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Scenic Legacy Trail between Venice and now Sarasota is one of Florida’s best bike trails

Last updated on March 4th, 2022 at 01:17 pm

Legacy Trail and Venetian Waterway Trail offer a smooth ride for more than 20 miles

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.

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.

Some of the prettiest scenery comes at the Legacy Trail's bridges over waterways.
Some of the prettiest scenery comes at the Legacy Trail’s bridges over waterways.
(Photo: David Blasco)

Thanks to these bridges, we crossed just two roads (neither busy) while bicycling two days on the Legacy Trail system.  

In March, 2022, the final segment of a new Legacy Trail North Extension opened to downtown Sarasota, completing 18.1 miles of paved trail.

In a few years, the Legacy Trail will be extended to North Port/Warm Mineral Springs. When this southern section is done, the Legacy Trail will offer 30 miles of continuous paved trail. (Local voters passed a bond referendum to fund it in 2018.)

There is even an additional and very scenic bike trail that directly connects to the Legacy Trail — the Venetian Waterways Park Trail.

  • Bicyclists on bridge over water.
  • legacy trail outdoor escapes
  • Sculpture of bicyclist.
  • Bicyclists on paved trail.
  • Train trestle adjoining bike path.
  • Caboose at the historic Venice Train Station
  • The historic Venice Train Station
  • legacy trail
  • venice train depot legacy trail

Bicycling the Legacy Trail and Waterways Park Trail System

The Legacy Trail connects seamlessly to the separate Venetian Waterways Park trail at the Historic Venice Train Depot, providing several options for routes to take.

If you ride north from the train station, you pass through a tree-lined linear park, which goes over some beautiful waterways on its way to and through Oscar Scherer State Park.

What’s spectacular about the Legacy Trail is the change of scenery as it cuts through back yards of  suburbia, forests, wetland prairies and pastures.

On this section, a great stop is Oscar Scherer State Park. The park has its own off-road trail system of 15 miles, but much of it is soft sand. The access path to the Legacy Trail, however, is manageable for almost any type of bicycle, and it’s close enough that you could even walk that thin-tired racing bike.

At the park, you can picnic, hike or even swim at a small freshwater lake. This is the home of the endangered Florida scrub jay, so keep a lookout for one.

A historic trestle along the Legacy Trail
A historic trestle along the Legacy Trail. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

One of our favorite stops along the way was a 1911 train trestle over South Creek, the river that winds through Oscar Scherer State Park.  

The Venetian Waterways Trail system

If you ride south from the train station, you’re on the Waterways Trail. This trail splits with one paved path on the west side of the Intracoastal Waterway and one bike path on the east side.

The western route extends five miles to beautiful Casperson Beach, a public park. This stretch of beach is famous for its fossil shark’s teeth, and you’ll find dozens of beach-goers combing the surf with their sand sifters, looking for the little black teeth.

From Casperson Beach, you can explore beyond the trail by riding north to Brohard Beach, where Bob recommends lunch at the popular restaurant on the fishing pier, Sharkey’s, followed by a ride through the quiet and historic streets of Venice and its quaint downtown.

If you take the eastern route on the Waterways Trail, in four miles you reach Shamrock Park and Nature Center, an 80-acre oasis of natural land with rest rooms, picnic tables, playground, basketball courts and tennis courts.

You cross over from one side to the other at one of two bridges over the Intracoastal.

On either side of the Waterways Trail, you enjoy uninterrupted views of the Intracoastal and passing boats. (On the west side, watch for gopher tortoises too; we spotted two and plenty of tortoise tunnels.)

Kayaking under a live oak tree on the Legacy Trail in Venice.
The scenery at Oscar Scherer State Park in Venice is worth pausing to appreciate while riding the Legacy Trail. (Photo: David Blasco)

Making plans to bike the Legacy Trail

Both the Legacy Trail and Venetian Waterway Trail are open from sunrise to sunset. There are frequent benches on both trails, and restrooms can be found at trailheads. These are multi-use trails, with bikers, joggers and walkers all sharing the trail. The trail gets very busy during the winter season.

Bonnie’s favorite stretch of the trail system is from the Venice Train Depot north through Oscar Scherer Park. Roundtrip, about 15 miles roundtrip. It offers the best scenery – over waterways and through undeveloped wood and wetlands.

The waterfront scenery along the Waterways Trail is lovely and this trail is a great way to go to the beach, but be aware this section of trail has very little shade. 

Legacy Trail map and trailheads (listed north to south)

There are currently 11 official trail access points with more to come as the trail is expanded and new parking areas areas are set aside for bicyclists.  Not all of the trailheads are directly on the trail.

Some of the trailheads have restrooms and water fountains, although you would be advised to bring your own water for the trail.

Payne Park Trailhead (Mile 18.1)

This trailhead at 2010 Adams Lane, Sarasota, opened in March, 2020 offering parking and restroom facilities. The 29-acre public park has a new playground too.

Sarasota Springs Trailhead (Mile 14.7)

The trailhead at 4012 Webber St., Sarasota, also opened in March, 2022. It also offers restrooms, parking, a picnic shelter and a playground.

Culverhouse Nature Park Trailhead (Mile 10.5)

The Culverhouse Nature Park is 82 acres at 7301 McIntosh Road, with a community garden, picnic areas, open space, parking and bike racks

McIntosh Road Trailhead, Palmer Ranches (Mile 9.6)

The “green” parking lot has  43 spaces and is located at 7941 McIntosh Road, about a quarter-mile east and behind the Westfield Sarasota Square Mall.  This is a new trailhead, and the parking is unpaved to protect nearby wetlands. There are no restroom facilities.

