopy roads, is the Miccosukee Canopy Road Greenway. This linear park encompasses just over 500 acres of land and has a 7.5-mile, multi-use trail extending from end to end and an additional seven miles of inner looping/parallel trails. Users of the facility enjoy a wide array of activities including bicycling, hiking, running, horseback riding, walking dogs, kite flying, picnicking and other intermittent day uses. In addition, a 2.5-mile segment of the trail has recently been improved, providing better access and surface for users with disabilities.
To the east, the West Orange Trail offers 22 miles of relaxing, rural riding just a few miles from the frenzied excitement of Disney World. The paved rail-trail runs from Apopka to the Lake County line, passing through the communities of Winter Garden and Apopka. The well-equipped trail not only features frequent restrooms and picnic areas, it also boasts a Florida-friendly/butterfly garden located a mile or so from the Oakland trailhead. For more information, call 407-654-1108.
Lake views are the main attraction of the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail, or LOST. Remote and sparsely populated, with the exception of several detours to adjacent roads to get past water control structures and a four mile segment near Fisheating Creek where Hwy 78 must be used, the only traffic cyclists encounter on the 110-mile, partly paved loop is caused by birds, armadillos and 'gators. There are two paved segments: 26 miles from the Kissimmee River east then south to Port Mayaca and 36 miles from Moore Haven to Pahokee. The remainder is crushed gravel. The trail is located atop the Herbert Hoover Dike, affording fantastic views of area agriculture, canal-front homes and the second largest freshwater lake inside the United States. While services are available in Old Florida lakeside towns like Clewiston and Okeechobee, riders are recommended to bring extra water and a spare tire or two - not to mention a fishing pole. Call the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at 863-983-8101 or call the Florida Trail Association at 877-HIKEFLA for more information. Currently sections of LOST are closed while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conduct maintenance and rehabilitation. Visit www.saj.usace.army.mil for details.
Less remote, but equally under-appreciated, the Gasparilla Island-Boca Grande Trail offers an excellent mix of seclusion and services packaged in a comfortable 6.5-mile trail. Gulf breezes cut the temperature on the well-paved pathway, while lush vegetation makes for relaxing scenery. Starting at the Lighthouse Museum at the southern tip of Boca Grande, cyclists can head north, passing under a canopy of Banyan trees. Lush vegetation blankets the island, providing excellent cover for the multitudes of wild iguanas who have taken up permanent residence on the key during the warmest summer months (keep an eye out for them on the path -- they're not the brightest creatures). If one elects to do the entire 13-mile round trip, be sure to stop and congratulate yourself with a cold drink or ice cream cone in downtown Boca Grande, a mix of charming restaurants, shops and upscale boutiques. Call 941-964-2667 to learn more.
For more advanced island adventure, dedicated cyclists should head south to the Florida Keys, where the ultimate biking trail is currently under construction. The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail features more than 70 miles of trail paved in segments along a planned 106-mile corridor from Key Largo to Key West, utilizing remaining sections of the historical Flagler Railroad Bridges, as well as newly constructed pathways. The trail will include cultural, ecological and historical information sites, though unparalleled vistas of mangrove dotted backwaters and shimmering seas will no doubt make focusing on anything other than the scenery quite difficult. Call The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail office at 305-853-3571 for the most current trail information.