Last updated on February 24th, 2021 at 08:15 am
From the Keys to Jacksonville, here are the best Florida bike trails.
Florida bike trails SHOULD be the best in the country. With year-round biking weather, plenty of natural beauty and a flat terrain that makes bicycling easy, the region should be bicyclist heaven.
Sadly, you have to search for good bike trails in South Florida; a region that is over-developed with roads and buildings, but the situation is better in Central Florida and northern half of the state.
I’ve been tracking down bike trails in Florida for the last 30 years. While the number of trails is limited, some of them are as scenic, historic and downright fun as you can find. They’re good for visitors, who can rent bikes at many locations, and some are safe enough for families.
For years, my husband and I have strapped our bikes to our car and headed out on weekends to explore Florida by bike. We are recreational bicyclists, not athletes or 50-milers. The ideal bike ride for me is somewhere between 5 and 15 miles long. I like trails that eliminate the worries and dangers of vehicles, and I like to bicycle places where there is scenery to enjoy, maybe stops to make along the way.
Here’s my list of best Florida bike trails — and they’re not listed in order of quality. This listed started with my region of Florida, South Florida, where I’ve had the greatest opportunity to bicycle. In most cases, more details is available if you click through to the full story on the individual bike trail.
South Florida bike trails
I think the best bike trail in all South Florida is Shark Valley. Shark Valley, the entrance to Everglades National Park off the Tamiami Trail directly west of Miami, is such a reliably wonderful outing that it’s one of my favorite places to take visitors. It has a smooth 15-mile paved loop trail through Everglades National Park with no traffic. It’s 20 feet wide and after the first mile, you’ll have it largely to yourself. (A tram travels the same road, but it will pass you three or four times in an afternoon’s ride.) I’ve written about the Shark Valley trail before and you’ll find the details here.
Who will most enjoy this bike trail? If you’re a visitor to South Florida, this is an ideal introduction to the Everglades and you can rent bikes right there. It also lends itself to families because of the lack of traffic. Even long-distance bicyclists will like it because of its length and quality of the trail. (The faster you go, though, the fewer animals you’ll see.)
The Lake Trail in Palm Beach is a 5-mile paved bike path away from traffic through the backyards of millionaires. The trail runs between magnificent mansions and their private docks on the Intracoastal with postcard-like scenery. You pass a few historic buildings and get glimpses into exclusive backyards. Here are details about the Lake Trail in Palm Beach.
Who will most enjoy this bike trail? This should appeal to visitors who want to gawk at Palm Beach mansions and there is a bike shop nearby where you can rent bikes. It’s good for families because of the lack of traffic. And it’s an ideal bike ride for folks who want to pair it with a visit to the Henry Flagler Museum (Whitehall) or lunch in Palm Beach.
Old Cutler Trail in Miami
The Old Cutler Trail in Coral Gables takes you through some of the most beautiful neighborhoods in the Miami area. The trail that doubles as the sidewalk along Old Cutler is not very wide and sometimes is rippled with tree roots or studded with obstacles. It needs maintenance. But it travels under a magnificent ficus tree canopy and passes parks and gardens for its 11-mile length.
One stop along the way is Matheson Hammock Park, a local treasure, which has a fabulous view of Miami’s skyline, a man-made atoll pool for swimming, plenty of shade and a marina. Inside the park is Red Fish Grill, a seafood restaurant in an historic coral rock building. You can extend your ride by biking the roads within the park. Nearby Fairchild Tropical Garden, which includes a rainforest and exotic plants from around the world, does not allow you to bicycle within its grounds.
A good place to start is the traffic circle where Old Cutler Road, Sunset Road, and LeJeune Road meet. Here’s a good PDF map of the trail.
Who will most enjoy this bike trail? If you go for speed or distance, this isn’t for you: There are too many obstacles. This path would be good for families, particularly paired with exploring Matheson Hammock Park, and for leisurely explorers.
It’s hard to beat the scenery on the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail. Someday, the trail along the Overseas Highway will be completed and allow you to bicycle safely 106 miles through the Florida Keys. Several segments totaling 80 miles are completed now.
There are still issues with the Keys bike trails, however. When you get to some bridges, for example, the trail disappears and you’re suddenly driving on the shoulder beside traffic.
