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Scenic Legacy Trail in Venice is one of Florida’s best bike trails

Last updated on July 23rd, 2021 at 03:23 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. It directly connects to the Venetian Waterways Park Trail, offering a continuous 20-mile ride.

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 a few years, the Legacy Trail will be extended to go from North Port/Warm Mineral Springs to downtown Sarasota with 30 miles of continuous paved trail. (Local voters passed a bond referendum to fund it in 2018.)

In July 2021, the first segment of a new Legacy Trail North Extension opens, extending the trail north about 2.7 miles from Proctor Road to Bahia Vista. This section goes through a leafy neighborhood of suburban homes. Eventually, the Legacy Trail will continue to downtown Sarasota.

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.

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)

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)

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. March 2019 set a new record, with 43,816 users, according to the Friends of the Legacy Trail website.

Bonnie’s favorite stretch of the trail system is from the Venice Train Depot north through Oscar Scherer Park. Roundtrip, this is be about 15 miles. 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 nine 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.

Culverhouse Nature Park Trailhead (Mile 10.4)

The Culverhouse Nature Park is the latest trailhead to be added at the north end of the Legacy Trail. The 82-acre park, 7301 McIntosh Road, features 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. See map.

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 

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. 

Near the Legacy Trail in Venice

Related links

Friends of the Legacy Trail

Rails to Trails Conservancy:

Sarasota County’s Legacy Trail page

From the Editor:

The information in this article was accurate when published but can change without notice. Please confirm rates and details when planning your trip by following the links in this article.

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