Top 10 Paved Bike Trails in Florida

Paved Bike Trails

Thanks to the growing popularity of bicycling, Florida now offers some of the finest off-street, paved bike trails in America. For recreational cyclists who enjoy smooth, safe rides, with clean air in a natural environment, here is our list of the Top 10 Florida bike trails -- listed geographically from north to south.

1. Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail-Trail
Although just outside Jacksonville, Florida, this is an enjoyable 14.5 mile rural trail and very well maintained (kudos to the Florida Department of Transportation and Jacksonville-Baldwin Trail volunteers). While there are some open areas at either end, most of the trail is tree-lined, with little or no traffic noise.



2. Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail
The trail stretches 16 miles from the City of Gainesville's Boulware Spings Park through the Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park and the Lochloosa Wildlife Management Area and ends in the small town of Hawthorne. Mostly wooded and quiet, one small section includes a few winding curves and mildly challenging hills (for Florida). A paved spur leads to a scenic Paynes Prairie overlook.

3. Town of Cedar Key
This is our top choice for small town bike rides. Listed on the National Historic Site Register, Cedar Key is what Key West was 75 years ago. For the laid-back traveler, this is the perfect stop - a step back into Old Florida. Bikes are a great way to get around.

4. Withlacoochee State Trail
This is a 46-mile paved rail trail that goes through small towns, the Withlacoochee State Forest and other natural areas. It offers a variety of recreational opportunities, with parks, river and lake views. Food and drink is available in the small towns along the trail. For a taste of "old Florida," stop at the Istachatta General Store, south of Floral City.

5. West Orange Trail
Popular for all types of biking, the West Orange trail is a world-class rail trail through urban and suburban sections of Orange County, FL. Winter Garden is a prime example of how a well-maintained rail-trail can revitalize an "old Florida" downtown. Bike rentals are available at a Trail Outpost, and at this writing, two bike shops in Winter Garden. This trail is close to Disney and other area attractions.

6. General James A. Van Fleet State Trail
Totally rural and mostly within forest, the Van Fleet trail 29 miles with one curve and no hills. The rail-trail runs on an old Seaboard Air Line Railroad right-of-way through the Green Swamp, the headwater of Florida's aquifer. While crossing three bridges over the headwaters of the Withlacoochee River, check for alligators and other wildlife.

7. Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail
An urban rail-trail with about 100,000 users each month, this popular 38 mile bikeway links some of Pinellas County's finest parks, scenic coastal areas, and residential neighborhoods. The Pinellas Trail is a member of the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame.

8. Legacy Trail
The Legacy Trail runs from south Sarasota to Venice along an old Seaboard Air Line Railroad corridor. The bike trail passes through Oscar Scherer State Park, continuing on to Venice, where it connects near the historic Venice Train Station to Venetian Waterway Park. Popular with bikers, joggers, walkers, and rollerbladers, together these recreational trails have something for everyone - scenery, forest, waterways, parks, beaches and history.

9. Sanibel Island Bike Paths
Sanibel Island features 22 miles of paved trails, including the Rabbit Road Trail, Dixie Beach Road, Middle Gulf Cemetery Route, and Bailey Road-Dunes Circle. Cyclists also can ride Wildlife Drive, a 4.3-mile limestone road through the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Stop at the Sanibel Visitors Center and pick up a biking brochure. Trails lead to the lighthouse, beaches, restaurants, and shopping. Rental shops are popular. Sometimes there are more bicycles than cars plying the Sanibel Island.

10. Shark Valley, Everglades National Park
The American alligator is a symbol of Florida. On this ride, you literally bike with (and around) many of these awesome symbols. You'll also see a variety of birds, turtles, and small fish. Located off the Tamiami Trail (US 41) near the Miccosukee Indian Reservation west of Miami, Shark Valley is a 14.5 mile paved loop. Bikes can be rented at the information center, or bring your own.

Conclusion
Picking just 10 wasn't easy. Our criteria include paved surfaces, fresh air, unique scenery, and wildlife. Most trails listed are ideal for comfort bikes and cruisers, hybrids, recumbent bicycles, and tandems. Other than occasional road crossings, most avoid motor traffic, noise, and fumes. Bicycle repair shops and rentals have sprung up along many of Florida's urban bike trails, along with restaurants catering to hungry bikers. Enjoy the ride.


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