A few weeks ago contributor Sarah Hansen covered the 13 Top Paved Bike Trails of Florida’s West Coast and we promised she'd be back with trails on the East Coast soon, so here we go.
1) Jacksonville-Baldwin Trail
This 14.5 mile trail from Jacksonville to Baldwin winds through the woods providing plenty of shade (always a big benefit in Florida) and is packed full of natural beauty of pine flat woods, hardwood uplands, and wetlands. It follows one of northern Florida's oldest rail trails. The Imeson Road Trailhead, closest to Jacksonville, has restroom facilities and also parallels a separate equestrian trail. Midway through the ride, you can stop at Camp Milton Historic Preserve rest area to brush up on your history and explore the largest encampment of Confederate troops during the Civil War. Take time to experience a re-creation of the late 19th-century homestead, remains of defensive structures, an arboretum, and a replica bridge. Just to make sure you have plenty of energy for exploring, both the Jacksonville and Baldwin endpoints have plenty of restaurants and convenience stores.
2) West Orange Trail
Just 15 minutes northwest of downtown Orlando, this 22-mile trail is popular for people wanting a little bit of everything. This trail showcases Florida's past and present, taking the traveler through 1950s communities that developed around the Orange Belt Railway, and through more metropolitan areas as well. Killarney Station anchors the southern trailhead and allows visitors an opportunity to rent bikes and fill up their water bottles. The trail then flows northeast through the quiet community of Oakland, and then hits downtown Winter Garden where the trail takes bikers down Plant Street for some window shopping and dining. You can then enjoy more natural scenery as the next 10 miles consist of wooded areas and orange groves. The next point of interest is the fast-growing area of Apopka. Then it's a quick cross at US 441, and another three miles on North Park Avenue before coming to an end on East Welch Road. This trail is a great way to take a break from city life, but still keep the benefits of shopping and dining on the table.
3) General James A. Van Fleet State Trail
If you want a more rural biking experience to immerse yourself in wetlands and wildlife, then this is the trail for you! The entire 29.2 miles has only one curve, so it is popular with time trial cyclists. You can speed through the straight road to get your heart rate going, or slow down and take in the peaceful former citrus lands and cattle ranches. The Green Swamp, one of Florida's protected wetlands and a popular place for paddling, takes up about a third of the trail and offers plenty of opportunities to see Florida's many birds, feral pigs, armadillos, tortoises, and alligators. An equestrian trail parallels the paved path, so you may also see a few riders accompany you as you enjoy nature's beauty together. The trail begins at Polk City north and takes you to the town of Maybel on State Route 50. This trail is open during hunting season, so don't forget your florescent orange vest if you go during this time.
4) Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail
For the bikers who want a true adventure, the 106-mile trek from Key Largo to Key West is your ticket! With 23 rail bridges, the longest of which is seven miles, beautiful nature areas, and historic sites, this will be a major attraction for tourists and Floridians alike. This trail is actually a part of the much bigger East Coast Greenway, which is a developing bike trail system spanning nearly 3,000 miles along the east coast of the US between Canada and Key West. While the entire trail in Florida is not completed yet, you can still enjoy 72 miles of paved trail. Those wanting to complete all of the mileage may do so, but the sections that are still unfinished will cause you to move to the highway and share the road with motorists. The Heritage Trail parallels the scenic US Highway 1. The longest completed paved section of the trail runs between Mile Marker 106 in Key Largo and Mile Marker 72 in Islamorada. Among the many attractions seen among the way is the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the nation's first undersea park. The course is sunny, so pack the sunscreen if you will be biking for a longer stretch. When the entire project is finished, this will be a destination ride for cyclists from all over the world.
5) South Dade Rail Trail
Follow the old Florida East Coast Railway rail corridor for 20.5 miles from Miami to Homestead, FL on this charming urban rail trail. You will feel the beat of urban life through Miami with shopping and dining opportunities, and relax through the more rural areas of Homestead. Urban commuters seeking relief from congestion on US Highway 1 often use this trail, as it parallels the road. Also, if you don't want to bike back, Miami-Dade Metro buses provide cycling racks. So, relax on the air-conditioned bus ride back! You've earned it!
