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Bike Florida... South Region-West

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Here are 6 paved trails in the Western section of South Florida, from Punta Gorda to the trails at Sanibel Island (a Top 10).


Cape Haze Pioneer Trail - The 8-mile rail trail runs the length of the Cape Haze peninsula from western Port Charlotte to Placida and and the Boca Grande Causeway. Most of it follows the right of way of the former Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railway. It's hard to call this a scenic ride since it mostly goes through scrub and can get a bit monotonous, but it's one of the busiest trails we've seen - a good alternative to busy SR 771. Wide, flat and nicely maintained, the downside is there's little shade. Five trailheads (see map) include restrooms or portalets, and benches are provided along the way. The first section was opened in 1999, making this one of Florida's first rail-trails. (Reported: January 2020)

Location: Charlotte County (See map )
End Points: Cape Haze Peninsula - Port Charlotte to Placida
Mileage: 8 miles
Surface: Asphalt, 10'
Nearby points of interest: Gasparilla Island/Boca Grande

Bike Shops/Rentals:
Bicycle Center of Port Charlotte

More Information:
Charlotte County - Cape Haze Pioneer Trail Brochure


Cape Haze Pioneer Park to Clubhouse Drive Trailhead - The trail begins at the Robert and Ann Mercer Trailhead* along SR 771 (Gasparilla Road) south of SR 776/McCall Road (parking, restrooms, picnic pavilion). Historic markers tell of the former Town of McCall at this site (1909, established for railroad workers), and houses the Placida Bunk House (1907, relocated here to protect it from demolition).
*Hint: If the parking spaces are filled up, park at the Publix shopping center at the SR771/776 intersection and bike on the sidewalk path to the trail.

Following the trail south along the railroad corridor, it crosses a few roads but they're not heavily traveled. Though it appears rural, this is a developed area (the brush mostly hides the surroundings). Passing the community of Rotonda (L. David Johnson Trailhead, parking, picnic table, portalet) you can spot homes through the brush, plus there are some pass-throughs to neighborhood streets. Another trailhead is at Harness Road (parking, picnic table, portalet), then you enter a conservation area. The bridge crossing Coral Creek East Branch offers a scenic overlook. The trail passes Coral Creek Airport, but we didn't see or hear any planes. After passing the golf course at Coral Creek Country Club it arrives at a trailhead at Clubhouse Drive (parking, restrooms).


Clubhouse Drive Trailhead to Boca Grande Causeway - Past Clubhouse Drive, the trail runs into and then along SR 771 (Gasparilla Road), crossing the north side of the bridge at the mouth of Coral Creek - bike/pedestrian path separated from the road by a concrete divider is a plus - and ending just north of the Boca Grande Causeway.* Continuing straight past the Causeway, an unnamed bike path continues another 5 miles along SR 775 (Placida Road).
*Note: It's possible to bike across the causeway - paying the bike toll - to Gasparilla Island and the Boca Grande Bike Path (see below), be careful on the narrow shoulder.

We initially couldn't identify a trailhead at this end, so went down along the Causeway to Placida Park at the boat ramp (fee paid lot). However, 2/10 mile east of the Causeway at Fishery Road we spotted a parking area under the Coral Creek bridge. A sign here notes it's part of the Cape Haze Pioneer Trail! A path from here leads across the bridge on the south side, but there are no crosswalks connecting the north and south paths. SR 771 is quite busy at this point, perhaps one day a better crossing arrangement will be made. The parking is free, there's a portalet and a short trail down to the Centennial Park Fishing Pier, a former rail bridge paralleling the Boca Grande Causeway at Gasparilla Sound.


Gasparilla - Boca Grande Rail Trail - An early Florida rail-trail, it runs the length of Gasparilla Island. Be aware: golf carts share the trail. A jogging path parallels the trail at the north. The Village Center at Boca Grande, located about the midpoint of the trail, features shops and restaurants. To the south, the trail narrows before ending at Garparilla Island State Park. There are many access points to the beach. Crossing the causeway to the island requires paying a toll. (Updated: January 2019)

Location: Charlotte and Lee Counties (See map )
End Points: Gasparilla Island, from the causeway at the north to Gasparilla Island State Park at the south. The State Park provides parking, but parking is available all along the trail which is easily accessible from anywhere on the island.
Mileage: 6 miles
Surface: Asphalt, 6' - 9'
Nearby points of interest: Port Boca Grande Lighthouse & Museum, Rear Range Lighthouse, Gasparilla Inn & Club

Bike Shops/Rentals:
Gasparilla Adventures

More Information:
Florida State Parks - Gasparilla Island State Park

 
 

