There’s great mountain biking at Alafia River State Park in FLORIDA? But flat land, beaches, and humidity are synonymous with Florida, not mountains. Mountain bikes and Florida shouldn’t be associated with each other—right? Wrong! Tucked away in the middle part of the state, about an hour east of Tampa Bay, you’ll find some of the best mountain biking trails at Alafia River State Park.
What’s unique about Alafia is that it holds 17 miles of some of the best mountain biking trails in the state. With difficulty ratings from green circles to double black diamonds, the inexperienced and most advanced riders will all find some fun trails.With lots of lucrative trails come lots of visitors. Make sure you get there within an hour of the state park opening if you want to get a good parking spot on the weekend. It’s much less crowded throughout the week, but you’re still going to want to get your rides in earlier in the day before it gets too hot and you’re drenched in sweat. Always take proper safety precautions and wear a helmet, whether you’re biking at Alafia River State Park or anywhere else. The state park has a strict rule on wearing helmets and will sometimes check to make sure everyone in the car has brought his or her helmet.
I was there a few days after a rainfall and the trails were great, not very dry, but not filled with disgusting muck either. The green circle trails serve as a great warm-up ride and riders can elect to make a short loop or link a couple of these easy trails together to make for a longer warm-up. My buddies and I started on Sand Pine, a 2.5 mile green circle, and linked it up with Rock Garden, a 3.5 mile green circle, to start off our day.The trails really lived up to their names and exemplified what I think is so unique about Florida’s trails. On Sand Pine we were pedaling and spinning our tires through sugar sand and with the flick of a light switch, we were in the damp woods pedaling through numerous rock gardens.
While the trails weren’t very strenuous, I found the most challenging part of these trails to be the close proximity of trees. There were solid straight-aways with a quick turn, so I kicked it into high gear with the intention of speeding out of the turn. Just as I hit the turn I saw a couple of trees standing right next to each other. I had to hit the brakes pretty quickly to navigate my way through them without bumping shoulders with the trees.
My favorite trail when I’m mountain biking at Alafia River State Park has got to be the Rollercoaster trail. It’s a 2.8 mile blue square that resembles a rollercoaster, but for mountain bikers. This trail’s littered with quick climbs and some steep drops. My little trick is to lay off the brake to pick up some speed and pump through sections. I can conserve some energy and it’s so much fun to feel the flow of the trail.Be sure to bring some snacks or food for a picnic under one of the pavilions. Heck you can even go all out and have a barbeque using one of the grills there if you’d like, just bring your own charcoal and lighter. You will go hungry if you choose to forgo bringing snacks. There aren’t any places to buy food onsite, just a soda vending machine.
The trails see lots of locals. Respect the locals and they’ll help you out and answer any questions you might have. There’s also a good chance that the locals you see help maintain all the trails, so you can thank them for the great mountain biking at Alafia River State Park. The local SWAMP Club chapter takes it upon themselves to host trail days the Saturday before the third Sunday of every month. Without these folks, the trails would look ramshackle and wouldn’t be a very fun place to ride.
Load up your buddies and bikes, pack a lunch, and go mountain biking at Alafia River State Park. There are plenty of trails for everyone to have some fun and you’ll have some great stories to tell your coworkers and classmates when they ask you how your ride went.
For more information about mountain biking at Alafia River State Park and for information about other state parks in Florida, download the The Official Guide for Florida State Parks powered by Pocket Ranger®.