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Inflating adventures

Fall is the time to get out and ride. Whether you are a triathlete looking for someplace to train or a weekend warrior who wants to put some miles on a fat-tire mountain bike, Florida has a bike trail for you.

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Nature Coast State Trail

Built along abandoned rail lines, the Nature Coast Trail runs for 32 miles connecting the communities of Cross City, Trenton, Fanning Springs and Chiefland. Travel back in time to Old Florida as you pass over a historic train trestle that spans the Suwannee River near Old Town. Riders can also take a side trip to nearby Fanning Springs State Park and Andrews Wildlife Management Area. Officially part of Florida's Statewide Greenways and Trails System, the Nature Coast State Trail is an excellent day trip for cyclists of all ages and abilities.

Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway

This 110-mile corridor crosses Central Florida from the Gulf of Mexico to the St. Johns River following the route of the old Cross Florida Barge Canal. The trail occupies much of the land formerly known as the Cross Florida Barge Canal. The canal, one of the largest public works projects in the state's history, was shut down for environmental reasons. Today, this trail travels through a variety of habitat, offering a host of recreational activities to cyclists as well as hikers and equestrians. It crosses Interstate 75 just south of Ocala, between Exit 67 (County Road 484) and Exit 68 (State Road 200). The land bridge is 52 feet wide and 200 feet long with 400-foot ramps at each end. Pinellas Trail

Florida's premier urban trail, this 34-mile paved route stretches from Tarpon Springs to St. Petersburg, linking some of Pinellas County's most picturesque parks and scenic coastal areas. An estimated 90,000 people on average use the trail each month, many of them commuters who use it as an alternative to driving to work along the crowded roads of Florida's most densely populated county. Cyclists can check out the traffic from atop the eight overpasses that help carry them safely over some of the county's busiest intersections. On Saturday, a "grand opening" celebrating the completion of the trail into downtown St. Petersburg will take place at 10 a.m. at the trestle bridge at the northwest corner of Tropicana Field.

The Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail

Set atop the 35-foot-high Herbert Hoover Dike, this trail offers a breathtaking view of Florida's largest freshwater lake. More than 110-miles long, the LOST trail has several primitive camping sites and covered shelters along the way, but riders can also stay at one of the many small lakefront hotels in Moore Haven, Clewiston or Okeechobee that cater to bass fishermen. In most spots the trail is unpaved, double-track gravel. Spring and fall are the best seasons to ride. Gen. James A. Van Fleet State Trail

This rail-to-trail runs through the heart of the Green Swamp, making it the wildest paved bike trail in Florida. The Green Swamp, the headwaters for some of Florida best paddling rivers — the Withlacoochee, Hillsborough, and Peace — has other recreational opportunities, including backpacking, hiking, camping and hunting. With only one curve in 29 miles, cyclists can go as fast or slow as their hearts desire. Bring a pair of binoculars as this trail has some of the best bird watching in Florida.. Withlacoochee State Trail

Forty-six miles long, the Withlacoochee State Trail is currently the longest paved rail trail in Florida. This state trail passes through quaint little towns, working cattle ranches and a variety of natural habitats as it makes its way from Citrus Springs to Trilby. Mountain bikers can take side trips to the off-road cycling trails of Croom Tract of the Withlacoochee State Forest, the Withlacoochee River (South) Canoe Trail and Fort Cooper State Park. The Withlacoochee Trail will eventually join other trails in the region and be part of a Central Florida Loop Trail. Suncoast Trail

Opened in 2001, this non-motorized paved route is officially part of Florida's Statewide Greenways and Trails System. Built the same time as one of the Tampa Bay area's major north-south highways, the trail begins in northern Hillsborough County and runs north through Pasco and Hernando counties. At various points on the trail, riders will see interpretive signs that illustrate the historical and environmental significance of the region. Highlights of the 41-mile trail include Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park, and various creeks and rivers, including the Anclote and Pithlachascotee. The Suncoast Trail will eventually connect to other bike paths, including the Good Neighbor Trail, the Upper Tampa Bay Trail and the Pinellas Trail.

On the horizon...

The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail

Still in the design and construction phase, this multiuse thoroughfare will be a scenic corridor extending from Key Largo to Key West that will serve hikers, bikers, runners, inline skaters, as well as fishermen and kayakers. The State Department of Environmental Protection plans to link together a system of picnic areas, scenic overlooks, fishing piers, kayak launches and bicycle paths to make one of the largest trails in the state system. When completed, the trail will link 10 state parks as well as portions of Everglades National Park, Biscayne National Park, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, The Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge, Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge, Crocodile Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and the Key West National Marine Sanctuary. There are currently 60 miles of existing bike paths throughout the Florida Keys, and plans are in the works for another 40 to be built next year. For more information, contact the Office of Greenways & Trails field office in Tallahassee at (850) 245-2052 or visit www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/guide.

