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Much of the Four Freedoms Trail in northern Florida lies on the former Valdosta & Southern Railroad right-of-way. The trail was jointly constructed by Madison County, the Suwannee River Water Management District, the Office of Greenways and Trails and the Florida Department of Transportation. The 12.3-mile trail travels north from the town of Madison to the Withlacoochee River at the Florida-Georgia border and is mostly rural in nature.
The southern trailhead is on State Rt. 145 (Colin Kelly Highway) at the intersection of County Rt. 591 (NE Rocky Ford Road). The trail begins as a wide, roadside bike lane but quickly ducks into the shaded canopy of the old rail bed as it follows the gently rolling terrain up to its original starting point in the town of Hanson. Just before reaching Hanson the trail crosses State Rt. 145 to continue north on the west side of the right-of-way. From Hanson the trail is shaded by trees and mostly wooded until it reaches Pinetta.
In Pinetta, you'll have to follow a bike lane along Persimmon Drive, although it does disappear in the town center for a couple of blocks. Take heart, you won't get lost in Pinetta, and the village store and BBQ place (a block east of the trail near SR 145) offer sustenance.
Continuing north along Persimmon Drive, you will cross to the west side on a new segment for about 0.5 mile, then back across to the east side to a parking area (picnic tables here), where the trail dips back into the trees and begins its gentle descent to the river. The trail ends at the Withlacoochee River, which is the border with Georgia. There are picnic tables and a shelter here, as well as an observation deck over the river.
In Hanson, trail parking is along the west side of Colin Kelly Highway (SR 145) near where it intersects with Aster Road.
In Pinetta, parking and restrooms are available near the intersection of NE Mount Horeb Road (CR 125) and Persimmon Drive, on the north end of town.
The trail begins in the gorgeous old town of Madison and courses north to the Withlacoochee River and the Georgia border. This is a trail to go slow on and savor every rolling hill, farm, stands of trees, a tiny town that time has passed by; in other words, a journey into the agricultural, rural past of the country. I loved this trail; there wasn’t another soul on it for the 24 miles round trip.
We have completed many trails around the country and would not rate this as one worth a long trip just to ride it. However this is located in our home county and has been a pleasant break from riding on our country roads, Yes it has root heaves so if you come into town to speed on a road bike you will be disappointed. To us local riders the only disappointment is that more people in our community don't get off their butts and ride it. We always remove branches along the way. The north end should have signage because the pavement comes to an end with no view of the river, but if you walk your bike down to the left in about 50 feet you have a covered picnic area and a view of the Withlachoochee and the remains of the old railroad trestle. It is a shame if you ride to the end of the pavement and miss this,
Biked the entire trail twice this week. Trail is well maintained but there are some places where tree root upheavals may create problems with your bike if you approach them too fast. Most of these have been marked with bright orange spray paint. Advise not to bike too fast so you can see the bad spots in the shady areas. Otherwise a scenic and pleasant ride. Thank you for providing this great trail!
We just finished riding this entire trail. Is it perfect no, but it’s definitely rideable, an a lot less crowded than others. It is maintained but it’s mainly covered by shade tress, so guess what? There are leaves, a corns and root upheaval. If you can’t handle that then I suggest sticking to riding exercise bikes in the comfort an safety of the gym. If I can do it on a 26in mountain bike pulling a 4 yo in a trailer (75lbs total) an average 11mph. Anyone with a road or hybrid should have no issues. Scenery wise this trail is beautiful. And although not perfect in terms of conditions, it’s well worth the trek.
I've read other reviews and hope then I will give readers as objective a review possible. My wife and I went to Madison Florida to visit friends and ride the four freedoms trail. We are in our 70s and ride at an average speed of 9 mph. We took two days to ride this rail trail in its entirety. The trail is best referred to as a canopy trail. For the most distance, the trees provide a cool pleasant ride. Yes, there are some problems that one experiences. Tree debris and surface debris. I met parks and recreation rep who indicated and demonstrated that efforts are being made to repair the trail. If you are a speed rider don't go right now. If you would like a lovely ride and are willing ignore some faults this trail is a must.