The 10.5-mile Metropath, or M-path, is one of Florida's older rail trails built atop the Florida East Coast Railway in Miami. The M-path generally follows US 1 (South Dixie Highway) and crosses 28 intersections. Just north of the Dadeland South metrorail station, at Kendall Drive, the paved path continues south as the South Dade Trail, which stretches an additional 20.5 miles to Florida City.
7) A1A Bicycle Path
This 19.5-mile ride of ocean views and barrier ecosystems begins at Marineland. It then follows A1A along the entire southern portion of the scenic section to the southern end of the Byway. You will cruise through trails within parks and traverse the Hammock Dunes Bridge and the bridge at State Road 100.
8) Seminole-Wekiva Trial
From tree-lined neighborhood roads draped with Spanish Moss to the suburban hustle, this 14-mile bike path is one of Seminole County's showcase trails. You begin at Altamonte Springs across a wooden bridge at San Sebastián Prado trailhead. Then, you traverse quiet neighborhoods with plenty of shade from tree canopies for the first seven miles. Pack a ball or frisbee for your trip, because you can then can take a break at the Seminole County Softball complex and enjoy open ball fields and park space. North of mile seven, you will move from relaxation of quiet neighborhoods to the pulse of urban setting. For the next three miles, you can enjoy shopping, dining, and restroom options as you skirt the International Parkway business corridor. At mile marker nine, you can take a trail spur to a pedestrian bridge over 1-4 that then joins to the Cross-Seminole Trail. The final four miles bring you back to scenery from the trail's beginning of wooded, peaceful neighborhoods before ending at Markham Road trailhead.
9) Cady Way Trail
The completed Phase 1 section of the trail is 6.5 miles long and provides a great way for cyclists to link neighborhoods among shopping and business districts in Orlando. It runs from the intersection of Almoa Avenue and Howell Branch Road west and south to Colonial Town Center. You will experience views in Baldwin Park of architecture reminiscent of the pre-1940's era of Central Florida. There are plans for a Phase II of the trail, which will extend it and additional 30 miles through Orange and Seminole Counties.
10) Little Econ Greenway
Another gem in the crown of Orlando's many beautiful biking trails following the Econlockhatchee River, the Little Econ Greenway is a great trail to decompress from city life. While there are plans to extend the trail, it is currently 7.5 miles long and a very scenic ride for beginners. It begins near the corner of Alafaya and Lokanotosa Trail, then winds through Jay Blanchard Park, before ending in Forsyth Road.
11) Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail (a.k.a “LOST”)
This 110-mile trail encircling Lake Okeechobee is a great ride, but not recommended for beginners or the faint of heart. Almost half of the trail is paved and the rest consists of gravel roadway on top of the Herbert Hoover Dike. If you enjoy fishing, bring along your pole. You will pass plenty of great fishing holes to drop a line and see what is biting, while enjoying scenic views from the dike. Remember the binoculars to spy on the herons, egrets, and a variety of wintering waterfowl. You will be riding the second largest lake in the contiguous US, and there isn't a lot of opportunity for water stops or shade, so plan accordingly.
12) Oleta River State Park Trail
Just north of Miami, this trail is located just off the banks of the Oleta River and Intercoastal Waterway. You can ride the 3-mile paved trail, or bring the mountain bikes to take on the 14-mile off road adventure. You will leave the beat of the city behind as you bike through lush vegetation through mangrove swamps and pine trees. If you enjoy bird watching, there are plenty of opportunities to see water birds. You will also pass rustic cabins and a small swimming beach along the way.
It's time to start exploring all Florida has to offer, and your experience wouldn't be complete without a journey through a few of these spectacular biking destinations. So find your coolest bike shades, get the spokes humming, and cycle your way to amazing adventure through the eastern and central parts of the Sunshine State.
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