We have identified four sections of the Florida Keys Overseas Trail that make good safe day-trips: a 20-mile round trip in Islamorada, an 18-mile round trip in Long Key including over a 2-mile bike-and-pedestrians-only bridge, 30-miles roundtrip on the last stretch of the trail before Key West and a 14-mile round trip from the Old Seven Mile Bridge to Sombrero Beach. Here’s our complete guide to the trail and those segments.
Who will most enjoy this bike trail? Visitors to Florida will enjoy the scenery and history and you can rent bikes in Marathon The southern-most section of the trail, MM15 to 5, is perhaps the best and safest section.
Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys
Another great place to bicycle in the Keys is in Big Pine Key at Mile Marker 30. Big Pine Key is a large (for the Keys) residential community and it’s home to the tiny endangered Key deer. One-third of Big Pine Key is controlled by Fish and Wildlife Service to the benefit of the Key Deer. There’s a wide sidewalk/bike trail that runs parallel to the main road and the side roads have little traffic.
From US 1, turn north onto Key Deer Boulevard. After 2 miles, note the sign on the right for the Blue Hole, a scenic spot in the Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge. The Blue Hole is a former rock quarry and, as the only freshwater lake in the Keys, attracts wildlife including gators and deer.
I recommend you also head north on Watson Boulevard to No Name Key. You’ll pass the must-visit No Name Pub on your way to the minimally developed No Name Key, where Key deer are easily spotted at dawn and dusk. Here’s a report on our experience biking on No Name Key.
Who will most enjoy this bike route? This is for riders who want to explore without a trail and don’t mind watching out for a little residential traffic. Bringing kids along would work if you park at the bridge to No Name Key, because there is almost no traffic on that wild island, which is primarily a Key deer preserve. You can rent bikes at Big Pine Bicycle Center, 31 County Road, Big Pine Key, 305-872-0130.
Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail (LOST)
UPDATE: Much of this trail’s southern portion is closed for work on the dike. Check the construction update from the Army Corps.
Original report: Lake Okeechobee is ringed with a 110-mile long hiking/biking trail worthy of an expedition — the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail, or LOST for short. About 45 miles of the trail is paved and suitable for skinny-tire bikes. Located high on the 35-foot-tall Herbert Hoover Dike, the trail gives you a big view of sugar fields, wetlands and, in some places, the lake. In winter, you’re sure to see herons and egrets and wintering waterfowl. Armadillos, turtles, snakes and vultures are common sights.
The negatives: There is no shade, you can be exposed to strong winds and the scenery can get monotonous. ( I have biked and hiked the dike and never managed to actually SEE Lake Okeechobee. I knows it’s there, but if you’re on the west side, all you see is marshland.)
The positives: Solitude. Access points to the dike are far apart and you can go miles without seeing anyone. Some folks who have biked it say the 15-mile Clewiston to Moore Haven segment is the prettiest. The best views of the big lake are on the east and north side.
There are a variety of entrance points marked on the LOST trail map. The trail is open year round for a variety of uses including hiking, bicycling, birdwatching, fishing, and photography. Hunting is not permitted on any section of the trail.
If you’re a more serious longer-distance rider, you might want to look at this excellent information from palmbeachbiketours.com. This site has a useful unofficial map. There are 13 camping areas available.
Who will most enjoy this bike trail? Here’s one for folks who want to ride for miles and miles. While it’s safe for families, the lack of restrooms and the possibly monotonous scenery should be considered.
If you’re patient, the Hollywood Broadwalk can be a delightful ride. The Broadwalk is only 2.5 miles long — but the funky Florida feel is a throwback to another era. Mom and pop cafes and shops line one side and the spectacular beach lines the other. To extend your ride, you can continue several miles north along a seagrape-lined route through North Beach Park and then onto a narrow Surf Road.
The big negative on the Broadwalk is that children and pedestrians are constantly wandering into the bike lane. So this is a trail made for sight-seeing and patience.
There is metered parking at Hollywood North Beach Park at the intersection of Sheridan Road and A1A. We like to start a few blocks west of there at Ann Kolb Nature Center,751 Sheridan St., Hollywood, where parking is free. Here’s more info.
Who will most enjoy this bike trail? This is a good family bike trail. It also pairs well with a day at the beach or a slice of pizza and a beer at a beachfront cafe.
The 680 acre park is criss-crossed with hard-packed shell trails designed to be shared by hikers and bicyclists.
