Top 10 Trails in Florida

Posted 01/01/21 by Laura Stark in America's Trails

Florida's Legacy Trail | Photo by Brian Gerhardstein

This blog has been updated from its original 2014 version. Special acknowledgment: Ken Bryan, RTC's Florida State Director and Senior Strategist for External Relations

NOTE: As you head out on the trail, remember to follow the guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state and local governments. For resources on how to #SharetheTrail and #RecreateResponsibly, go to railstotrails.org/COVID-19.

Florida. The very name conjures up lush natural areas rich in wildlife, sandy beaches and seashells, and vibrant cities bursting with attractions. The Sunshine State’s plethora of pathways—including nearly 60 rail-trails—connect travelers to this diverse array of beautiful landscapes and unique communities. Even better, with some of the flattest geography in the United States, these top trails are suitable for just about everyone.

Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail

Florida's Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail | Photo by TrailLink user gmquesada
Florida's Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail | Photo by TrailLink user gmquesada

Forming an arc from St. Petersburg north past Tarpon Springs and inland to East Lake, the nearly 50-mile Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail allows travelers to experience the charms of Florida’s western shore, with Gulf Coast views and an enjoyable mix of urban waterfront and quaint downtowns. Pedal to nearby Honeymoon Island State Park for a delightful dip in the water and a nature walk through pine flatwoods. Excitingly, this Hall of Fame rail-trail also plays a role in two developing trail systems: a 75-mile loop connecting Pinellas County by trail; and the Coast-to-Coast Connector Trail, a 250-mile route across the state.

County: Pinellas


Related: Trail of the Month Feature on Florida’s Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail

Withlacoochee State Trail

Florida's Withlacoochee State Trail | Photo by TrailLink user sarkazoid
Florida's Withlacoochee State Trail | Photo by TrailLink user sarkazoid

One of the longest rail-trails in the state, the Withlacoochee State Trail connects a string of small communities in west-central Florida along a 46-mile route largely paralleling the Withlacoochee River. Florida is known for its wildlife, and trail-goers will almost certainly see some here. Deer, alligators, tortoises, wild turkeys and many other animals inhabit the landscapes that the paved pathway rolls through, including sand hills, wetlands, cypress forests and groves of longleaf pine. History buffs can also enjoy a peek into the past with railroad whistle markers, the Lake Henderson Trestle and a restored 1925 caboose.

Counties: Citrus, Hernando, Marion, Pasco

Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail-Trail

Florida's Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail-Trail | Photo by Anya Saretzky
Florida's Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail-Trail | Photo by Anya Saretzky

Located west of Jacksonville’s urban core, the Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail-Trail traverses some of northeast Florida’s prettiest landscapes, including wetlands, pine flatwoods and hardwood uplands. The rail-trail crosses the McGrits and Brandy Branch creeks as it extends 14.5 miles west to the small town of Baldwin. The shady corridor offers a haven for many types of birds—including hawks, wood storks and belted kingfishers—and other wildlife. Midway along the trail, the Camp Milton Historic Preserve, the site of one of Florida’s most significant Civil War fortifications, offers a place to learn about local history and stroll the grounds, with a nature path and boardwalk.

County: Duval

West Orange Trail

Florida's West Orange Trail | Photo by TrailLink user Britte Lowther
Florida's West Orange Trail | Photo by TrailLink user Britte Lowther

Dotted with Spanish moss-draped oaks, skirting a handful of small lakes and winding through the charming town of Winter Garden, the West Orange Trail is a must-see Florida biking destination. This diverse pathway connects small communities and suburban neighborhoods northwest of Orlando, yet offers ample opportunities for viewing wildlife along the way. The route stretches 22 miles from Oakland to Apopka and is anchored on its southern end by Killarney Station, a modern take on an old-time train depot.

County: Orange

General James A. Van Fleet State Trail

Florida's General James A. Van Fleet State Trail | Photo by TrailLink user keithsnyder30
Florida's General James A. Van Fleet State Trail | Photo by TrailLink user keithsnyder30

In Florida’s rural center, the General James A. Van Fleet State Trail provides a scenic trip through bottomland forest, cattle ranchland and the Green Swamp, a massive protected expanse teeming with wildlife. The experience on the 29-mile paved pathway can easily be combined with other outdoor activities that abound around it, including horseback riding on the paralleling equestrian track, hunting in the Green Swamp and paddling in the adjacent Withlacoochee, Hillsborough and Peace rivers.

