San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park may be home to Florida’s most underrated mountain biking trail system, and that’s truly a shame. Like Alafia River State Park and the Santos Trails, this is a trail system worthy of ranking with the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA.com), yet it’s not. Perhaps that’s because San Felasco isn’t run and maintained by a local affiliate mountain biking association. Still, major kudos to the Friends of San Felasco, Florida State Parks, and all the volunteers that shape and maintain these trails.
I was so pleasantly surprised with my 20 mile mountain bike ride through this rare mature Florida forest, almost entirely on well-maintained single track. The most challenging part? Elevation gain. By far the most of any ride I’ve been on in Florida — nearly 1400 feet! The best part? The other side of every grueling uphill climb is an exhilarating downhill run, sometimes wide open and sometimes with technical sections that command your respect.
Granted, a couple of the trails are listed as being for advanced level riders, but I think they’re more intermediate skill level…although some of the uphills do require a strong rider. Don’t want that much hill challenge? There are still miles of easy trails, all designed in a series of connected loops. I just wanted to try a couple of trails that one map showed as double and triple black diamond — however, neither are even close to a single black diamond, challenging as they are for their elevation changes and technical sections.
There are miles and miles of trails beyond what I rode, mostly shorter, easier loops. and connectors. The ambience throughout is amazing. I saw dozens of deer, some stepping just a few feet off the trail as I zoomed by. I saw massive tree after massive tree, sprawling oaks and pencil-straight pines. I saw limestone outcroppings and massive sinkholes.
There are picnic tables at many strategic spots, including one rest area that has a bike repair station and a port-a-potty…out in the middle of nowhere. Equestrians have separate trails, but there are several crossings and junctions throughout. Please remember, they always have the right of way, whether you’re riding your bike or walking. Why? It could be very dangerous for the horse rider (and/or you) if the horse got spooked. Incidentally, there were twice the number of equestrians at San Felasco as mountain bikers. San Felasco hiking is in an exclusive area of the property.
I have only 2 disappointments. First, there doesn’t seem to be a single clear and definitive map of these trails. I printed out 3 different maps and no 2 are quite the same. To make matters worse, secondly, signage is lacking or unclear at several critical junctions. In another case, there was a waypoint marker without a corresponding number on any map. On the plus side, at almost every junction there was a sign pointing the way to the parking lot, so it’s nearly impossible to get entirely lost.
For me, it was well worth the 2+ hour drive from east Orlando. Check out the Photo Gallery or the slideshow below, the Garmin map of my ride and the links provided — I think you’ll agree. Looking for other great places to experience Florida’s Natural Wonders? Visit our Bucket List and Where-to-Go. Now get out there and have some fun!
Garmin Map of my ride:
Mountain Biking Trailhead: 13201 Progress Blvd., Alachua, FL