I rode this trail on July 14, 2017. I should have believed the reviews. The trail is in severe neglect and you should not attempt to ride it on a road bike. I suffered a flat at mile 10.5. The trail north of Pineta is in the worse shape. Many tree root upheavals. Lots of debris from tree limbs. At approximately 3 miles south of Pineta I encountered a fallen tree blocking further progress on the trail. I was required to dismount and walk on private property to get around the fallen tree. It looked to have been there more than a couple of days. It was obvious that this trail is not maintained on a regular basis. I will not return. Too many other good trails in Florida to waste time on this one. Ride this one at your own risk...
I enjoyed the trail for the most part. It was mostly canopied and had some elevation changes to add some interest. Nothing too steep, though. But along with the tree canopy comes the asphalt upheaval from the roots so it was pretty rough in places.
Three of us rode the four freedoms trail this weekend. It's was a beautiful clear day. The trail is in pretty good shape except for the part just south of pinetta. On that stretch of the trail there are a lot of bumps from tree roots. We were not planning a fast ride so slowing for the bumps was no problem for us. In Pinetta there is a small park with public bathrooms. They were very clean and newly painted. The trail went through some beautiful country and we found the ride very enjoyable. The trail crossed the road several times and a couple of times the trail was essentially a very wide shoulder of the road. We didn't have any trouble finding where the trail went.
While some parts of this trail are ok for the most part the trail needs some serious maintenance done as tree roots are tearing it up. It even caused a flat. So not happy with that.
I visited this trail on 8/15/15 because it was not far from where I live. This trail is in bad shape, with sand, leaves, tree limbs and dead decaying animals on it. At the trailer park on the south end of the trail they have been throwing trash on the side of the trail. You would think that the amount of money spent to create this trail there would be better upkeep of it. Do not think I will be back anytime soon.
Horrible cracks from roots that will easily throw you off your bike. Trail has no signage when it ends in once place and starts up at another. And no river overlook at the end, just a wooden fence ending the trail. And town is super sketchy. Find another trail.
This trail is not road bike worthy. As an avid road biker, and someone who has ridden all the rails to trails in North Florida, this trail is not worth the trip! Town is rough/run down. Trail is full of root cracks, and will easily send a road bike down if not super careful, or will bend a rim. Trail does not end with beautiful water overlook at River, it just abruptly ends into a wood fence. No signs. Trail disappears with no signage, only to reappear later, again with no signage.... Stupid trail. If u have a mountain bike, yeah, maybe. But as a road biker, I'm very disappointed. It was so bad, we rode road the entire way back. Major letdown.
This is one of our favorite trails in Fl. The shade is great , lunch in Pinetta was great and the rest area at the north end was beautiful. We were on the state boarder of Fl and Ga.
We stayed at the Union Bed and breakfast in Madison. Miss Linda has a beautiful home and we had a wonderful breakfast. This is a must stay destination in Madison.
We live in Naples and will make the trip again.
Five of us guys, aged 9 to 52, rode the entire trail on August 3, 2014. I could not have been more pleased with our experience. We all had a great time. The trail was in great shape, paved all the way with a few small limbs, a few sandy spots, and a few bumps that were minor (and fun) to us. The tunnels of trees along the route are absolutely beautiful and help keep the heat down. I don't mind a few limbs to ride around given the beauty and heat reduction that the trees provide. You may not want to go to the trail after a heavy storm hits. These beautiful old trees probably shed a lot of limbs during a storm like the old oak tree in my parents yard did when I was young.
The kids liked the "shade and trees. It was pretty there." They also liked the wildlife that we saw and the river at the end. I probably need to adjust my wheel size on my odometer, because I clocked 13.2 miles.
