I was fortunate to finally bicycle the Four Freedoms Trail in Madison Florida on 3-14-12. While this is not a highly well known and promoted trail, make no mistake it is one of the best in the state. The Four Freedoms Trail in Madison County is 12 miles long, and was constructed as a joint effort between the County, Suwannee River Water Management District, the Office of Greenways and Trails, and the Florida Department of Transportation. As a result, the trail was created without using any of Madison County’s ad valorem tax dollars.
This recreational trail extends north from the city limits of Madison to the Withlacoochee River at the Florida-Georgia border. Much or all of the Four Freedoms Trail is a former abandoned railroad corridor. The Valdosta Southern Railway, chartered in 1896, opened its 28-mile line from Valdosta to Madison Florida in 1901. The Georgia-Florida Railway was organized in 1906. In 1954, the new Valdosta Southern Railroad began operating the former Georgia & Florida line between Valdosta Georgia and Madison Florida. The tracks from Clyattville to Madison were abandoned in 1972. In 1992 the line was sold to Rail Management Corporation, which established the Valdosta Railway to operate it. In 2005, Rail Management sold all of its assets, including the Valdosta Railway. Here people can enjoy biking, walking, and horseback riding (beside the trail). There are also covered rest shelters along the way. No water is provided here so bring plenty. The locals in Madison all know what a special trail this is.
I stumbled across a blog about the trail in 2011, and something inside me said to get here ASAP. And the something inside me was right. This trail was incredible and very beautiful. It far exceded my expectations. I have bicycled many paved trails since April 2011, and in my opinion this trail is definitely the best one I’ve ever visited in Florida. The trail starts just out of downtown on Highway 145 heading north (on your right) past Rocky Ford Road (on your left).
The trail will then cross the main highway in several places. The first crossover is at NE 115th Avenue. Here is a trailhead with parking and a shelter. Continue on the left side of Highway 145. The next shelter is on Poppy Trail. You are now on Persimmon Drive. Continue riding and you will arrive at Capt. Buie Road. This is the small town of Pinetta. And I mean small. There will be a post office on your left. Keep riding and you will arrive at a playground, shelter, and parking area. A great place to rest. The trail continues on Persimmon Drive then crosses to the right just before Hollingsworth Short (aka Paw Paw Street).
You are now riding away from Persimmon Drive. Then the trail continues on the left side of Pineapple Street. Pineapple becomes Pear Way. Continue riding and you will cross Pear to the right. Just a short distance away your next stop will be the end of the trail. There is a fence in front of you. Go around the fence and straight ahead. Disregard the dirt trail on your left. I believe that is a private drive. The Withlacoochee River, shelter and lookout boardwalk, and the abandoned trail trestle bridge is ahead. Way too cool here.
This is your reward for the ride. Across the river is Georgia. But without signs announcing it of course. The scenery on the trail is incredible. Now this was a long drive for me from Sarasota so I also visited two other paved trails on this March 2012 visit to north Florida. The Withlacoochee Bay Trail in Inglis and the Suwannee River Greenway in Branford. A two thumbs up to the Four Freeoms Trail. Yes this can be a long drive for many people. But if you do your research, have the time and money, combine paved trails, it can be a fantastic adventure for you. It definitely was for me. Thanks for stopping by.
Update: I received a nice message via Facebook on 8-1-12. It said: “Thank you for the glowing review of our trail and the photos! We are very proud of it and are so glad to hear it is being enjoyed! – Jeanne Bass, County Planner.
I really appreciate the kind words from Jeanne. I’m just happy to do what I do and hopefully others can see how incredible bicycling paved trails can be. I believe it’s not just a sport but a lifestyle.
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