Worth the journey!
I traveled from Lady Lake, Florida to ride the Nature Coast State Trail on March 17/18 staying overnight in Chiefland. The journey and hotel stay were well worth it!
This completely paved trail is a unique T-shape formed by the small Florida towns of Chiefland, Cross City, and Trenton. It actually crosses three Florida counties, Levy, Gilchrist, and Dixie!
Not deterred by overcast skies and the threat of rain, I set off late morning on the 17th from the depot trailhead in downtown Chiefland. My goal was to ride the leg to Fanning Springs and from there ride on to Trenton. The trail from Chiefland runs parallel with U.S. 19 but at a distance that the road cannot be seen or heard. There were a number of small country roads that had to be crossed as I rode out of Chiefland but very little traffic and didn't need to come to a complete stop at any of the crossings.
After 8 miles of this leg, the rain became too much and so I beat a hasty retreat back to Chiefland.
The morning of the 18th once again greeted me with gray, forbidding, overcast skies and I considered abandoning my riding plans for the day. Decided, however, to drive north on U.S. 19 to the trailhead at Fanning Springs. Glad I did because, as the morning progressed, gray skies were replaced by blue and the sun appeared.
I first rode the trail from Fanning Springs to the trailhead at Cross City (approximately 13 miles). For several miles I rode through an avenue of oak and pine trees before the trail opened up and ran along U.S. 19 into Cross City. The trail from Fanning Springs to Cross City contained several wooden bridges and one longer paved bridge. One of these old train trestles bridges the Suwanee River.
The next leg of the ride took me across the top of the "T" from Cross City to Trenton (approximately 22 miles). Only a few quiet roads to cross. The depot at Trenton is used partly as a Quilt store, and that day there Quilt Festival was in full swing.
After a refreshments and a break I cycled back to Fanning Springs.
If you like a straight and flat trail, the nature Coast State Trail is for you! The trail surface is good except for small sections of the Fanning Springs to Trenton leg. Lots of trees, Florida fauna and open fields to see! Unfortunately, I did not get to see wildlife except, of course, for the numerous squirrels. The trail is well patrolled by Park Rangers and also a Park volunteer who takes great pride in keeping the trail clean and clear of trash and foliage. There were restrooms at Cross City, Chiefland, and Trenton. Covered benches were scattered along the trail for those who need to rest. Carry water/drinks with you as this trail does not provide drinking water. I guess I was spoiled the previous weekend when I rode the Suncoast Trail which provides ice water for its users. The days I rode the Nature Coast State trail I saw few fellow cyclists but I'm sure the weather was partly responsible for that.
All in all I really enjoyable two days. I highly recommend this trail!
Trail now extended in two directions
"Recently the Nature Coast Greenway was extended in two directions: south to Chiefland, and east to Trenton. There are now 32 miles of paved trail. Flat. Scenic Crossing of Suwannee River.
As you enter Chiefland from the south on US19, there is a stop light at SW 4th Ave. Continue north and turn right at SE 2nd Ave., then an immediate right to the parking lot at the old railroad depot next to the trail. There are restrooms in a separate building but they may be locked. (There is a McDonald's 1.2 miles further north on US 19.)
This trail is like a Y with a horizontal bar running across the top and extending both left and right to make a modified T. Chiefland is at the south end of the Y/T, Trenton at the east end, and Cross City at the West end. The triangular portion in the middle is known as Wilcox Junction from the days in which this was a railroad junction. (There is no town at Wilcox Junction.) Wilcox Jct. consists of three trail junctions that I will refer to as ""South Jct., ""West Jct."", and ""East Jct.""
From Chiefland bike 9.1 miles north to where the trail crosses US 19 in Fanning Springs. (Trail parking is permitted at this intersection.) Continuing north another 1.2 miles, you reach South Jct. If you go right for 0.4 miles you are at East Jct. Continuing another 7.1 miles east puts you in Trenton where there is a lovely old railroad depot in which the restrooms usually are open.
From South Jct., you can go left for 0.6 miles to West Jct. Continue another 1.5 miles west and you cross the Suwannee River on an old railroad bridge, the most scenic point on the trail. From the river crossing, another 11.7 miles west puts you in Cross City. About 1 mile from the end of the west branch in Cross City there is a fancy Dairy Queen (like a McDonald's) next to the trail.
You can go directly from East Jct. to West Jct. (0.5 miles). If you start in Chiefland and wish to bike the entire trail, go to Trenton first, turn around and go straight across the top of the Y/T (via East Jct. and West Jct.) to Cross City, and then return (via West Jct. and South Jct.) to Chiefland. This will be a 63-mile round trip.
If you start in Chiefland and wish a shorter trip, it is recommended that you bike to Trenton, turn around and go straight west (through East Jct. and West Jct.) to the bridge over the Suwannee River, and then back to Chiefland via West Jct. and South Jct. This will be 39 miles.
You can add a couple of miles to the 39-mile route by biking another mile or so west of the bridge to a lovely yard (on the north side of the trail) containing about a dozen magnificient Live Oak trees. Thereafter, the western 10 miles of the trail (ending in Cross City) are the least scenic, and most windy, as this portion of the trail runs alongside US 19."