John Yarbrough Linear Park Trail - At Fort Myers, following the 10 Mile Canal for 6 miles. This is a popular neighborhood trail for both walkers and cyclists. We biked from south (6 Mile Cypress Pkwy.) to north.(Colonial Blvd). Although the trail runs through a busy area and along a railroad track, it's buffered by the canal and vegetation. The shorter southern section has some shade, the northern section not much. Good parking is at Daniels Pkwy. on the north or south side of the road - to cross over, bike west along the roadway to the crossing at Big Pine Way (a trail bridge is the next step). There are other less busy road crossings, and some benches and shelters along the way. At trail endpoints, wide sidewalks continue along the roadways - signs point to other nearby locations. (Reported: Dec. 2019)

Location: Lee County (See map )
Mileage: 6 miles
Surface: Paved
Nearby points of interest: Thomas Edison and Henry Ford winter home sites, Sanibel Island

More Information:
Lee County - John Yarbrough Linear Park

Bike Shops/Rentals:
Fort Myers Cyclery (sales, service)
Trek Bicycle Store (rentals, sales, service)


6 Mile Cypress Pkwy. to Daniels Pkwy. - This is a pleasant section buffered from the surrounding neighborhoods, businesses and railroad track. No road crossings. From trail end along 6 Mile Cypress Pkwy, follow the wide sidewalks 1.4 miles west to Lakes Park (Railroad Museum of South Florida), or 1.1 miles east to the Minnesota Twins Stadium.


Daniels Pkwy to Colonial Blvd.- This section starts as a quiet buffered trail, but opens up - after crossing Crystal Drive and crossing a bridge over the canal, it becomes more commercial. Several road crossings, no stop lights so be careful of the traffic. Approaching the north end, the trail passes Page Airfield across the canal, and runs next to a Seminole Gulf Railway rail yard. Along Colonial Blvd. directional signs point east to the River District (4 miles) and Calusa Nature Center (3.3 miles).


Pine Island Bike Path - The 16 mile path runs the length of Pine Island (the largest island in southwest Florida) along Stringfellow Road between St. James City at the south and Bokeelia at the north. Popular with bikers and walkers, the path provides access to businesses, neighborhoods, and parks. Little shade. The only access to the mainland is at Pine Island Road (SR 78) - the largest road crossing along the path - through Matlacha, with its quaint shops and restaurants. There are no beaches and the island is surrounded by mangrove, so has not become highly developed. It maintains an "old Florida" feel with no traffic lights, and no chain restaurants or hotels!

End Points: St. James City to Bokeelia (south to north)
Mileage: 16 miles
Surface: Paved
Location: Lee County (See map )
Nearby points of interest: Pineland Monument Park, Matlacha, Fort Myers, Sanibel Island

Bike Shops/Rentals:
Pine Island Cycles (rentals, sales, service)

More Information:
Pine Island Chamber of Commerce


St. James City to Bokeelia - Here we visit from south to north. While mostly a separate bike path, a few sections are bike lanes or sharrows (1.5 mile at St. James City, 1 mile at Bokeelia). Parking is available at businesses along the route, or park at Phillips Park (parking, restrooms, picnic, playground, playing fields). Once out of St. James City, the path runs through several nature preserves for a very rural feel. Where SR 78 comes in from the mainland is another shopping district, and nearby is Phillips Park. Continuing north to Bokeelia features many farms and orchards. Bokeelia at the northern tip of the island has great views of Charlotte Harbor, a fishing pier, and restaurant.


Matlacha - Pineland - A worthwhile side trip off Stringfellow Rd. is to Pineland Monument Park and the Calusa Heritage Trail, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Once inhabited by the Calusa tribe, the site includes several shell and sand mounds and other historical remnants. (Reported: December 2019)

 

Also visit us here: Paddling at Pine Island


Punta Gorda Pathways - Punta Gorda is doing a good job developing a bicycling infrastructure through its Punta Gorda Pathways program, planned for 18 miles. Shared-use trails and paths will connect neighborhoods, parks and commercial areas throughout the city. We visited the Harborwalk (2.4 miles), connecting to the Linear Park Path (1 mile), connecting to the Shreve Street Shared-Use Path (1 mile), connecting to the US 41 Shared-Use Path (4 miles).

View the paths, map, and 45+ photos

Punta Gorda Bike Trails, Pathways

Sanibel Island - a Top 10 Florida bike trail.

Sanibel island has 25 miles of paved paths and trails, plus 4.3 miles at Wildlife Drive through the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Visit the lighthouse, beaches, restaurants, and shopping.

View the trails, map, and 25+ photos

Sanibel Island, Top 10 biking

For paddling in Southwest Florida, visit us on the Great Calusa Blueway

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