The longest stretch for a cyclist who just wants to pedal through the woods is a 1.5 mile section, but with 10 miles of trails, we managed to spend a nice afternoon riding and exploring. The trails are all scenic, with many passing through shady woods and all of them providing vistas across marshes, ponds and rivers. Here’s a detailed Florida Rambler article about biking at Riverbend Park.
Who will most enjoy this bike trail? We saw many families bicycling, and the short loops and wildlife seemed ideal for kids. Anyone looking for speed or distance will be frustrated.
Jupiter Island offers a scenic two-lane beachfront road with well-kept landscaping, very little traffic and excellent biking. It goes on for 10 miles past the estates of the rich and famous — folks that include Tiger Woods, Celine Dion and Alan Jackson. Bicyclists are not on a separate trail or lane, but the barrier island has little commercial or multifamily development, so few vehicles are on the road. Here’s a detailed report on bicycling Jupiter Island.
Who will most enjoy this bike trail? This is a route that has something for everyone. Hard-core riders can get up to 30 miles per hour and many avid cyclists include this in 40-mile loops. At the other end of the spectrum, families can park at a Hobe Beach Martin County Park at the northern end of the island and ride a 6-mile round trip on a dead-end two-lane road that ends at the spectacular wild beach, Hobe Sound Wildlife Refuge, which is well worth exploring.
Bicycling on Key Biscayne
Key Biscayne has several bicycle trails, and they can be combined for rides of various lengths. There are two paved bike trails — one in each of its terrific parks, Crandon Park and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. But to travel between them does require mixing it up a bit with village traffic.
If you start in Crandon Park, the marina makes a good free parking spot. If you head north from Crandon Park (leaving Key Biscayne toward Miami), there is a paved bike trail on Virginia Key, but only after you’ve ridden across the Bear Cut Bridge, where you’re in an on-street bike lane.
If you start at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, you can put together a loop using a 1.5 mile paved bike path and unpaved service roads. Some paths will take you beneath the trees, and others offer views of Biscayne Bay.
Miami-Dade has a good map that will help you plan a route on Key Biscayne.
Note: I have not bicycled over the Rickenbacher Causeway, which connects Miami and Key Biscayne. It is wonderfully scenic and many recommend it as the most beautiful ride in Miami. Until I ride it and know it’s safe,
Who will most enjoy this bike trail? The scenery is outstanding and cyclists who want to explore and admire the views will be happiest. Families will be fine in the trails within either park, but probably don’t want to head onto the nearby streets. You’ll enjoy this most if you combine it with other explorations — go up in the lighthouse in Bill Baggs State Park; take a walk on the lovely beaches.
Gulf Coast bike trails
Legacy Trail and Venetian Waterway Park
Legacy Trail and Venetian Waterway Park . The Legacy Trail in Venice is one of Florida’s best paved bike trails — and it keeps getting better.
From its start in 2008, the Legacy Trail has offered a smooth, paved trail through great scenery with interesting signage highlighting local history. It directly connects to the Venetian Waterways Park Trail, offering a continuous 20-mile ride.
Over the years, bridges have been added so that you take an overpass over busy US 41/TamiamiTrail and you are treated to scenic bridges over Roberts and Dona bays.
Thanks to these bridges, we crossed just two roads (neither busy) while bicycling two days on the trail system. Here’s more about this terrific trail.
Pinellas Trail is a paved, well-marked trail that extends for 34 miles through one of the most densely populated areas in the state, the Tampa/St. Petersburg region. The most scenic part of the trail is its northern portion, between Dunedin and Tarpon Springs, which offers pretty views, parks to discover, historic buildings and cute downtowns. (You also see suburban backyards, the back-sides of businesses, boring views of commercial roadways and shadelessness.)
Withlacoochee State Trail
Withlacoochee State Trail is 46 paved miles through beautiful rural landscape and it is about as good as bike trails get. This might be my personal favorite among all the bike trails listed here. Its southern end is an hour west of Orlando; its northern end is about an hour west of Ocala.
