If South Florida had enough safe, scenic spots to bike, I wouldn’t have tried biking on the many levees that run along South Florida’s canals, its man-made system of plumbing.
Alas, however, I am always searching for places near my Fort Lauderdale home where I can ride without sharing lanes with South Florida’s angry and distracted drivers. The Bluegill Trail, as you’ll see described below, is the best levee trail I’ve found.
Several levees on the border of the Everglades have been repurposed as biking and hiking trails. Few are paved. They are generally hard-packed shell rock that skinny tires can handle, but are perhaps safer on fat tires.
Our levee trails often run along massive highways, so that the drone of traffic is ever present and the road is part of the view. They frequently have minimal and unchanging scenery – vast fields of sawgrass – and only so-so wildlife sightings. Just to be clear: They all lack any shade and can be brutal in the heat.
But these trails have no vehicle traffic, few bicyclists and, on the right day, can be a fun challenge, with the occasional surprise the natural world likes to present.
The scenery doesn’t change much, so these rides can be a little boring. But in overbuilt South Florida, levee trails can offer a good day of bicycling.
Here are several South Florida levee trails, starting with my favorite.
Bluegill Trail in Palm Beach County
This levee trail’s southern end is at Grassy Waters Park on Northlake Boulevard in West Palm Beach. It travels through through the Loxahatchee Slough to its northern terminus at Riverbend Park in Jupiter. It’s a 15-mile round-trip, and the parks at each end are very appealing.
The Bluegill Trail follows the east side of the C-18 Canal and with no roadway nearby, it is all quiet. There are some scenic sections on the eastern (non-canal) side of the trail, where you overlook a lovely cypress slough.
We started from the trailhead on PGA Boulevard, called Sandhill Crane Access Park (and for a good reason.) It’s a great trailhead: There are good restrooms, a few picnic tables, an overlook, a boat dock and parking. (No potable water, however, so bring plenty of your own.)
On a hot and sunny March day, we rode north to Riverbend Park. Without question, the highlight were the sandhill cranes. I saw between two and five cranes on at least five occasion, including a mom, dad and a tiny fuzzy colt.
I also was thrilled to see a swallow-tail kite swooping over the canal as well as other wading birds and a gator. My husband and I had picked a steamy day, but except for that, we considered the trail a nice option.
After five miles of pedaling, Riverbend Park made a great half-way point because it is shady, with picnic tables and restrooms. The park has 10 miles of looping trails, so those who want to ride more can meander around the park. There are grand old oak trees, views of the Loxahatchee River and a historic battleground, so it’s a fun place to explore. It’s also free. Here are Florida Rambler tips on visiting to Riverbend Park.
On the southern end, Grassy Waters Preserve is another wonderful place to hike and explore, with a scenic boardwalk and other trails. It is also free.
Another extension to your bike trail can be added at the trailhead on PGA Boulevard. You can ride east on a landscaped, paved trail that extends on the north side of PGA Boulevard and then cross at the light at Ryder Cup Boulevard. A bike trail winds past posh homes and lush greens along that road to Northlake Boulevard. This will add another seven miles onto your ride and provide a nice green contrast to the brown shades of the levee.
Information on Bluegill Trail from Palm Beach County.
You can download a map here. Sandhill Crane Access Park
More levee trails: North end of Everglades Conservation Trail, Broward County
In Broward County, development stops abruptly in the west, where a levee controls water levels in the Everglades. There is an unpaved, hard-packed gravel recreation trail that extends for many miles.
You can start this trail at Broward’s northern border at Lox Road, where there is parking, an airboat operator and lots of fishermen. If you ride south from here, after the first three miles, you are adjacent to the Sawgrass Expressway. It’s 8.5 miles to Atlantic Boulevard.
A much quieter and more remote route starts at the end of Atlantic Boulevard, where a trailhead opened in 2016.
From Atlantic, the levee extends 10 miles straight through the Everglades to US 27 – no roads, no cars, few people and, unfortunately, not a single speck of shade.
To find the trail head at the end of Atlantic Boulevard, go straight at the light on Atlantic as you go under the Sawgrass Expressway. The road curves around until you come to about 20 parking spaces, often filled with fishermen. (But no restroom facilities.)
This trail is a rocky dirt road that is pretty rough. I don’t think you’d fare well here on skinny tires. The roughness is the trail’s big weakness; you don’t get to appreciate the quiet because you’re constantly bumping and jangling.
About every two miles there is a water-level measuring station and at each of these places, there’s a little bit of a walkway over a deeper pool of water. They’re the prettiest spots on the trail and if you’re lucky you might see an alligator or birds around these pools.
Other than those stops, it’s flat, straight, level and the scenery doesn’t change.
South end of Everglades Conservation Trail, Broward County
If you start from Markham Park at the end of SR 84 in Broward, you can pedal for six miles west with the vast vista of the Everglades, never crossing a road or encountering any vehicle traffic. To the north, there’s the Everglades, but to the south, it’s nothing but I-595 the whole way.
An alternative route is to ride north along the levee from Markham Park towards Atlantic Boulevard and Lox Road. The downside: Scary warnings about a gun range nearby.
Here’s a complete report on biking the levee from Markham Park.
More resources on bike trails:
Here are my favorite bicycle trails in South Florida and beyond.
Also see Florida Rambler’s biking and hiking trail section.
More about Palm Beach County from Florida Rambler
- West Palm Beach: Old city, modern vibe with awesome variety of things to do
- A guide to things to do in Delray Beach
- Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens: Feel harmony in nature
- Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge for birding, hiking, kayaking and beautiful cypress-swamp boardwalk
- A great beach at MacArthur State Park
- Kayak to Munyon Island in MacArthur State Park
- Lake Trail, a bike trail on the elite island of Palm Beach
- Palm Beach Island: Full of history and manicured beauty
- Peanut Island for snorkeling and camping
- Hiking and bike trails at Grassy Waters Preserve, West Palm Beach
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The author, Bonnie Gross, travels with her husband David Blasco, discovering off-the-beaten path places to hike, kayak, bike, swim and explore. Florida Rambler was founded in 2010 by Bonnie and fellow journalist Bob Rountree, two long-time Florida residents who have spent decades exploring the Florida outdoors. Their articles have been published in the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, The Guardian and Visit Florida.