The East Central Regional Rail Trail deserves a catchier name because it’s a great bike trail – long, smooth, scenic and well-supported with signage and amenities.
This relatively new trail will be 52 miles long when the last 3-mile-long section is completed — and in January 2021, you can see that segment is actively being constructed.
The East Central Regional Rail Trail extends across Brevard and Volusia counties on abandoned rail lines. It’s the longest rail-trail conversion in the state.
The trail has three legs – one extending up to Edgewater and one down to Titusville at the Indian River. Those two trails meet west of I-95 and continue west through beautiful undeveloped countryside. The missing link is in the middle of this rural section. Three miles after the interruption, the trail picks up again along Osteen-Maytown Road and continues to an excellent starting or turn-around spot, Green Spring Park.
East Central Regional Rail Trail and its many connections
One great thing about the East Central Regional Rail Trail is it connects to other terrific trails under development.
The Spring to Spring Trail eventually will allow you to pedal all the way north to DeLeon Springs State Park. Right now, there is a section that seamlessly connects to the East Coast Regional Rail Trail and continues 8 miles to Gemini Springs Park and Lake Monroe Park.
What’s even more exciting, the East Central Regional Rail Trail is also an important piece of the developing Coast to Coast Trail, which will extend all the way across Florida to St. Petersburg. (It’s 80 percent done!) And there’s another trail being built that will connect to the East Central Regional Trail – The St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop.
What’s the best section of the East Central Regional Rail Trail?
The trail has different appeals for different riders. I am a slower, recreational rider who seeks out 10 to 20 mile rides with scenery and interesting stops along the way. There are sections of the East Central Regional Rail Trail that are perfect for my kind of rider.
The cyclist who wants to ride 50 miles, build up speed and minimize street crossings will also find sections of the East Central Regional Rail Trail that are perfect.
With 50 miles of trail, there is something for everyone!
Tips for riding the East Central Regional Rail Trail
You’ll have to sit down with the maps and figure out where it’s best for you to start and finish. I found it hard to find qualitative information about the trail and I think if I were doing it again, I might select different sections. I pedaled two sections, so I can’t speak to the entire 50 mile trail.
A good place to start is this map of the East Central Regional Rail Trail from Traillink.
A few tips for planning your bike ride:
If you are looking for natural beauty, the rural area west of I-95 is a rare section of Florida that has been preserved in its natural state.
The section of the trail between the trailhead just west of I-95 on Aurentia Road and the end of the currently completed trail at Gobblers Lodge Road is 13.5 miles with absolutely nothing but nature. You cross your first intersection after 9 miles! This is a great section for distance riders. The scenery goes through forests and some cypress swamps with almost no signs of man’s development. Two downsides: There’s not a lot of shade and not a lot of scenic variety.
The only diversion along this section is the funky “honor system” snack shop, Vergie’s Pit Stop, where you can pick up cold drinks, bananas, granola bars and cookies and leave whatever you like. This is right at the Maytown trailhead.
If you bicycle this section, there are bathroom facilities at the Maytown trailhead and the Gobblers Lodge trailhead.
Another section recommended for scenic beauty starts at the Osteen Trailhead (just east of SR 415 on New Smyrna Blvd.). Riders like to stop at the nearby Osteen Diner, about two blocks away. From the Osteen Trailhead, the trail has a very scenic 6-mile section to Green Spring Park, the official end of the East Coast Regional Rail Trail. This section is away from main roads and offers shade and a variety of scenery.
If you’re up for more than a 12-mile round trip, it’s easy to continue from Green Spring Park along the Spring to Spring Trail to Gemini Springs, 5 miles west. Part of this section of the Spring to Spring Trail is under a beautiful live-oak-tree canopy, but part runs alongside a big boring divided highway. You can continue on the Spring to Spring Trail for another 2.7 miles to Lake Monroe Park.
Read on for a bit more about these two parks.
Worthwhile stops: Two smaller springs
We bicycled the western end of the East Central Regional Rail Trail because we had never visited the two springs along this section of the bike trail. These are both excellent places to visit.
Both Green Spring and Gemini Springs are beautiful and out-of-the-way stops known mostly by locals. Neither is a big spring with a spectacular spring boil, but each has its charms.
Green Springs is a remarkable iridescent green color – like a pool of milky absinthe. People have been marveling at it for literally 180 years. (The spring and its properties were settled in 1841 and soon became an attraction for visitors.)
It is a small circular spring with huge trees overhanging the water that frame it beautifully. It is a sulphur spring, but has only a mild sulphuric odor.
There is no swimming in this spring, which does not stop the local kids from climbing the huge trees that overhang the spring and jumping in, even when a small alligator is clearly present, as they did the day we visited.
There are some short trails through the woods around Green Spring. It’s a lush forest where you can encounter a little clear stream with a small waterfall.
Green Springs Park has restrooms, playground and plenty of parking for bicyclists. It is located across a scenic lakefront road from Lake Monroe and adjacent to a boat launch on the lake.
Five miles away along the Spring to Spring Trail, Gemini Springs is a much larger park, with multiple picnic sites and several places to view the springs, including the neat Springhouse pavilion with a deck built around some beautiful old trees.
It even offers 10 tent-only primitive camping sites under big arching live oak trees.
The park’s two springs – that’s why it’s named Gemini, get it? — are small and easily viewed.
There is a fishing pier and there is no question there are fish in the spring — they are easy to see in the clear water.
A decade or more ago there was swimming at Gemini Springs, but no longer.
Both county parks are free and they are the sort of little discoveries that can make an outing a delight.