One of the Sunshine State's best-kept trail secrets, the Nature Coast State Trail connects five small rural towns—Cross City, Old Town, Fanning Springs, Trenton and Chiefland—along a T-shaped, 32-mile corridor. From the hub in Fanning Springs, you can take your pick of trips. The well-maintained asphalt path provides enough trailheads, pavilions and services to ease journeys of any length.
On the 12-mile leg northwest to Cross City via Old Town, pause at viewing areas along the old railroad trestle spanning the Suwannee River. During cooler months you may catch sight of manatees in the river below.
The 7-mile section of lightly traveled trail east of Fanning Springs leads to the quaint town of Trenton, where you'll find a trailhead, restrooms, nearby businesses and a colorful railroad mural.
On the 9-mile route southeast to Chiefland, the trail skirts hardwood hammocks along the northern boundary of Andrews Wildlife Management Area. While lucky trail users have spotted bobcats, gopher tortoises are a much more common sight.
Equestrians can access the trail at either the Old Town or Fanning Springs trailheads, where trailer parking is provided. The Fanning Springs trailhead also links up with Fanning Springs State Park, which rewards the weary with refreshing dips in cool spring waters.
To reach the Fanning Springs trailhead from Gainesville, take State Route 26 west about 40 miles to Fanning Springs. At the T-junction with US 19/98, turn right. The trailhead lies just east of the Suwannee River.
To reach the Cross City trailhead from Fanning Springs, take US 19/98 west about 13 miles to Cross City, then turn right on NE 210 Avenue, the last intersection before the old train depot. The trail crosses this road.
To reach the Old Town trailhead from Fanning Springs, take US 19/98 4 miles west to Old Town and turn north on State Route 349. The trailhead is one block up, adjacent to the fire station.
To reach the Trenton trailhead from Fanning Springs, take State Route 26 8 miles east to Trenton and turn north on US 129. The trailhead is two blocks up at the old train depot.
To reach the Chiefland trailhead, take US 19/98 south to Chiefland. The trailhead is at the old train depot, two blocks south of downtown on the same road.