Counties: Lake, Polk, Sumter

Gainesville-Hawthorne State Park Trail

Florida's Gainesville-Hawthorne State Park Trail | Courtesy RTC
Florida's Gainesville-Hawthorne State Park Trail | Courtesy RTC

Heading south from the bustling university town of Gainesville along the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Park Trail, travelers will soon reach the Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, where wild horses and bison roam. A 50-foot-high observation tower in the park provides panoramic views. Approaching the trail’s eastern end in the former railroad town of Hawthorne, the 16.5-mile route flanks the Lochloosa Wildlife Management Area—part of the Great Florida Birding Trail—where recreational opportunities abound, including hunting, fishing, hiking, horseback riding and canoeing.

County: Alachua

Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail 

Florida's Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail | Photo by Pit Vins Photography
Florida's Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail | Photo by Pit Vins Photography

The Tallahassee–St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail follows the route of the state’s first and longest-operating railroad, created in the mid-1800s to transport cotton from plantations to awaiting ships at Port Leon, near the Gulf of Mexico. Today, the rail-trail offers 21 miles of adventure along a variety of urban and more remote environments, passing side trails and state parks along the way. Longleaf pines and forests of oak, wax myrtle and yaupon holly shade the route. At the trail’s southern terminus is the city of St. Marks, which boasts waterfront restaurants and views of cruising boats on the St. Marks River.

Counties: Leon, Wakulla

Legacy Trail

Florida's Legacy Trail | Photo by Laura Stark
Florida's Legacy Trail | Photo by Laura Stark

The Legacy Trail, perched on Florida’s west coast, has a splendid opening: the Historic Venice Train Depot, a Mediterranean Revival-style building dating back to 1927 and once considered the finest station on the Seaboard Air Line Railroad. Next to the depot stands a bronze statue of circus star Gunther Gebel-Williams—heralded as “The Greatest Wild Animal Trainer of All Time”—a nod to the tracks’ usage by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. From here, the 10.7-mile rail-trail that now traces the line heads to the southern outskirts of Sarasota. Like much of the state, nature is close at hand along the route; watch for the trail’s many interpretive signs to identify and learn more about the regional flora and fauna, as well as signs about the area’s history.

County: Sarasota

Timpoochee Trail

View from Florida's Timpoochee Trail | Photo by TrailLink user cowtipr
View from Florida's Timpoochee Trail | Photo by TrailLink user cowtipr

Tucked into the Florida Panhandle, the Timpoochee Trail traces the Gulf of Mexico shoreline and Scenic Highway 30-A, connecting a handful of coastal communities and beaches between Duane Allen and Rosemary Beach. Views of the sea, sandy dunes and marsh lakes, plus easy access to three state parks—Topsail Hill Preserve, Grayton Beach and Deer Lake—make this 19-mile route a stunner.

County: Walton

East Central Regional Rail Trail

Florida's East Central Regional Rail Trail | Photo by Britte Lowther
Florida's East Central Regional Rail Trail | Photo by Britte Lowther

Although a small gap remains in its planned 52-mile route, the East Central Regional Rail Trail already provides 47 miles of paved pathway for exploring Florida’s east coast. Trail-goers can seamlessly ride from Titusville—the Brevard County seat—north to Edgewater in neighboring Volusia County, and at the midway point, they can go from Maytown west to Farmton. Farther west, a disconnected segment links Osteen and Enterprise on the northern shore of Lake Monroe, and provides a connection to the Spring to Spring Trail. The pleasant route offers passage through lush corridors of tall trees, bridges over picturesque wetlands and easy access to city centers.

Counties: Brevard, Volusia

Honorable Mention

Atlantic Greenway

Nestled in Miami Beach, one of the country’s most popular destinations, the 4-mile Atlantic Greenway offers a great place for people-watching and taking in views of the Atlantic Ocean. Despite its short length, the palm-tree-lined pathway serves as a major connector, linking parks, beaches, hotels, and shopping and dining areas. The route also holds a place in two much larger trail systems: the Miami LOOP, a developing 225-mile trail network throughout Miami-Dade County, and the East Coast Greenway, extending from Florida to Maine.


County: Miami-Dade


Miami LOOP logo

This 225-mile Miami LOOP is a world-class trail network project in Miami-Dade County that will take the region to new levels of transportation, health, and economic and environmental resiliency.

VIEW MIAMI LOOP

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