Potter Park Trailhead (Mile 8.7)

Although not directly on the trail, there is parking for the trail available at Potter Park, a 37-acre neighborhood park at 8587 Potter Park Drive, Sarasota.  The trail is not far and can be accessed from the Stoneybrook Nature Trail, which runs along the south side of the Central Sarasota Parkway.

Bay Street Park/Osprey Junction Trailhead (Mile 6.7)

The Bay Street Park is about a half-mile east of U.S. 41, near 939 East Bay Street, but you’ll have to ride about 1.4 miles further east on Bay Street to reach the trailhead at Osprey Junction. The park has rest rooms, a water fountain, picnic facilities and a playground.

Oscar Scherer State Park Trailhead (Mile 5.3)

There is a day-use entrance fee of $5 per vehicle, although that fee is waived if you have a campsite, which cost $26 per night. I recommend that you reserve your campsite in advance, especially on weekends and anytime during the winter season.  The park, located at 1834 S. Tamiami Trail in Osprey, has 15 miles of off-road trials for biking and hiking and a kayak/canoe trail that takes you out to the Intracoastal Waterway. And for the pause that refreshes, try the park’s freshwater swimming lake, which has a beach and picnic facilities.

Laurel Park Trailhead (Mile 2.4)

Besides access to the Legacy Trail, Laurel Park offers a walking/fitness trail, tennis and basketball courts, playgrounds, rest rooms, a large picnic pavilion and several small picnic shelters and a community garden. The park is located at 509 Collins Road in Laurel.

Nokomis Riverview Park Trailhead (Mile 1.0)

This 17-acre park at 234 Nippino Trail East has rest rooms, a kayak launch, covered basketball courts, two volleyball courts, two tennis courts, a cricket field, a fishing pier, six covered picnic shelters and a covered children’s playground.

Patriots Park Trailhead (Mile .5)

Restrooms, picnic tables, benches and a courtyard dedicated to military veterans, first responders and the victims of 9/11.

Legacy Park/Venice Train Depot Trailhead (Mile 0)

Large parking areas that serve both the trail and a boat ramp. Rest rooms available in the train depot, which also houses a small museum. Playground and picnic tables. This is also the start of the Waterways Trail.

Here’s a map of the Legacy Trail that you can download and print.

Here’s a PDF of the brochure and map of both the Legacy Trail and the Venetian Waterways Trail.

Bike rentals near the Legacy Trail

For those who do not own bicycles, or are not traveling with bikes, there are several bike shops along the trail where you can rent. The shops listed at this link are business members of the Friends of the Legacy Trail. 

Does the Legacy Trail allow electric bikes? Yes. There is a 15 mph speed limit.

Near the Legacy Trail in Venice

Related links

Friends of the Legacy Trail

Rails to Trails Conservancy: TrailLink.com

Sarasota County’s Legacy Trail page

A note from the editor:

The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning your trip.

This page may include affiliate links from which we may earn a modest commission if a purchase is made. More often, we include free courtesy links to small businesses, such as kayak outfitters, from whom we receive no commission. 

This article is the property of FloridaRambler.com and is protected by U.S. Copyright Law. Re-publication without written permission is against the law.


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MICHAEL

Tuesday 22nd of March 2022

I ride on Casey Key on a regular basis. If you follow the rules of the road, you should have no problems. Do you know the worst part about cycling on Casey Key? The worst part is those groups of cyclists in their fancy outfits who think they are cycling in the Tour de France and nearly cause accidents for other cyclists. Casey Key is my favorite place to ride. Beautiful scenery. Water views. And, if you encounter a service vehicle parked on the road, just wait your turn to pass in the opposite land (just as you should if you were driving a car.) I try to avoid The Legacy Trail whenever possible. But, hands down, both Casey Key and Manasota Key are great places to cycle!!

Kim

Monday 21st of March 2022

Casey Kay is a dangerous place to bike. Narrow road and jam-packed with cars. Love the Venice (Legacy) Trail, but unless u go to the new sections very very early, it's jam packed.

Carla

Monday 19th of April 2021

HI Florida Rambler! Thanks for this great article and for linking to our site -- Friends of the Legacy Trail. I guess you know the trail will be extended by early 2022 to downtown Sarasota and beyond. Hope to see you back next year! Best to You! Carla Martin, Director FLT

Bonnie Gross

Monday 19th of April 2021

Thanks, Carla! Be sure to send us information as the the extension is completed! -- Bonnie

Kris LaFreniere

Monday 28th of December 2020

Are there fees for the bike trails?

MICHAEL D BELL

Wednesday 30th of December 2020

No fees. 100% free.

Bob Rountree

Tuesday 29th of December 2020

No fees. If you jump off the trail at Oscar Scherer State Park, a park fee is requested. Otherwise, just ride on through.

Michael D. Bell, REALTOR®

Sunday 1st of December 2019

You can also ride from the trail to Casey Key. It's a nice ride where you can see gulf-front mansions, the historic Blackburn Point Bridge, as well as the beach and Gulf of Mexico. When you reach Bay Street, ride west to Old Venice Rd. Ride south along Old Venice Rd. until you reach the traffic light at US 41. Cross over US 41 and onto Blackburn Point Rd. Blackburn Point Rd. takes you to Casey Key. After crossing the historic Blackburn Point Bridge, ride South on Casey Key Rd. When you reach the bottom of Casey Key, cross over the Albee Rd. bridge and take Albee Rd. back to US 41. You can ride in the bike lane or ride on the sidewalk (the safer option) back to Venice.

Michael D. Bell, REALTOR® Century21 Schmidt Real Estate Venice, Florida 941-303-3608 WelcomeHomeToParadise.com

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