Just two hours north of Tampa Bay lies cycle-friendly Gainesville. Without the University of Florida’s "Gator Nation" - 50,000 party-loving students - the historic downtown would be a sleepy slice of old Florida. But thanks in part to UF's 2,000 acre campus, Gainesville boasts an active community of pedal-happy cyclists. Mild winters and beautiful terrain add to the appeal of this northern Florida cycling hub.
This fun college town is also an adventurous destination during the cooler months (November-May) and savvy visitors avoid weekend crowds. North of town, you can amble, cycle or canoe natural spring parks such as pristine IchetuckneeSpringsState Park (Ft.White) or scenic O’Leno State park (High Springs).
Another popular backcountry cycle destination is the twisting Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail, site of the October Horse Farm Hundred ride. With an elevation gain of 3,246 feet and picturesque MarionCounty thoroughbred farms and verdant pastures, this is an easy-intermediate 32 mile round-trip ride rarely interrupted by road crossings.
To access the curvy trailheads, start at BoulwareSpringsPark (3500 SE 15th St.) or Hawthorne Terminus (300 SW 2nd Ave.). Bring food and water with you, since that are few food choices along the route. If you start and stop at Hawthorne, you can grab a beer and some good eats at nearby Sunnys as a reward for testing your mettle on the pedal.
Devil's Millhopper State Park — Photo courtesy of Ken Watford
Don’t worry if you don’t have a bike. You can rent cycles on campus(also a great site for biking) or at the Super Cool Bike Shop, sponsors of the Gator Nation’s triathlete team. Local bike shops and clubs sponsor fun rides for every ability:
- Mondays - Super Cool MTB Trail Ride! Every Monday. Meet at 6:15 ride at 6:30. Under 2 hours on local trails.
- Tuesday - Hipp Ride - Meets at 6:00pm near the Hippodrome State Theater and Maude's Coffee House in Downtown Gainesville.
- Wednesday - Mr. Goodbike Ride - Meets at 6:30pm on NW 13th St and NW 5th Ave.
- Thursday - Hipp Ride - Meets at 6:00pm near the Hippodrome State Theater and Maude's Coffee House in Downtown Gainesville.
- Friday - Bikes and More MTB ride meets at 6:30 at B&M every Friday.
- Saturday - GCC Ride - Meets at NW 43rd St and Millhopper Road.
- Sunday - GCC Ride - Meets SW 34th St and Williston Road.
Cyclists exploring Gainesville also find vibrant nightlife (Hippodrome Theater, Lillian’s Music Store, Stubbies & Steins) and hip bistros (The Top, Emiliano’s Café, Leonardo 706, Wine and Cheese Gallery). And visitors gravitate toward the city's Butterfly Rainforest, Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, Florida Museum of Natural History’s fantastic fossil collection and a huge sinkhole at Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park.
For More Info:
Gainesville CVB: www.visitgainesville.com
Florida Parks: www.Floridastateparks.org
Gainesville Cycling Club: http://gccfla.org/
Riding Maps/Gainesville: http://gccfla.or/cgi-bin/web_maps.cgi
Super Cool Bike Shop: 3460 W. University Ave., Gainesville; (352) 371-2453