I don't ride road bikes and admit complete ignorance of them, so this review may not be for you. For us, the trail condition was perfect. We had a 6-speed beach cruiser, two hybrid comfort bikes with thin tires, one mountain bike, and one 20-inch bike with one speed and large tires. With this variety we all handled the hills and trail condition fine and had a great ride. This is my second bike trail. I normally ride roads around my hometown of Valdosta, GA. While most of the car drivers are fine, I'm very grateful to have heard about this trail where I don't have to worry about cars. I've had my kids on the road with me since they were young, and being relieved of this worry is worth the trip to Madison. I love nature, so when adding the benefit of the natural beauty, you can't go wrong with visiting this trail. I do suggest going to the bathroom beforehand since there are no restrooms and taking plenty of water.
Madison County does support the beautiful Four Freedoms Trail, but as it is a small rural County, the maintenance of roads does take priority before trail maintenance. Invariably, there will be a wind or rain storm right after the trail has been swept and limbs and debris will fall on the wonderful canopied shady parts of the trail. You are welcome to call the Road Department at 850-973-2156 to report areas that need maintenance and it will be taken care of as soon as possible.
Thank you for visiting Madison County and please continue to enjoy our Four Freedoms Trail!
Welcome to North Florida's best paved mountain bike trail! Madison county rarely cleans this trail so expect limbs, logs,and mower discharge debris if you ride here. Although they have a contract with the state to maintain the trail, they do not, and the state of Florida will not enforce the contract. Calls and letters to the county don't help, but more might yield results. This is a great trail, the scenery is beautiful and 1/2 of the trail is new and smooth. The older half has bumps large enough to catch air on a mountain bike. Road bikes beware, you can ruin a good rim almost any day of the year due to the lack of maintenance, and a practice of mow, but don't clean afterwards. This trail is a great waste of money and a lost opportunity for a great ride.
Drove over to Madison and started our trip with breakfast at Pineta Market, which is the first parking area heading north on the trail. Also used the restroom there since that's the only restroom we know of on the 12-mile ride. The trail is beautiful, with many shaded areas and bumps (hills for we flatlander Floridians) that u could ride up and scream down. We headed north for around 3 miles to the river and did take the short walk over to the boardwalk. Another parking area is set up once u cross the road on the trail north, not long after where we parked at the first one. We rode back to Pineta, restroom :-), and headed south toward Madison for the remainder of the trail, and we really were looking forward to it because we saw how it twisted and went in and out of shade while driving along it on the way in (it was HOT, Monday, Aug 5), about 9 miles to the end. This lovely trail turned into a disappointing ride at that point. The trail is great but it's not maintained. We couldn't scream down the trail or even go anything near our normal average speed because we had to make sure we didn't run into big branches and big limbs and smaller limbs that could too easily get stuck in our derailers on our Catrikes. It really took the fun out of it and it was that way for more of the miles south than not. We ended up going only as far as the hayfield that is about 2 miles from the end and turned around because we had time constraints. We could tell how perfect a trail it could be but it would have to be maintained. And we could tell it wasn't just an overnight type of mess; some of the broken branches had been there awhile. Maybe it's better during different seasons, but, again, terribly disappointing for a real free-feeling ride on what could be a beautiful trail.
More Geocaches have been added to the Four Freedoms Trail. A total of 6 are now located along the 12.3 mile scenic trail. Enjoy a scenic walk along the canopied trail and have some family fun playing a High Tech Treasure hunting game called Geocaching. For more infomation on this game, go to www.geocaching.com.
Geocaches have started to be hidden along this trail. There is one near the trail head and more are slated to be hidden in the next few weeks. Enjoy geocaching while you also enjoy the trial.
We biked this trail on Memorial Day, 2011, and enjoyed it immensely. Nice country scenery, lots of shade, some sections of trail like a tunnel through the canopy of trees, some open pasture land, some hilly areas, but mostly flat. The trail now extends south below Hanson all the way to Madison, so the length is more like 12 miles than the 5 1/2 miles described above. The section north of Pinetta to the Withlacoochee River is especially peaceful, as it leaves the vicinity of Highway 31. Nice to have a rail trail of decent length closer to Valdosta, our home. Thanks, RTC!
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