Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Withlacoochee State Trail In Florida

Important: If you are new to biking on paved trails, be aware that not all trails go through safe areas. Please do a little research beforehand. Google to find info before your visit. Other good resources are peoples blogs over regular websites. Also if you are a member on photo sites (I’m on Flickr) ask questions to people who are posting photos of specific trails. I also get lots of info on bicycle forums and YouTube videos. Taking the time to plan should make your trail excursions more enjoyable, relaxing, and safer. Stay safe and enjoy.

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The Withlacoochee State Trail is 46 miles long, and is presently the longest paved rail trail in Florida. The trail corridor runs through small towns, ranches, and natural areas. The northern terminus is in Dunnellon and the southern terminus is in Dade City. The trail traverses a region that offers many other outstanding recreational opportunities and Fort Cooper State Park. In October 2012 Construction started on an additional 1.5 trail area to connect the Withlacoochee State Trail to the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway. Projected completion date late 2013.

THE TRAILHEADS FROM NORTH TO SOUTH ARE:

1- Gulf Junction (Dunnellon)
2- Citrus Springs
3- Wallace Brooks Park (Inverness)
4- Ft. Cooper State Park (Inverness)
5- Floral City
6- Withlacoochee Riverside Community Park (Brooksville)
7- Lake Townsen Park (Brooksville)
8- Ridge Manor (Brooksville)
9- Trilby
10- Owensboro Junction (Dade City)

Attention: Please be aware that many people have reported Gulf Junction, Citrus Springs, and Trilby to be trailheads in uncomfortable areas. Remote areas increase your chances for car vandalism.

I would highly recommend Wallace Brooks Park trailhead in Inverness. Wallace Brooks Park is located at 328 East Dampier Street in Inverness Florida. My visit here was on 6-16-11. This park is scenic, quiet, and a very popular trailhead. Lots of shaded oak trees here with a boardwalk that runs along part of a Lake Tsala Apopka. Also visitors can enjoy picnic tables with grills, playgrounds, shuffleboard, canoe/kayak launch, and a fishing pier. To get to downtown, head north on the trail to North Apopka Avenue (turn left at red caboose) and go towards historic courthouse. The downtown is quaint and historic. Don't miss.

South of Wallace Brooks Trailhead is Ft. Cooper State Park located at 3100 South Old Floral City Road in Inverness. This is a fantastic place to start your ride. Here you will find a small park that is incredibly beautiful. From the time you enter here you are surrounded by thick green foliage and oak trees throughout that make up solid canopy. Here you will find a fantastic picnic area complete with two excellent restroom facilities, a recreation hall, and playground, all on a scenic lake. Lots of wildlife are routinely spotted here. At the back of the park you will see pavement that goes between a wood fenced area. Lots of parking is close by here. Also keep in mind that rangers routinely patrol the park so your vehicle should be safe. Biking along here you will notice some primitive trails and signs with the history of the area. It is so beautiful and quiet along here. Next you will reach a fence opening. You are at the Withlacoochee Trail. Left goes to Inverness and right goes to Floral City. Now I have not biked to either place from here so I have no specifics on the surroundings. Hopefully soon.

Floral City I visited on 7-20-11 and 12-1-13. This is a very small and quaint little town comprised of 24.9 square miles. The main intersection here is Highway 41 and East Orange Avenue. Look for Aunt Martha's Produce (7751 S Florida Ave) or Shamrock Inn (8343 E Orange Ave). Also a warning about the Shamrock Inn. Many reviews rate the food bad and the prices outrageous. In the back you will find lots of parking and see the trail. You are at the trailhead. There is a gazebo to relax here. No facilities. I have ridden south to East Floral Park Drive (off Highway 41). There is a primitive trailhead there. This trail section is without a doubt the most scenic I've ever ridden. A solid canopy so beautiful and incredible I was stunned. Very impressive. On the left you will see two very old and small cemeteries. The first is Frazier and the second is Williams. Along here you are riding past rural homes. Back yards that are close to the trail and property very spread out. Plenty of interesting things to catch your eye from horses to old rusty cars. When you arrive at East Floral Drive, there is a primitive trailhead here. Follow the road west and it takes you back to Highway 41.

5-8-13 was my first visit to Ridge Manor Trailhead in Brooksville which is located off I-75 on Highway 50. Head east for 1-2 miles then turn left on Croom Rital Road. Trailhead is ahead on right. This is a popular and very safe place to start your bike ride with a huge parking lot. Very nice rest room facilities and shaded picnic tables are available. Looking south you will see an overpass bridge that is only 5.9 miles away from Trilby. Looking north the trail goes past Withlacoochee Riverside Community Park, then Floral City, Inverness, Citrus Springs, and finally ending at Gulf Junction.

On 6-19-13 I visited the Owensboro and Trilby Trailheads. Owensboro is just north of downtown Dade City on Highway 301 (south of Mickler Road. Giraffe Ranch is also located on this road) and is the southernmost terminus. Here you will find lots of shaded primitive parking and no facilities. A recommended trailhead by many, goes north to Trilby. And to reach Trilby continue north on Highway 301 past Owensboro and turn left on Highway 98. When you reach Trilby Road turn left. Go a short distance and past a tiny post office on your right and trailhead is a very short distance on the right. Primitive area with lots of parking and no facilities. This trailhead is not in a good area. Many have reported they don't trust leaving their cars here. But you decide. From Trilby heading north is Ridge Manor.

On 2-19-14 I went to the Withlacoochee Riverside Community Park located at 16060 Lingle Road in Brooksville. Here visitors will find a large area complete with many oak and pine trees that create fantastic shade, huge picnic shelters, playground, basketball court, and nice restroom facilities. From the main parking area, the trail access is a short distance right in front of you, with paths clearly visible and heading slightly to the left. You can't miss it. I felt very comfortable leaving my car behind here, and would recommend this as a starting point. Once on the trail, to the left takes you to Floral City, and to the right takes you to Ridge Manor. This area is very rural, quiet, and safe. Houses are sporadic and many have fences. Ladies on horses are common along here. Much of this trail heading north parallels South Istachatta Road which is dirt and traveled only occasionally by locals. There is not any water or facilities along this trail section so just plan ahead. A few small shelters in nice shaded areas are also found along the trail here when heading north. I ran out of time and never made it heading south to Ridge Manor, but my bet is the trail section is exactly the same as my trail description south.


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