San Felasco, the trails at Santos below Ocala and the Suwannee River Valley trails at White Springs offer truly interesting, scenic, and challenging riding venues for mountain bikers of all ages and skills.


The Tour De San Felasco is an annual 50-mile ride which attracts over 250 riders each January. Trails not on the regular system are opened just for the event.

The Santos Trails system, which is well maintained by the Ocala Mountain Bike Association, is located in the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway. It is just south of Ocala and a block off US 441/301 at SE 80th Street. A campground is near the trail head. Florida’s most challenging biking venue, The Vortex, features huge jumps, ramps, bridges and moguls. A medical helicopter landing area serves as a warning.

The Suwannee River Biking Association, headquartered in White Springs, maintains fine biking trails and sponsors family friendly events such as the I-Did-A-Bike festival. Big Shoals State Park, about a mile east of White Springs on US 41, hosts a Class 3 rapids waterfall that gives the park its name. Bike trails abound. Camping is in the park as well.

Mountain biking in Florida is not the oxymoron most readers would expect. My first off-road ride in 1990 at Hanna Park, which now has about 25 miles of maintained and marked “singletrack” trails.

Skills acquired and perfected in Northeast Florida can take bikers to the “highlands” (or at least “higherlands”) of Central Florida for wonderful natural adventures.

San Felasco Hammock State Park sits on the state’s limestone backbone just south of Alachua. This young park was once on a tung nut tree plantation. (Tung nut oil is a lubricant.) These trails offer Florida’s bikers a respite from the “flats” (flat terrain, that is).

That backbone has a natural elevation of about 200 feet. It seems even higher when one makes the climb to the top of the ridge I call “Mount San Felasco.” More than 30 miles of well maintained and marked trails scale the limestone backbone to dance along elevated ridges, creating a self-propelled natural rollercoaster.

The Friends of San Felasco have scouted, marked and built these trails. They are named for their physical and symbolic importance. Trail names include the Ravines, Odd Buck, Hammock Hub, Meadow View, Cellon Creek and Sweetgum.

In December, my brother Steve and I began our slow climb on the Cellon Creek loop for the two-mile climb to the summit of “Mount San Felasco” on Tung Nut Loop. He is 74 and I am 66.

On April 11, Len Cawrse, 70, and I returned. Len is my photographer-rider-friend for the Adventures with Len and Bill. The Friends of San Felasco includes a cadre of spirited seniors, which proves biking can mean a lifelong adventure.

“Climb” is the right word. A picnic table and an unexpected view await riders on the summit. From there, trails become a series of 1- to 3-mile loops that can delight and challenge riders.

Conquistador is the trail that truly proves one can mountain bike in Florida. If one simply awoke along a random spot on the 2.5-mile loop, it might be hard to guess what “mountain” you were on.

By developing 10 loops in the trail system, the Friends have devised a venue for all skill levels. Loops flow along into one another. Riders may skip or include sections to enhance the challenge or simply enjoy a relaxing ride through an upland pine forest.

Riders are never alone. Deer are abundant and the park is noted for its bird watching possibilities. Sandhill cranes have noisily flown over my head. Hawks and owls frequent the hills. Gopher tortoises and snakes decorate the landscape. Wild hogs and coyotes have been spotted.

Turkey Creek meanders through the bike and horse trials to form a small round island reached by bridges. The horse and bike trails meet on the island for a scenic lunch spot.

As one rides across the longer bridge out, an ascent along a nifty ridge I call the “North Carolina section” begins with switchbacks that lead to trials named Red Bug Run, Pine For You and Hidden Rise. Back country loops extend the rides out to the end of the bike trails system.

Once back at the summit’s picnic table, riders are ready to enjoy an half-mile downhill ride that then stretches out to well over two miles along the Cellon Creek Trail to the parking lot,

A hiking trail entrance to the park is on the south end just off State Highway 235 north of Gainesville. The main entrance for the horse and bike trails is on US 441 just south of Alachua.

The park is about 70 miles southwest of downtown Jacksonville. Take I-10 west to the State Road 121 exit and head south to La Crosse. County Road 235 takes you into Alachua. Turn left on US 441. About two miles down, you turn right into the park.

Just a $4 fee entitles bikers a ticket on the 30-mile natural human-powered roller coaster. A similar loop for horse trails starts in the same parking area.

Camping is nearby at a city park in Worthington Springs on State Road 121, about 20 minutes away from San Felasco. The Chastain Seay campground sits high on the bank above the Santa Fe River.