Sanibel Island has 25 miles of bike trails, including bike trails next to nearly all its roads, trails that provide access to beaches where cars can’t park, past beautiful Gulf-front mansions and through the woods to Sanibel’s pioneer cemetery, which is not accessible by car. If you can’t bring your own bike to Sanibel, the main drag, Periwinkle Way, has several businesses that rent bikes, including tandems, four-wheel buggy types and trailer-style carriers to pull the kids. (Also, many island hotels have bicycles for guest use.) The don’t-miss spot: Wildlife Drive through J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, a wonderful way to see birds and alligators. It’s a four-mile loop within the refuge that ends three miles from where you started. The drive, formerly gravel, has been paved for good bicycling. Cyclists pay $1 per person.
Boca Grande bike trail
Boca Grande bike trail is a paved bike and golf-cart path extends 6.5 miles, the length of this Gulf island west of Punta Gorda. Nearby, the nine-mile Cape Haze Pioneer Bike Trail is a rails-to-trails path that basically ends at the Boca Grande Causeway. (The causeway is too narrow for either pedestrians or bicyclists to safely use.)
Central Florida bike trails
West Orange Trail
West Orange Trail, completed in 1999, is a 22-mile-long paved rail-trail about 15 miles west of Orlando. Its northern end is Apopka and it wanders through rural and suburban landscape near Lake Apopka, though Winter Garden and then continues five miles west. It’s smooth, wide (14 feet) and well-marked. The prettiest sections go through historic towns or under a beautiful canopy of trees.
Van Fleet State Trail
Van Fleet State Trail is a 29-mile bike trail into the Green Swamp west of Orlando — the most rural bicycle trail in the state. Because it’s a former railroad line, the path is straight and flat. You won’t see many people. You will see cattle ranches, lush forests and wetlands, wild flowers, birds and butterflies. The middle stretch goes through the heart of the Green Swamp Conservation Area and offers the best wildlife viewing.
East Central Regional Rail Trail
With almost 50 miles of smooth, 12-foot wide paved trail, the East Central Regional Rail Trail has something for every kind of rider. It has sections for performance riders who want to keep a fast pace and encounter few intersections. It has sections for folks who want to see the scenery and make a few stops. There’s one gap — a 3-mile section being completed. When it’s done, there will be 52 miles in three legs (shaped like a Y.) The ultimate goal is the Coast to Coast Trail, which will connect this trail with others and conclude along the Gulf on the Pinellas Trail. Amazingly, it’s three-quarters built.
Northern Florida bike trails
Nature Coast Trail
The Nature Coast Trail is a high-quality rail-trail with a picturesque train trestle over the Suwanee River and some good scenery. It offers 32 miles of paved bike trail centered in Fanning Springs near Fanning Springs State Park with three spokes — one to Cross City, one to Trenton and one to Chiefland. The region is about an hour west of Gainesville.
Gainesville Hawthorne State Trail
Gainesville Hawthorne State Trail makes everybody’s list of Florida’s best trails. It is a shady, tree-lined, paved trail that passes through the northern edge of the very special Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. Along the trail, you can stop and hike the 1.5-mile-long La Chua Trail, where you’ll see big gators and, if you’re lucky, wild horses or even bison. The La Chua Trail takes you into the vast prairie with wild flowers and a great variety of birds.
Jacksonville-Baldwin Bike Trail
Jacksonville-Baldwin Bike Trail is a well-shaded rural trail that makes a stop at a rare-for-Florida Civil War site. The trail is a paved trail following a former railroad line that begins just west of Jacksonville and extends 14.5 miles west to the town of Baldwin. It has full facilities near the middle at Camp Milton Historic Preserve, a Jacksonville city park, which makes a great stop for a picnic and some exploration. Camp Milton was the base for 8,000 Confederate troops who were defending against the Union troops who had taken Jacksonville. The Confederates erected three miles of earth and timber fortifications, traces of which have been found. Today you can see those traces (there’s not much left) as well as a re-creation of a late 19th-century homestead, a replica bridge, an arboretum and boardwalks.
Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail is a 6-mile bike trail and Florida’s first rail-to-trail, developed in 1988. It preserves an especially historic corridor: The railroad itself was built in 1831 when mules pulled wagons on rails on this route. Accounts tell of a rough journey through a wild area, but it was the best way for cotton from Florida and Georgia plantations to reach docks where it could be boarded on ships to England and New England. Today’s bicyclists will find a 12-foot-wide smooth and shady asphalt trail from Tallahassee to the little village of St. Marks, Florida.
Also see our biking and hiking trail section.
From the Editor:
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