Tallahassee, Florida –
Emphasizing the splendor of Florida’s greenways and trails, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) encourages outdoor enthusiasts to step off of the beaten path and onto one of Florida’s more than 8,000 miles of public land trails and 4,000 miles of paddling trails. To highlight these recreational treasures, DEP today, November 16, released a bucket list of 10 trails Floridians and visitors must experience.
“These not-to-be-missed Florida greenways and trails offer a safe, healthy, affordable and fun recreational experience,” said DEP Office of Greenways and Trails Director Jena Brooks. “The trails bucket list allows Florida residents and visitors to take a step away from the ordinary and a step into a unique and relaxing reprieve with nature.”
Whether trotting down a trail on horseback, hiking and biking over hills, going for a jog in fresh air, fishing in shimmering waters, enjoying a picnic or simply taking a stroll, Florida’s greenways and trails have something for everyone. Greenways and trails provide a gateway to communities and help drive the economic engine that bolsters the state’s economy while promoting outdoor recreation, unity and environmental stewardship.
The following 10 state-managed and designated Florida trails offer a bucket full of unforgettable memories:
1. Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway - Crossing central Florida from the Gulf of Mexico to the St. Johns River, this 110-mile corridor offers a variety of trails and recreation areas. Home to the Florida Horse Park, one of the top equestrian destinations in the country, the Cross Florida Greenway offers an easily accessible and extraordinary opportunity to explore Florida’s wild beauty on horseback. Off-road biking enthusiasts can enjoy what the International Mountain Biking Association designated as an “Epic Ride” on the Greenway’s Santos trail network. Hikers can appreciate the gateway the Cross Florida Greenway offers to the Florida Trail, one of only eight congressionally designated National Scenic Trails in the United States.
2. Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail - The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail is a developing, paved, multi-use trail that allows visitors to intimately experience the colorful Keys communities and take in views of shimmering Gulf and ocean waters. The scenic corridor, extending from Key Largo to Key West, connects the islands to create an alternative transportation route and recreational pathway for hiking, running, bicycling, in-line skating, sightseeing, fishing and kayaking. Twenty-three historic Flagler Railroad bridges form a central component of this multi-use trail which now features approximately 70 paved miles in segments along its 106-mile corridor.
3. Loxahatchee River Paddling Trail - The swift and twisting Loxahatchee River is worthy of its status as Florida’s first National Wild and Scenic River. Trapper Nelson’s cabin is a point of interest near the trail’s terminus in Jonathan Dickinson State Park near Stuart. The coffee-colored stream meanders through an unspoiled subtropical river swamp where bald cypress, pond apple, orchids, and ferns line the shores. The 8.5-mile paddling trail makes for an ideal day-long adventure for intermediate or experienced paddlers.
4. Nature Coast State Trail – Adventure awaits visitors on this history-rich trail. Providing an excellent opportunity to ride off the beaten path, this 32-mile trail consists of two primary alignments built along former rail lines that meet at Wilcox Junction. A historic train trestle carries the trail across the Suwannee River near Old Town. Trail users can cool off in 72-degree water in nearby Fanning Springs State Park or watch for more wildlife at Andrews Wildlife Management Area.
5. Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail - The State’s first rail-trail begins in Florida’s capital city, running for 16 miles through part of the Apalachicola National Forest to reach the coastal community of St. Marks. Trail users can enjoy fresh Florida seafood and fishing in the city of St. Marks and learn about the history of the area at the San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park.
6. Wekiva River/Rock Springs Run Paddling Trail - Beginning just north of Kelly Park in Apopka, Rock Springs Run winds its way swiftly downstream for several miles to join the spring run flowing out of Wekiwa Springs State Park. Traveling through sand pine scrub, pine flatwoods, hammocks and swamps, paddlers can see a variety of wildlife, including river otters. Numerous islands, tributaries and lagoons provide opportunities for side trips and camping.
7. Suwannee River Wilderness Trail - The 170-mile Suwannee Wilderness Trail provides a kaleidoscope of wilderness and historical opportunities. Visitors can travel outward from the river to recreational hubs, trails, parks, museums, cultural sites and other nature and heritage attractions in adjacent cities, towns and rural landscapes throughout north Florida’s Suwannee River Valley. The river boasts more than 70 fresh water springs.
8. Withlacoochee State Trail - Running from Citrus Springs in Citrus County to Trilby in Pasco County, this trail is presently the longest paved rail-trail in Florida. The 46-mile trail corridor runs through small towns, ranches, the Withlacoochee State Forest and close to the Withlacoochee River. Springtime riders will enjoy an abundance of beautiful wildflowers. The trail will eventually join other trails in the region, becoming part of the Central Florida Loop. The trail’s annual bike ride the first Sunday of October and attracts 1,000-1,500 cyclists of all ages and skill level, making it one of the largest one-day bike rides in the Southeast.
9. Blackwater Heritage State Trail - Hikers, cyclists and equestrians who visit the state's westernmost rail-trail, originating in the quaint historic town of Milton, can explore the beautiful countryside of Florida's panhandle with a trail that crosses several creeks and features an array of native wildflowers. Among swamps, towering pine trees and pastureland, this paved trail provides a serene tour through rural Florida. At its northern terminus, this 8-mile paved trail joins the 1.5-mile Military Heritage Trail which is managed by the U.S. Navy.
10. Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail - This paved and off-road trail, located atop the Herbert Hoover Dike, circles Lake Okeechobee, the second largest freshwater lake in the United States. The trail takes users through agricultural communities while offering endless fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities, including herons, egrets and various wintering waterfowl. For nearly 20 years this trail has been the site of a week-long 110-mile hike that takes place over Thanksgiving week and is hosted by the Florida Trail Association.
Touting Florida’s award-winning trails as a major tourism attraction alongside beaches, golf courses and theme parks, VISIT FLORIDA’s recently launched Trails-Tourism website features more than 100 trails and serves as a one-stop-shop for residents and guests looking to plan a nature-based vacation or simply take a day-trip down a paved or paddling trail. The website provides a gateway to nearby businesses, outfitters, restaurants and overnight accommodations to make any trail trip complete, and allows businesses to list their company on the website for free through June 2011. For more information about VISIT FLORIDA’s new trails and tourism website, visit trails.visitflorida.com.
About DEP’s Office of Greenways and Trails
In 2008, Florida was named by American Trails as “Best Trails State in America,” recognizing DEP’s Office of Greenways & Trails for its vision and leadership, which includes community assistance, land acquisition, public outreach and the management of eight state trails and the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway. The Greenway is Florida’s longest green corridor stretching 110 miles from the St. Johns River near Palatka to the Gulf of Mexico near Inglis. Of the eight state trails, six are rail-trails, which are railroad corridors converted to recreational trails for hiking, biking, skating, equestrian activities and alternative transportation. For more information about Florida’s trails, visit FloridaGreenwaysAndTrails.com.