Last updated on January 30th, 2020 at 12:05 pm
Shady, tree-lined Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail is a joy
Gainesville is a bike-riding town, so it’s no surprise that it’s home to a trail that makes everybody’s list of Florida’s best trails.
The Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail is a shady, tree-lined, paved trail that passes through the northern edge of the very special Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.
Why is this Gainesville bike trail worth a visit?
- The west end of the trail has a few surprises for Floridians – some low hills that will give your gears a work out, as well as some diverting curves.
- The trail is a great way to explore one of the most popular parts of 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.
- It’s scenic: The path crosses streams where you can pause for a short boardwalk and overlooks forests and meadows.
- It’s isolated from traffic, so it’s good for families and recreational bikers who want a low-stress ride. There are few places where the trail crosses roads and even where the trail parallels the road, traffic noise does not dominate.
- There are occasional rest rooms and water fountains and the maps and labels are good.
- The trail makes a great stop on an itinerary exploring Old Florida that would include hiking at Paynes Priairie, visiting historic and picturesque Micanopy and discovering Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park at Cross Creek.
Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail starting points
If you’re planning a visit to the area, bring your bikes and start riding at one of these four trailheads:
- 3300 SE 15th St. in Gainesville at Boulware Springs City Park
- The intersection of CR 234 and CR 2082 in Rochelle
- 7902 SE 200th Drive, off of CR 2082 west of Hawthorne
- 2182 SE 71st Avenue in Hawthorne
The most scenic portion of the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail is the western section through Paynes Prairie. The trail occupies the former corridor of the Seaboard Coast Railroad.
Here’s a map of the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Planning your visit to Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail
- Website for Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail
- Interesting history of trail as “Trader’s Path” that is now route of bike trail.
- It would be easy to spend a full day or more hiking in Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.
- If you stay in nearby Micanopy, you can also visit one of Florida’s oldest and most picturesque towns. Here’s a Florida Rambler article on Micanopy and a historic bed and breakfast there.
- A must-do: Visit Cross Creek, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings home, now a state park. Here’s a Florida Rambler report on the spot. (We loved it.) It’s only a few miles from Paynes Prairie.
- When visiting Cross Creek, stop for lunch or dinner at The Yearling restaurant, a Cracker cabin with live blues at night and a menu of local cuisine.
Other great Florida bike trails in Nothern Florida
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.
Jacksonville-Baldwin Bike Trail is a well-shaded rural trail that makes a stop at a rare-for-Florida Civil War site. The best place to start this 14.5 mile trail is near the middle at Camp Milton park, just west of Jacksonville.