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When you walk, run, skate or bike the nearly 8-mile Cape Haze Pioneer Trail, you're tracing the line that once serviced Florida's early phosphate industry and also moved people, livestock and locally grown crops, such as watermelons, to waiting steamships in Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island. The long-running Charlotte Harbor & Northern Railroad operated until the late 1970s. Today there are plans to extend the trail south to the Gulf and connect it with the Boca Grande Bike Path on Gasparilla Island, which shares the corridor. The resulting regional trail will span coastal Charlotte and Lee counties.
The fairly straight and flat rail-trail offers a relaxing ride and welcome relief from the area's growing traffic congestion. From its origins near Charlotte Beach, the trail has a rural feel, while multiple access points offer a break whenever you need one. Boasting ample parking, water and restrooms, the northern trailhead is named after longtime trail advocates Robert and Anne Mercer, credited with starting Charlotte County's thriving rail-trail movement.
As of January 1, 2013, the trail continues southward after crossing a short, dirt driveway used as a service area for the Coral Creek Golf Club. This newly paved section of the trail continues from the entrance to the golf club, parallel to CR 771, across the new bicycle-friendly Coral Creek bridge to end at the traffic light to the Boca Grande Causeway.
Visit the TrailLink map for all access options and directions.
Just did a ride down/up the trail, and happy to say the trail is open and asphalt in decent shape. I would guess that it took weeks and weeks to clear the trail of trees and debris after Hurricane Ian. You can still see stain tracks where trees were dragged away from the trail after being chain-sawed. Scores and scores of trees were snapped and cut. We saw several turtles along the way and another rider reported an ‘enormous’ gator down by the golf course on the south end. The chain link fence along the golf course got wiped-out too. They have installed a wrought iron fence in its place. They had to cut the beautiful honey-suckle vines that grew on the old fence. Come April, the fragrance was wonderful Hopefully, it will grow back. The restaurant at the south end of the trail fared very well and has been fully open for business for quite some time.
Trail is straight, but narrow. Rode from the trail head to the entrance to Boca Grande and then continued on the road to Gasparilla State Park. Round trip was a little over 32 miles.
Although it is very straight, the landscape on both sides is beautiful, so unlike what I’m used to in the upper Midwest. Everyone on the trail is super courteous. It’s perfect for a 10-12 mile workout. And we always see some amazing birds when crossing the Coral Creek.
Well groomed. Wasn’t particularly wide, but sufficient, smooth and mostly straight. Very easy. The trail takes you down to beach areas. Two quick turns from the end and you’re on the road to Boca grand. We didn’t take that route. We continued on a path along route 775 north towards englewood. We ended our trip at a nice restaurant called The Lighthouse Grill. We ate lunch there. It was approximately 15 total miles one way. We are loving Florida’s rails to trails!!
Been riding this trail last couple of weeks and have seen several gopher turtles and snakes but this morning just east of Rotunda Dr. a cougar ran across the trail right in front of me..
Have done all trails in West Fl. This trail is flat, has many evasive plants and has little to no cover. It’s a narrow trail and there are many better trails on west coast.
Very nice trail but crossings need lights. Rode 22 miles all the way to the Gasparilla Causeway paid the $3 per bike and turned around. Its beautiful but Gasparilla is next on the list. I will bring the bikes to the Island and then we ride from there. Just waiting for the Bars to open so the watering hole is satisfied for both of Us. I should have parked closer to do both rides in one. Stay tuned for the second half.
Great biking trail for beginners like myself! Scenic, mostly flat, and even a couple bridges and beautiful water sights!
Did the entire trail today by bike. Nice flat trail with shady areas here and there. I saw a black rat snake and a pair of Bobwhite Quail. Many birds.
I ran about half of the trail for the first time last weekend. There were a few bikers and some walkers with dogs. Path is paved asphalt, pretty well maintained and wide enough so there’s no problem for all the different traffic. Path crosses several roads, but well marked and east crossings. Brush is cut well back from path minimum of 6-10 feet on each side. Very nice.
I stumbled upon this trail in March as I was driving around wasting an afternoon while it was raining, and found that I was pleasantly surprised by it when I brought my bike back a few days later. The trail was extremely smooth, with easy crossings at the few streets that you encounter. There are several places to stop and rest if you need. Most of the trail is lined by trees, which helps knock down the wind and provides much needed shade from the hot Florida sun!
One of the things that I look for most in a trail is if I can use the ride as a good workout. The Cape Haze Pioneer Trail most certainly provides that!
There is plenty of parking at a trail head just south of SR 776-Gasparilla Road, that also has restroom facilities.
Excellent trail well maintained interesting nature and good rest stop facilities
pros; beach access, access to fishing, nice scenes.
cons: Crossing over to Boca Grande on bike costs $3, is dangerous because of the narrow bike lane and many cars. Once on Boca Grande there is a golf cart rental so you have to dodge many carts and road crossings. The cape haze part is 7 miles
One of my go to trails. You can start at the North trailhead and go all the way to the end of Boca Grande. You will pay $3 per bike to get on the causeway but the water view is spectacular. Check out the Fishery restaurant in Placida for good food and drinks.
I liked it. Saw a snake, tortoise and lots of birds. It is nice and long so it was a great workout. There is a restroom and portajohns along the way. Nice and quiet. I will do this again as it is close to my house.
