When you think about Mountain Biking, Florida probably isn’t on your radar. But, it really should be. Florida is known for its beaches and water sports, but its potential for mountain biking has been seriously overlooked. Although Florida doesn’t have mountains in the typical sense, the state not only has a vibrant mountain biking community, but also offers hundreds of miles of mountain bike trails. Trails in Florida can accommodate novice beginners and challenge the best mountain bikers in the world. The Sunshine State boasts an average of 237 days of sun per year, making for beautiful riding conditions. While known for hot and muggy summers, Florida’s average temperature between October and March is 72 degrees - making it a perfect Mountain Biking escape while the likes of Colorado and Utah are covered in snow.
Santos Trailhead is located in North - Central Florida, about 15 minutes south of Ocala. This trail system has 80-plus miles of single-track diverse bike trails, including the Vortex - a very technical trail with several large features. One of these features is the Corkscrew, likely the largest man-made MTB feature in Florida. I recommend starting off at the Twister trail. It is a flowing track with swooping corners and fast ridge crossings that has a starting point near the Vortex parking lot. If you’ve still got the legs for it, Twister ends near the beginning of Vortex and you can end your day on that 2 mile trail which is nearly a loop - conveniently placing you near the parking lot.
ALIFIA RIVER STATE PARK
Alafia River State Park stands out from the flat topography of most of Florida with some of the most radical elevation changes in the state.The reclaimed phosphate mine is a hot spot for mountain bikers. The International Mountain Biking Association even gave Alafia River State Park their highest trail designation: Epic. Located in Lithia, FL Alafia is only half an hour from many gorgeous beaches in Tampa Bay. It is a physically demanding, and technically challenging set of trails that are primarily single-track. Rollercoaster is one of the most popular trails at the park. It is a customizable trail with optional off-shoots and connectors that allow for as much of a challenge as you want to take! The start of the trail is mostly pump-track-in-the-woods. The first difficult option is “Derailed”, a fun option with quick drops and sharp turns. From Rollercoaster there are a number of more difficult shorter rides, such as Moonscape that offer some of the most epic mountain biking in Florida.
Markham Park’s “Full Lap” will take you on almost every trail in the park, making the $25 entrance fee worth it! Although the park does draw a decent crowd on the weekends, the trails are not overcrowded. The park lies on the outer edge of Fort Lauderdale, but with ever changing terrain you’ll forget you’re anywhere near the sprawling city. Although the elevation change is pretty negligible, the variety on the loop makes it both enjoyable and highly demanding. The full loop features classic singletrack, rock gardens, fast berms, as well as steep technical climbs and descents.
The Best of Balm Boyette sprawls for nearly 15 miles just west of Alafia state park. This trail is the definition of “Florida Flow”. An old phosphate mine, like Alafia, creates the
punchy elevation that makes the trail fast and fun. The trail is not a loop and ends on the most difficult parts like the infamous Ridgeline, North Abyss, and South Abyss. Make sure to hydrate as the humidity in this swampy oasis can be killer! If you can, ride with a local as the terrain all looks alike and it's possible to get a bit turned around. Do be aware that there is a 2 mile entrance and exit - leave yourself enough energy to get back to the car. Oh and be on the lookout for the occasional gator on the berms.
CALOOSAHATCHEE REGIONAL PARK
The trail system at Caloosahatchee Regional Park (say that three times fast!) consists of stacked loops that change directions every month. The park requires a CASH fee of $5 daily. Make sure you pay attention to all signage to ensure you don’t catch yourself going the wrong way down a single track. There are several intermediate loops with a decent level of difficulty with additional beginner options. The trail has a good number of dirt jumps as well as a pump track.The Far East loop runs along a 15 foot ridge for a little over two miles and meanders through a pepper tree canopy all while offering short drops and climbs. Unlike many Florida trails there is almost no sand - perfect for a Florida rider looking for something different.