Before you go

Make sure your helmet fits properly Check your bike and tires Pack a pump, tools and tire patch kit Stock up on water and snacks. Bring a cell phone and small first-aid kit

Source: Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Geographic Data Library

Nature Coast State Trail

Built along abandoned rail lines, the Nature Coast Trail runs for 32 miles connecting the communities of Cross City, Trenton, Fanning Springs and Chiefland. Travel back in time to Old Florida as you pass over a historic train trestle that spans the Suwannee River near Old Town. Riders can also take a side trip to nearby Fanning Springs State Park and Andrews Wildlife Management Area. Officially part of Florida's Statewide Greenways and Trails System, the Nature Coast State Trail is an excellent day trip for cyclists of all ages and abilities.

Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway

This 110-mile corridor crosses Central Florida from the Gulf of Mexico to the St. Johns River following the route of the old Cross Florida Barge Canal. The trail occupies much of the land formerly known as the Cross Florida Barge Canal. The canal, one of the largest public works projects in the state's history, was shut down for environmental reasons. Today, this trail travels through a variety of habitat, offering a host of recreational activities to cyclists as well as hikers and equestrians. It crosses Interstate 75 just south of Ocala, between Exit 67 (County Road 484) and Exit 68 (State Road 200). The land bridge is 52 feet wide and 200 feet long with 400-foot ramps at each end.

Pinellas Trail

Florida's premier urban trail, this 34-mile paved route stretches from Tarpon Springs to St. Petersburg, linking some of Pinellas County's most picturesque parks and scenic coastal areas. An estimated 90,000 people on average use the trail each month, many of them commuters who use it as an alternative to driving to work along the crowded roads of Florida's most densely populated county. Cyclists can check out the traffic from atop the eight overpasses that help carry them safely over some of the county's busiest intersections. On Saturday (Oct. 4), a "grand opening" celebrating the completion of the trail into downtown St. Petersburg will take place at 10 a.m. at the trestle bridge at the northwest corner of Tropicana Field.

The Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail

Set atop the 35-foot-high Herbert Hoover Dike, this trail offers a breathtaking view of Florida's largest freshwater lake. More than 110-miles long, the LOST trail has several primitive camping sites and covered shelters along the way, but riders can also stay at one of the many small lakefront hotels in Moore Haven, Clewiston or Okeechobee that cater to bass fishermen. In most spots the trail is unpaved, double-track gravel. Spring and fall are the best seasons to ride.

Gen. James A. Van Fleet State Trail

This rail-to-trail runs through the heart of the Green Swamp, making it the wildest paved bike trail in Florida. The Green Swamp, the headwaters for some of Florida best paddling rivers — the Withlacoochee, Hillsborough, and Peace — has other recreational opportunities, including backpacking, hiking, camping and hunting. With only one curve in 29 miles, cyclists can go as fast or slow as their hearts desire. Bring a pair of binoculars as this trail has some of the best bird watching in Florida..

Withlacoochee State Trail

Forty-six miles long, the Withlacoochee State Trail is currently the longest paved rail trail in Florida. This state trail passes through quaint little towns, working cattle ranches and a variety of natural habitats as it makes its way from Citrus Springs to Trilby. Mountain bikers can take side trips to the off-road cycling trails of Croom Tract of the Withlacoochee State Forest, the Withlacoochee River (South) Canoe Trail and Fort Cooper State Park. The Withlacoochee Trail will eventually join other trails in the region and be part of a Central Florida Loop Trail.

Suncoast Trail

Opened in 2001, this non-motorized paved route is officially part of Florida's Statewide Greenways and Trails System. Built the same time as one of the Tampa Bay area's major north-south highways, the trail begins in northern Hillsborough County and runs north through Pasco and Hernando counties. At various points on the trail, riders will see interpretive signs that illustrate the historical and environmental significance of the region. Highlights of the 41-mile trail include Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park, and various creeks and rivers, including the Anclote and Pithlachascotee. The Suncoast Trail will eventually connect to other bike paths, including the Good Neighbor Trail, the Upper Tampa Bay Trail and the Pinellas Trail.

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Inflating adventures 10/02/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 2, 2008 4:31am]
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