We rode the entire trail and were the only people on it the entire way, which was nice. A few pros/cons:
Pro: The trail surface is wonderful, paved and easy to ride. There were benches along the way to rest and ample parking/facilities at the north end near the bunk house. Good signage throughout the trail tells you where you are. The trail crosses a beautiful creek area with mangroves and wildlife. The small bridge toward the end of the trail is bike-friendly. We did not see much wildlife besides a few snakes (non-venomous), but I can see how wildlife would abound on this trail.
Con: The trail is straight with few curves or sights to see. No points of interest along the way except for the trees/swamp (which was nice, but miles and miles of it). The bugs in the swamp were worse than anything I have ever experienced (and I live on the edge of the Great Dismal Swamp). Our backs were completely covered in bugs--big biting flies and mosquitoes! Fortunately, we brought bug spray with DEET. Also, the trail just ends abruptly at the end of a sidewalk--nothing to mark the ending, no bench or anything...just an end.
I have ridden many rail-trails, and this one was not my personal favorite. The length was good for us, not too long, just long enough to see the whole thing.
My wife and I are retirees, and we rode our recumbent trikes on the 15.6 miles round trip. We left with a picnic lunch at about 11:30AM on a beautiful mostly sunny day in the mid seventies with a light and variable breeze on a Thursday in Mid February. We rode down the length of the trail one way, and then back about half way to a picnic table, and had lunch. Saw a few people, but it was not crowded. Saw wildlife all around. Saw a turtle, several birds and deer. Excellent surface with few irregularities. Nice ride. I'll gladly ride it again next time I'm in the area. A very nice trail.
Amazing for the wildlife. Saw otters, crabs, fish jumping in the water, eagles nesting with young, wild boar ran across the trail, as well as all the birdlife. Someone also told us he had seen a rattle snake on the trail but it had gone by the time we got there. Really enjoyed the walk would highly recommend it.
A great ride especially as it has been resurfaced. Skirts a state park so wildlife to be seen. Goes all the way to the causeway linking to Boca Grande Bike Path.
A pity they want to charge $6 to take a bike across the toll bridge which is public. A bit of a cheek to charge the same for a bike as a car.
The old railway trestle bridge still stands and if the money could be found it could be quickly brought up to a good standard of repair and would then make a complete trail. It is still used a fishing pier. Given the tourism and holiday homes adjoining the trail in Arcadia and Rotonda it would attract more supporters for TrailLink
My wife and I and two friends did a leisurely ride on this trail and enjoyed it very much. We saw a lot of wildlife including a Gopher Turtle near Rotonda. Other riders and walkers were all very courteous. Will be doing it again very soon.
Picture perfect. Good length, flat and easy to ride. Wild life all over. Eagles raising their brood, a Bob Cat crossed our path, many Pelicans and fish jumping in the creek cross over. Beautiful spot to stop and take a break. A marina grill at the turn around if you wish or it is possible to extend down to Boca Grand and Gasspirilla Island. Again, chow down there too!
Right at the trail end there is a stretch of sand and gravel road, about a block long. Careful, you will be spoiled with the great black top trail riding and this bit of sand is treacherous, be careful. It will suck in skinny wheeled bikes.......
As of 2011, there is a bridge across Coral Creek, so trail is now 7mi long. You can cross the causeway ($3) and connect with the Boca Grande trail to extend the ride to 15mi total. The causeway is not currently bike friendly, but traffic moves slow. There are benches all along the trail, and there are restrooms and water at the north end.
This is a very nice bicycle trail. Very well maintained, nice and easy to ride. Nice scenery. Not difficult so not for the hardcore bikers but very nice for us wanting a nice bicycle ride and enjoy being outdoors in Florida.
The previous comments were all accurate. I was also very disappointed that I can't bring my dog on this trail. There are signs everywhere prohibiting dogs, as well as signs stating that fines will be issued for violators. Sections of this trail are very isolated. Although I am male, I wouldn't feel comfortable using this trail if I were female and alone. If you are injured or attacked, there is no one to hear your screams. Keep that in mind before riding, and bring a cell phone along with your carry permit and a loaded gun.
Like most Florida rail-to-trail trails, this one is pretty much flat and straight. There are several road crossings along the way, but traffic on the crossroads is usually very light. You need to be careful when crossing, because the trail is basically invisible to passing motorists.
The trail ends at a small stream that leads into Placida Harbor - it's a pretty spot, but there's not so much as a park bench to sit down and enjoy the view. This may be due to the large number of flying insects near the water.
"I found this trail through this website. I was so excited to have a trail this close. I packed a lunch and jugs of water, loaded up my two dogs, and off we drove. 9 miles in a 8 cylinder F150. Not too far driving-wise; but eats some gas. Well worth it for the adventure that was in store. Got to the park. Parked. Started to get out, and THERE IT WAS! In large, big letters---NO DOGS ALLOWED! Not mentioned on this site. Drove all the way out their 18 mile round trip and such a disappointment. I don't understand why, either, dogs are not allowed. As a single women, I don't really like going out on wilderness trails (or isolated ones) by myself and feel better my canine friend accompanying me. Why is Charlotte County so darn anti-dog?"
"We have been very please with the trail for roller blading, but were disappointed with the surface of phase II. It's fine for walking and biking but very rough for blading."
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