With all the sunshine Florida has to offer, what better way to experience the amazing weather and scenery than from the humming wheels of a bicycle? Florida also happens to be the flattest state in the US, so with few pesky hills to raise the heart rate too high, anyone can experience the amazing beauty from a bike. Here are some of the most popular paved biking trails for the adventurous bikers who want to go green to explore the many features of Florida's west coast.
1) Suncoast Trail
The 42 miles of paved bike trails stretches from Land O' Lakes to Brooksville and parallels the Suncoast Parkway toll road. It is a great choice for a leisurely and educational day, as it has plenty of resting spots and markers explaining historical significance of certain locations, as well as native species identification to give some background on any forest creatures you may encounter.
2) Upper Tampa Bay Trail
This seven-mile trail takes you from the quaint community of Town ‘N Country to Citrus Park. As is typical of many bike trails, this bike path follows a former railroad corridor. Some great features of this trail are the wooden suspension bridge overlaying the former railroad bridge timbers that cross Rocky Creek, the Town ‘N Country Preserve, a YMCA, and shopping at the Citrus Park Town Center.
3) Pinellas Trail
I frequented this urban rail-trail often, as it was close to my home. With 38 miles of paved easy riding through scenic coastal views, parks, and towns, you can't go wrong. This trail is a great alternative to driving your car around Florida's busier areas, and stretches from St. Petersburg up to Tarpon Springs. It is paved and safely crosses busy streets via eight overpasses. Another perk of being on a bike – you don't have to worry about finding a parking spot when hitting up the amazing Greek restaurants in Tarpon Springs. Some great trail spurs are Honeymoon Island State Park (2.7 miles north of Dunedin) and Anclote River (just past Tarpon Springs).
4) Legacy Trail / Venetian Waterway Trail Park
Legacy Trail is one of the most enjoyable biking trails in Florida. Stretching from Sarasota to Venice, it has an extremely rural feel combined with a well-maintained paved road, water, and rest benches located every mile. It is extremely flat and straight, and is also popular with walkers, joggers, and skaters. This 11-mile trail then connects to the Venetian Waterway Park Trail close to the historic Venice Trail Station. The Venetian Waterway Park Trail runs for another 10 miles west to east from Caspersen Beach on the west side (one of my favorite places to look for shark's teeth) to Shamrock Park and Nature Center on the east. The only downside of this trail is there is less shade, so it's best attempted during the cooler months.
5) Sanibel Island
Bike trails covering an entire natural island? Yes please! Sanibel trips were some of my favorite getaways to decompress when life got a bit stressful. With over 22 miles of trails leading to natural beaches, a wildlife refuge, a lighthouse, gardens, restaurants, and shopping, this little island had all the things my heart desired. Don't forget your camera! It's worth packing for this trip.
6) Shark Valley Trail, Everglades
Want to get personal with Florida's most recognized symbol – the alligator? Then this is your trail! Shark Valley is literally one of the most unforgettable rides in America. You can bike with, and around, these huge reptiles and other wildlife in Florida's Everglades. Located off Tamiami Trail (US 41) close to the Miccosukee Indian Reserve west of Miami, this is a 14.5-mile nature loop. You can rent bikes at the information center, or bring your own. The loop ends at the 65-foot observation tower, where you can enjoy the panoramic views of the River of Grass. For a special treat on full moon nights, ride to the observation tower, watch the sunset, then ride back in the moonlight. You won't need a light on clear nights, as the River of Grass will reflect the moon back beautifully for a truly memorable experience. In cooler months, bike groups often bike this trail together at night, so you won't be alone for this truly unforgettable evening.
7) Withlacoochee State Trail
The trail is in great shape and offers 46 scenic miles through small towns and the Withlacoochee State Forest. The old railroad trail runs from just south of Trilby to Citrus Springs with very few crossings of traffic areas. You will experience lake and river views, parks to have a picnic in the shade, or more urban areas to hit up the shops and dining. From the peace of nature to the conveniences of small town riding and dining, this trail has something for everyone.
8) Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail
For those who want to bike in a more natural setting with a few rolling hills, this is a great trail to visit. The 16-miles of paved trail begins at the Boulware Springs Park in Gainesville, and then takes you through the Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park and the Lochloosa Wildlife Management area, before ending in the small town of Hawthorn. You can take a small detour down a paved spur to the Paynes Prairie overlook. You can also bring an off-road bike or tie up your bike and hike the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Park Trail, which is an unpaved hiking trail that loops south of the paved bike trail.
9) Tallahassee-St. Mark's Historic Railroad State Trail
Have breakfast in the state capital of Tallahassee and then bike to the coastal city of St. Marks for a seafood lunch. The 20.5-miles of trail has a rich history, originally utilized to bring cotton from plantation areas of Florida to ship to textile mills in England. This was also the first rail-trail in Florida to be paved. At the main trailhead, you can detour down hiking trails through the Apalachicola National Forest for extra adventure.
10) Blackwater Heritage State Trail
History lovers will enjoy this trail, which winds through the old town of Milton, then extends eight miles north to join up with the US Navy's 1.5-mile Military Heritage Trail. You will enjoy Florida's outdoor beauty traveling over wooden bridges crossing creek beds with plenty of wildflowers along the way.
11) Timpoochee Trail
With ocean breezes and beach town vibes, this trail traces scenic highway 30-A from Dune Allen to Inlet Beach. You will experience views of sand dunes, the Gulf of Mexico, marsh lakes, and costal neighborhoods for the 19-mile journey. There are plenty of places to stop to rest along the way or enjoy beach dining, so don't worry if you forget the trail mix.
12) Nature Coast State Trail
This trail offers a great opportunity to experience 32 miles of natural northern Florida. Bikers can follow the historic path of the Atlantic Coastline Railroad along two primary routes that connect the communities of Cross City, Trenton, Fanning Springs, and Chiefland. Some of the highlights of the trail are the historic Truss Bridge across the Suwannee River and old train stations at Trenton, Cross City, and Chiefland.
13) Gasparilla Island-Boca Grande Trail
Located on the outskirts of Gasparilla Island, the 6.5-mile well-manicured trail is the backbone of the town of Boca Grande. This is a trail that deserves your time, so leisure bikes are your best option to slow down and smell the flowers and salty sea air. If you want to make a day of it, wear swimsuits and bring beach gear, as you are never far from the water on this ride. There are several places to access the beautiful gulf beach to swim, but you can also see mangrove coves, a lighthouse, and charming neighborhoods with options for dining. Just watch out for the iguanas, as they like to sunbathe on the trail.
Western Florida has many more bike trails, but these are my favorite paved options. The Sunshine State has a lot to offer bikers, with temperate year-round sunny weather and amazing scenery. Make sure to experience a different side of this great state from your bike, try out one of these unique trails, and make unforgettable memories along the way.