Old Cutler Trail: Bike path along beautiful road passes iconic Miami parks and gardens

Old Cutler Trail. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Pedaling in the shade of historic ficus trees on the Old Cutler Trail. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Bike trails through cities don’t get more scenic than this.

The Old Cutler Trail parallels one of the most magnificent roads in South Florida — Old Cutler Road in Coral Gables, which is lined with giant sprawling ficus trees and some of Florida’s most spectacular historic mansions. The homes are landscaped like tropical gardens, which is appropriate because there are two outstanding public gardens along this bike trail.

For Miami-area bicyclists, it offers a safe, mostly shaded, scenic ride that takes you by a cluster of places that make Miami, well, Miami.

Where else, do you ride a trail where the northbound half of the bike lane splits from the southbound half so as to go around a giant ficus tree?

Home along Old Cutler Trail. (Photo: David Blasco)
Home along Old Cutler Trail. (Photo: David Blasco)

What Miami Dade Parks calls Old Cutler Trail is a 4-mile-long paved trail that extends from the traffic circle next to Ingraham Terrace Park (where Old Cutler Road, Sunset Road, and LeJeune Road  converge in Coral Gables) and goes to Pinecrest Gardens at Red Road. Here’s a map of the Old Cutler Trail.

If you want a longer trail, the Biscayne Trail continues from Pinecrest Gardens for 11 miles south to Black Point Park and Marina. Here’s a map of the Biscayne Trail. (Some websites combine the two and call the entire 15-mile trail Old Cutler Trail.)

We rode the 4-mile Old Cutler Trail, making many detours along the way to explore beautiful spots. This is a trail for leisurely riding and sightseeing, and I recommend you take your time.

Where to park along Old Cutler Trail

We parked in the traffic circle next to Ingraham Terrace Park, where there are a limited number of spaces without meters, and where you are located at the northern-most end of the trail.

There are a number of good alternatives for parking along the trail, too:

  • Across from Fairchild Tropical; Gardens, 10901 Old Cutler Road, there is a larger lot with sign specifying it is for users of the trail.
  • You can park immediately inside Matheson Hammock Park, 9610 Old Cutler Road.
  • There’s a large lot serving Pinecrest Gardens, 11000 Red Rd, Pinecrest, where you could leave your car and ride north.
Matheson Hammock Park atoll pool, a nice stop along the Old Cutler Trail.  (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

What to see along the Old Cutler Trail

In addition to the overall beauty of the scenery along Old Cutler, here are three special gardens and parks along the trail.

World-famous Fairchild Tropical Gardens is highly recommended, but with a $25 admission fee, this is an attraction you want to visit when you have several hours to spend.

Next door to Fairchild, you can ride for free into Matheson Hammock Park, Miami Dade’s first county park. The trail actually goes through the park, passing under beautiful live oaks as it parallels Old Cutler Road.

I recommend you leave the trail, however, and ride all the way into Matheson Hammock to explore. One thing to admire are the historic coral-stone park buildings, many built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

Where the road ends, Matheson Hammock Park is located on a peninsula of land on Biscayne Bay with sweeping views of downtown Miami, Key Biscayne and, in the distance, the stilt homes of Stiltsville.

I also love the man-made atoll-shaped swimming area at Matheson Hammock Park. It’s worth seeing even if you are not swimming.  This is a salt-water lagoon on the edge of Biscayne Bay, its water flushed twice a day by the tides.

A third excellent stop is Pinecrest Gardens. which was founded in 1936 as Parrot Jungle. When Parrot Jungle moved to a new location on Watson Island in Biscayne Bay in 2002, the Village of Pinecrest purchased and saved this splendid property to be used as a public park and garden.

For a modest admission ($5 adults) you can wander the exquisitely landscaped grounds, where exotic and native trees have been nurtured for 80-plus years.

The winding trails were dug through coral rock and a hardwood hammock, leaving the old oaks, strangler figs, bald cypress and other trees undisturbed. Around those trees were added spectacular exotics and waterways. There are koi fish in the ponds, orchids blooming in the trees and photo-worthy scenes at every turn.

Families will love the large playground and the splash-play area for children.

Also: Where else will you see signs marking preservation of “historic cages”? The coral-stone structures that once held squawking parrots have been a special community preservation project. The murals, mosaics and coral-stone entrance have been lovingly restored and preserved.

We took a break from the steamy afternoon with a snack at the air-conditioned café, a lovely space with big windows overlooking a picturesque sinkhole landscaped with tropical splendor.

Miami skyline from Matheson Hammock Park. (Photo: David Blasco)
Miami skyline from Matheson Hammock Park. (Photo: David Blasco)

Tips for riding the Old Cutler Trail

Here’s a navigation tip we can pass along based on our own mistake. If you start at the north end, after you pass Fairchild Tropical Garden, watch carefully for the point at which you should cross to the west side of Old Cutler Road and cut through the gorgeous residential neighborhood, which takes you to the Pinecrest Gardens. You’ll know you missed the turn when the trail abruptly ends along Old Cutler Road.

If you biked the Old Cutler Trail a few years ago, as we did it, you might remember it was tough going over a lot of ficus roots in the trail. You still have to keep an eye on the trail, but blacktop resurfacing has smoothed the path and the county even painted a median line to signal there is two-way bike traffic on the trail.

Now, if only there was less traffic on Old Cutler Road, so that the ride were quieter.

This is, however, the center of Miami, and there are few places in the city where you are exempt from those sounds.

I’ll accept the traffic sounds in exchange for the history and beauty offered on this easy ride.

What’s near the Old Cutler Trail

If you continue south on the bike trail, you pass The Deering Estate, 16701 SW 72nd Avenue
Miami, another hidden gem worth visiting.

While in Coral Gables, you can make a day of it visiting other nearby attractions.

Coral Gables Venetian Pool is the only swimming pool ever to be included in the National Register of Historic Places. Carved out of limestone rock as a quarry in the 1920s, it is also the largest freshwater swimming pool in the U.S. with its water changed daily.

The trail is close to the historic and luxurious Biltmore Hotel, where you can admire its architecture and design, or eat lunch at one of its well-known bars and restaurants.  (The Biltmore also is known for its large and impressive pool.)

 

 

One Comment

  1. Avatar
    John McCollum

    Old Cutler Trail has been a favorite of mine since 1970. If you want to extend your ride to the north, the Commodore Trail leads into Coconut Grove and the Dinner Key waterfront. This trail is narrower and does require the rider to take some quiet residential roads.

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