I’d wanted to ride my bike on the Withlacoochee State Trail, especially through the Withlacoochee State Forest, since I first rode the Blue Loop on the Croom Mountain Bike Trails. I also wanted to return and ride Croom’s Yellow Loop, reportedly the most popular of the two off-road single track trails. So I planned a trip to tackle both on the same day.
At 46 miles long, the paved multi-use Withlacoochee State Trail is one of the longest rail-trails in Florida. Even if I hadn’t ridden the off-road trail first, I doubt I would want to tackle an out and back ride for the entire 46 miles (92 total miles)…especially on my rather heavy fat tire bike. This posed no problem, because I specifically wanted to ride the section that runs through the forest.
I decided to start at the Ridge Manor Trailhead and ride north through the forest for about 12.5 miles, then return, along with a short side trail trip to the Withlacoochee River. Did you notice that there’s no shortage of Withlacoochees around here? Haha! Anyway, I almost didn’t take the side trail to the river, as I was getting a bit worn out both mentally and physically, so I just kept thinking about getting back to my car. I even rode past the junction of the trail for at least a mile on my way back before finally talking myself into turning around for fear of what I might be missing.
I am so glad I did! As it turns out, I would have missed out on two very cool things had I not followed the side trail to the river. First of all, it was a short trail through beautiful forest that led to a wonderfully scenic, tranquil spot on the river. This totally broke the monotony of the rather flat, straight trail and repetitive scenery. What an excellent place to rejuvenate before tackling the last leg of my return trip!
The second thing I would have missed was so bizarre. About a mile from the parking lot I heard a loud snap, like a large branch. I looked just ahead on the right for possibly a large animal crashing through the woods, but even as that thought entered my head there was an even louder crack right next to me. Incredibly, a perfectly healthy-looking 60 foot tall tree crashed directly across the trail right as I passed. I couldn’t believe how fast it happened, nor how random it seemed. So my delayed returned was twice rewarded with sights that I would have otherwise missed.
Check out the short video of my ride below, along with the links provided. I think you’ll agree that this area is worth a visit. There are also miles of hiking, paddling and equestrian trails here, too. Not to mention rare and popular public off-road motorcycle and ATV trails, along with campgrounds and parks. Looking for more places to enjoy Florida’s Natural Wonders? See Where-to-G0 and our Bucket List for great places all over the state. Now go have some fun!
Ridge Manor Trailhead, 6410 Croom-Rital Rd., Ridge Manor
Owensboro Jct. Trailhead, 19755 US Highway 301, Dade City
Inverness Trailhead, 315 N. Apopka Avenue, Inverness
Citrus Springs Trailhead, 64 W. Citrus Springs Blvd., Citrus Springs
Gulf Junction Trailhead 233 W Magenta Dr., Citrus Springs