Ample sunshine and fair weather make Florida’s Adventure Coast an excellent place to hike and bike throughout the year. Northwest Florida not only boasts great weather, but it’s also home to a vast network of trails that wind through parks, preserves, and wildlife areas. Some are paved paths along former railroad beds that give cyclists safe, convenient places to ride. Others are dirt trails set deep within forests, offering wild escapes for trail runners, birdwatchers, and equine enthusiasts.
No matter your passion, you’ll find just the route for you on Florida’s Adventure Coast. To put you on the right path, we’ve highlighted seven of the best trails in the region.
Looking to hit the trail on two wheels with your family? Make your way to the Brooksville Good Neighbor Trail, a 10-mile greenway linking historic Brooksville with the Withlacoochee State Trail. The trail follows the route of the former Florida Southern Railroad Line—a fun piece of trivia that’s sure to delight any train enthusiasts in the group. Its westernmost trailhead, located at Russell Street Park in Brooksville, also offers access to the Brooksville 1885 Railroad Depot Museum and the Countryman One-Room Schoolhouse Museum. In the future, the Good Neighbor Trail will also connect to the north-south running Suncoast Trail, completing another portion of the planned Coast-to-Coast Trail. This 250-mile paved path will ultimately link Florida’s east and west coasts, stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean.
Part of Florida’s statewide Greenways and Trails System, the 41.3-mile Suncoast Trail is among the longest paved trails in the state. Running through Hillsborough, Pasco, and Hernando counties, the award-winning scenic trail threads a patchwork of public lands, regional parks, wide pastures, and wildlife-rich woodlands. A planned connector trail will also link the Suncoast Trail with the Brooksville Good Neighbor Trail, offering riders access to historic Brooksville. For now, though, it’s a great place to get in a run, ride, or just a leisurely stroll (or roll) to enjoy the great outdoors.
The 46-mile Withlacoochee State Trail is the longest paved trail in Florida. The path is open to runners, hikers, cyclists, and skaters, and an equestrian trail parallels segments of the route. Designated a National Recreation Trail, the Withlacoochee State Trail meanders through six distinctly different native habitats that showcase some of the state’s wildest natural spaces. A stretch of multi-use path parallels the Withlacoochee River, and the trail traverses the Croom Wildlife Management Area of the Withlacoochee State Forest, where you might spot white-tailed deer, gopher tortoises, indigo snakes, and swallow-tail kites.
Inspired by the East Coast’s iconic Appalachian Trail, the 1,300-mile Florida National Scenic Trail, also called the Florida Trail, traverses the entire Sunshine State. Running from the pristine beaches of the Gulf Islands National Seashore in the north to the Big Cypress National Preserve in the south, the notoriously grueling trail also meanders through a scenic swath of Florida’s Adventure Coast. Along the coast, the path traverses the Croom Tract at Withlacoochee State Forest and showcases natural areas like Cypress Lakes Preserve, home to rare wildflowers and gigantic cypress trees.
For birders and wildlife-watching enthusiasts, Florida consistently tops the list of travel destinations. The state includes a wide variety of habitats, including shadowy pine forests, vast wetlands, and the longest stretch of coastline in the lower 48. So far, more than 500 bird species have been recorded in the state.
For wildlife enthusiasts, the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail is the ultimate avenue to experience the Sunshine State’s biodiversity. As you explore the trail, you might spy iconic species like the Florida Scrub-Jay, a bird found no place else on the planet. The statewide trail features 510 different stops, with eight different locations on the Adventure Coast, including the Weekiwachee Preserve, the Chinsegut Wildlife and Environmental Area, and Linda Pedersen Park.
Part of the Withlacoochee State Forest, the Croom Motorcycle Area in an open-air playground for off-road riders of all sorts. Established in 1973, the 2,600-acre area is dedicated solely to all-terrain vehicles and off-road motorcycles. The Croom Motorcycle Area is also the only park in Florida where youth are permitted to ride on their own, with training zones set aside just for riders under the age of 12. The adjacent Buttgenbach Campground offers a family-friendly accommodation option for visiting riders, providing tent and RV sites and easy access to the motorcycle area.
On Florida’s Adventure Coast, equestrians also have plenty to explore, especially in the 20,000-acre Croom Tract at Withlacoochee State Forest. The longest equestrian trail in the Croom Tract is the 18-mile Hernando Main Loop. It takes riders through a mosaic of Florida habitats, including forests of longleaf pine, hardwood hammocks, cypress ponds, and thickets of live oak. The Hernando Main Loop is also splintered with shorter equestrian trails, forming just a portion of the 35-mile trail network accessible to riders in the Croom Tract.
From the cypress ponds of the Croom Tract to the paved paths near Brooksville, there is a trail for every type of adventure along Florida’s Adventure Coast. Maybe you’ve always dreamed of hiking from the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic Coast. Perhaps you’d like to tick off a few species on your birding list. Or you might just be craving a leisurely bike ride without having to battle any traffic. Whatever you’re up for, you’ll find the perfect path to explore along this spectacular part of the Sunshine State.
Written by Malee Baker Oot for Matcha in partnership with Florida’s Adventure Coast.
Featured image provided by Florida’s Adventure Coast Visitors Bureau