The Suncoast Trail covers 41 miles, and is officially designated as part of Florida’s Statewide Greenways and Trails System. Opened in 2001, this non-motorized paved trail was developed as part of the Suncoast Parkway. Paralleling the parkway, the trail begins in northern Hillsborough County and proceeds north through Pasco and Hernando counties, traversing suburban, agricultural and natural areas. Throughout the trail, rest/interpretive areas illustrate historical significance, emphasize transitions between ecological communities and identify native species.
Among the trail’s highlights is the segment adjacent to the Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park. This section crosses various rivers and creeks, including the Anclote and Pithlachascotee, and provides views of beautiful natural communities. The Suncoast Trail will eventually serve as a key regional connector, linking to other projects such as the Good Neighbor Trail, the Upper Tampa Bay Trail and the Pinellas Trail. The trail covers three counties: Pasco, Hernando, Hillsborough (info from Florida DEP website).
There are eight access points to the Suncoast Trail:
1- Lutz Lake Fern Road (southern point)
2- State Road 54
3- State Road 52/Concourse Nature Center
4- Crews Lake Park
5- Anderson Snow Regional Park/Sports Complex
6- State Road 50
7- U.S. Highway 98 (northern point)
8- Starkey Park is also an access point
My first trip to the Suncoast Trail was on 10-20-11 via the Starkey Park access point. On that day I really did not ride far. My second trip to the Suncoast Trail was on 10-10-12. As bikers familiar with the trail, they know this 41 miles of pavement is extremely popular with competition cyclists. Wide open with very few cross streets, this trail also parallels the Suncoast Parkway. However this highway is not heavily traveled due to tolls, so while there is noise from cars along here, it is not that annoying.
After reading how the northern section of the trail is the most scenic and shaded, I decided to start my ride at the Highway 50 trailhead. Now I had no detailed info on this specifdic trailhead, so I was worried that there would not be facilities. I’m not a fan of primitive trailheads. I need water, rest rooms, and shaded picnic tables. It just is better with these things. So imagine my surprise when I pulled up to a nice building with all the ammenities. And lots of trees and shade here. Very nice.
The Highway 50 trailhead is easy to find. If coming north on the Suncoast Parkway, get off at Highway 50 exit, and proceed to light. Make left (west), go under the overpass bridge and turn left on Grove Road. A very short distance your first left will be Gar Road. Turn left. You will end at the trailhead. Lots of parking here also.
The parking fee here is $3 and self pay. Very easy. The envelopes and the payment drop on on the right side. Cash only. And don’t forget to tear off receipt and display it on your vehicle mirror. I believe it is worth it to have access to nice facilities to use. Another nice thing was the air station. That worked and was free. Very nice. Bathrooms were spacious, clean, and well stocked. A real plus for sure.
Now the overpass bridge can be seen from the trailhead, and is just a couple hundred yards away. It is long instead of high so riding it was easier than I anticipated. The pavement on it is not flat. It has a very wide area between gradual steps. The Legacy Trail overpass in Venice (Florida) has this construction. But much more pronounced. I really don’t know the purpose of it. The overpass on the Upper Tampa Bay Trail in Citrus has smooth pavement. That is so much easier to ride on.
So upon crossing the overpass north, the other side wraps around and delivers you to the shady section of the trail. So much different than the southern end. With sporadic houses and wooded areas on your left, it is indeed a real pleasure riding along here. Oh sure occassionally the sound of barking dogs coming from back yards are heard over light traffic on the Suncoast Parkway on your right, but not a big deal.
Now the first cross street is Rester Road. Very light traffic here. To the right is the overpass section and to the left it only goes left and right, not straight through. Now on my 10-10-12 visit I didn’t go very far past north of Rester. But it looked the same as what I had come from. Shady, quiet, and scenic. The other cross streets along the trail heading north are Bailey Hill Road, Centralia Road, and finally you end at the U.S. 98 trailhead. This trailhead is primitive with no shelter or facilities.
So this section of the Suncoast Trail is definitely the best. I would highly recommend it. Highway 50 trailhead is a great place to start at. So hope you can load your bike and get over here soon. You will really like it alot. Thanks for seeing.