Here in Florida, we struggle with the unfair notion that everything is pancake flat. But a mountain bike adventure on the SWAMP club-maintained Croom trails will surely leave riders thinking otherwise.
Located near Brooksville, the Croom trails are sited on a former phosphate mine north of Tampa. They promise off-roaders tight technical turns, nail-biting descents and thigh-burning climbs. But the area is known and loved most for mile upon mile of flowing single-track riding through a forest of oak hammocks, longleaf pine, palmetto scrub and wildlife. And unlike some other Florida mountain biking trails, rain can improve conditions in Croom – packing down the sandy trails.
Two loop trails, with connectors, add up to 55 miles of riding, making Croom the longest contiguous singletrack mountain bike trail in Florida. It’s a well-used proving ground for riders of all skill levels, not to mention a spot where adventure racers head to get in strenuous training rides.
While 55 miles is more than most of us can do in a day, you’ll find plenty of trailheads to break things into shorter rides. By using the red trails – the connecters-- you can ride seven, 12, 20, 25, 35 or 42 miles.
What to Expect
The trails are generally well packed, but be ready for some sandy sections and uphill battles in some areas.
While mostly forested, the trail can get quite a bit of sun, especially in the more open pine flatwoods, which makes up the bulk of the Withlacoochee State Forest. The trails are uncrowded, and even if a couple of the trailheads are full you might not see anyone while riding.
Cheers to the Club
You can enjoy the Croom network of trails thanks to cooperation between the Division of Forestry and the SWAMP club -- the South West Association of Mountain Biking Pedalers-- whose members marked, mapped and continue to maintain the trails. With some 700 members and in existence since the early 1990s, the club labors to maintain four off-road trail systems in the Tampa Bay region, including Croom, the Alafia River State Park Trail, Balm Boyette Scrub Preserve Trail, and Wilderness Park Trails, which include contiguous trails between three parks.
The club stages frequent meetings, rides and clinics, inviting folks to ‘leave your troubles at home and reconnect with nature.’ Here’s more about their mission, volunteer opportunities and events.
One of SWAMP’s big annual events is The Croom 35/50 Mile Florida Mountain Bike Challenge. It pedals into town every February, drawing hundreds of people from around the state and nation.
Other Ways to Get Wild in Withlacoochee
More outdoor recreation awaits near this state forest – dubbed one of the “Ten Coolest Places of North America” by the World Wildlife Fund –including camping, hiking, kayaking and horseback riding on the equestrian trails. If the off-road biking proves intimidating, you can opt for a spin on the 46-mile Withlacoochee State Trail, one of the longest paved trails in Florida, a relaxing ride that rolls through small towns and nature preserves.
When you go…
Helmets are required. Make sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, sunglasses, insect repellent and wear clothes appropriate for the weather.
For more information and directions to the access points to the Croom Tract, check out Withlacoochee State Forest.
For detailed maps, directions and trail descriptions from the SWAMP club visit swampmtbclub.com/croom.
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