Legacy Trail and Venetian Waterway Trail offer a smooth ride for more than 20 miles
Note: The Legacy Trail has reopened after clearing trees downed by Hurricane Ian Sept. 28. The Venetian Waterway Trail is not completely open, however. The west portion of Venetian Waterway Park between the Circus Bridge and Casperson Beach Park suffered massive erosion requiring closure of that portion. Estimates are that repairs will be complete by the end of the year.
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.
With 30 miles of interconnected paved trails, the Legacy Trail system belongs on every bicyclist’s list of places to ride in Florida.
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 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 July 2022, two Sarasota trailheads opened with parking and amenities.
In early September 2022, the Legacy Trail opened the extension of the trail to North Port/Warm Mineral Springs. With this east-west section, the Legacy Trail offers 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.
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.
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.)
The North Port Connector
The Legacy Trail North Port Connector officially opened on Sept. 9, 2022.
The entrance to the connector is at 1045 Calera Street at the end of West Price Boulevard in North Port. At that location, trail users will find a new bridge that leads into Deer Prairie Creek Preserve.
From there, the tree-lined paved trail meanders to the north, toward Interstate 75, where it then heads west to Forbes Trail and the north entrance of Deer Prairie Creek Preserve (approximately 5.5 miles). Those who wish to bike to the Legacy Trail from there can follow South Moon Drive to Border Road, Edmondson Road, and Florence Street, which dead-ends at Nokomis Riverview Park and the entrance to the Legacy Trail (approximately 8.5 miles).
Border Road and Edmondson Road contain mix of bike lanes, off-road multi-use recreation trails, and sidewalks.
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, offers parking and restroom facilities. The 29-acre public park has a new playground too.
Pompano Trailhead (Mile 16.9)
The trailhead at 601 S. Pompano Ave., Sarasota, opened in July 2022. It offers restrooms, parking and 12 pickle ball courts.
Sarasota Springs Trailhead (Mile 14.7)
The trailhead at 4012 Webber St., Sarasota, 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 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.
Maps and brochures:
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
- Casey Key: Hidden treasure is ideal base for bicyclists, beach lovers
- 5 things to discover near Florida’s Venice
- Beaches of Venice: The sands of time
- Oscar Scherer State Park a wild oasis amid urban sprawl
- Myakka River State Park: 10 reasons to visit big, wild preserve
Notes from the editor:
The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning a trip, especially to areas hard hit by hurricanes.
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Veteran journalists who worked together at Fort Lauderdale’s SunSentinel newspaper, Bonnie and Bob founded FloridaRambler.com in 2010 to explore the natural, authentic Florida, writing about their natural interests in hiking, biking, paddling, RV and tent camping, wildlife, unique lodging, dining and historic places.