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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.
I like rural trails because they typically feature longer uninterrupted stretches, interesting scenery and are quiet. This is not the case with this trail.
While the surface of the Nature Coast trail is in generally excellent condition, the trail is set too close to highways heavily traveled by semis and logging trucks, as well as general traffic. If you want to ride and enjoy the sounds of nature, forget this trail.
I recently rode my bicycle on the part of the trail from Cross City to just past Old Town where the bridge across the Suwannee River is. It is a wonderful ride... an easy, scenic ride. Can't wait to do it again and ride on even more of the trail.
We really enjoyed this trail! We took two days to complete the trail, there and back. Fanning Springs is a great place to base your ride. The trail to Chiefland is more covered by trees and might be a cooler ride during hotter weather or during the hotter part of the day. The trail to Trenton is more open to the sun, especially during the afternoon. The trail to Cross City is covered by trees for about half and some open the other half. We really enjoyed all sections of the trail. We also would highly recommend the Lighthouse Restaurant in Fanning Springs and the Taste of Dixie Diner in Cross City.
I have been exploring florida bike Trails for fun getaway weekends.
The perfect trip involves parking the car and not touch it for a few days.
The Nature Coast is a nice Trail, long enough for weekend riding. Saw very few bikes even on Sat.
There is nowhere close to the trail that is very bike friendly. Everything is scattered down rural Hwy's where you pretty much have to drive anywhere.
In hindsite We would have stayed in Cedar Key. and hauled to the trail. Also figure out where Beef O Bradys is located 2 blocks off the trail if you want a Beer with a little personality.
We parked at Fanning Springs, and rode 9mi to Chiefland. Trail is well maintained, and flat with a few very gentle grades. It is shaded most of the way, with a canopy of mature trees in many spots. Then we turned around, went back, and went 4mi across the river to Old Town. Flat and scenic with trees on the south side of the trail providing the shade. We did not go west past Old Town because the trail to Cross City runs right next to the road most of the way. We turned around and headed east 7miles to Trenton. The trail runs parallel to the road, but there is a buffer. It is more open with partial shade. Total round trip: about 35mi. Other than the towns on the ends, the trail runs through rural farm areas. Definitely worth the trip.
I rode this trail near the end of February, 2016. We were in our RV in Old Towne campground nearby and I could just ride over to the trail and ride. I could get as many miles in as I wanted, depending on what route I decided to take. A great little trail with a small town very close by.
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!
This was our first Florida trail we rode in our three week adventure on the west coast of this state. Unfortunately we picked the year to go when it was the coldest it had been in 27 years. But, that did not stop us. This trail was a great experience. It is well kept, has variety, and is not too busy. We rode from Chiefland to Fanning Springs and also took the leg that goes over the Suwanee River. We would like to see more sign-age at this trail as we had trouble finding the different legs. You have a few roads to cross in Chiefland, but the town is small without much traffic, so its not too bad. For those of you who might be camping in an RV, there are several camping areas close. Chiefland is a nice little town. Cedar Key is 20 miles to the coast and a nice place to visit. Lots of wildlife on this trail.
We love this trail with it being so close to the state parks . Offers a good ride with our camping at Manatee Springs State Park. We can leave the park and get in a good 50 mile ride round trip. Also there is a bike path along edge of road to trail from the state park. I would highly recommend this trail . We have rode almost all in Fl.
Beautiful trail - peaceful, clean, well maintained!
The construction on the Suwannee River Bridge is finished. All construction equipment has been removed. The trail is once again, open!
We spent the Fourth of July morning riding our tandem on two sections of this well maintained trail. We parked in the dirt lot at the trail head in Fanning Springs, and didn't think there was a bathroom, but as we started north we noticed a small building with bathrooms and a small paved parking lot. That was a relief because we had traveled more than two hours from Orlando. We decided to go east to Trenton first. We only saw one or two other cyclists on this section and it was fairly shady. The town is quaint and the bathroom facility at the train depot was clean. Since it was the holiday everything was closed, but that was fine for us. We then traveled west to Cross City. We enjoyed a few minutes of rest and a photo op on the Suwannee River Bridge. A good portion of this segment is without shade, but there are two really nice (short) sections where the tree canopy creates a tunnel impression. We loved that. When we came to the bathroom/picnic table area we didn't know how much further the trail would go so we continued on. We wouldn't go any further next time because the trail just dead ends...nothing, not even enough space for a tandem to do a u-turn. I will say the bathroom was clean, which is a priority for me. It would be nice if the Cross City end could be improved beyond putting a "trail ends" sign. So unless you want one extra mile I wouldn't recommend going past the bathroom stop. Also the bathroom stop is alongside a busy road so don't expect anything scenic, but there is a Dairy Queen...lol. We didn't get a chance to travel to Chiefland because the Tstorms were building. Next time we will start in Chiefland to check out that segment. I highly recommend the Trenton section and the Suwannee River Bridge. All in all it was a very pleasant, very well maintained trail. We would ride it regularly if it wasn't such a long drive.
The trail has signs posted that say 'Trail Closed', although there is pedestrian and bike traffic going both ways over the Suwannee River via the Railroad bridge. Gates are open, both on the trail and on the bridge itself at the moment.
I posted 2 photos. One shows the barge that is doing work on the bridge, and the other is a sign that tells us the trail is closed. Look for the pix as soon as they are approved here.
I'll keep you posted. The trail itself is in very good shape. The sweeper was hard at work cleaning the branch debris as we rode the trail between Old Town and Fanning Springs FL today.
For more information on this trail e-mail me.
See you on the trail.
The bridge over the Suwannee River in the section of trail from Old Town FL to Fanning Springs is now open, even though the bridge itself is still under construction.
This is good news! Hopefully it will remain open for the entire construction project.
I will report the completion of this construction project to you here. It should be about a month in the works, according to a workman at the construction site.
Apparently, the damage done by hooligans to the fence has been repaired although I have not spoken to park personnel to get the details.
The good news is that the Nature Coast Trail is open, once again!
See you on the trail!
June 6, 2015
Construction on the old railroad bridge that crosses the Suwannee River has caused the trail to be blocked at the bridge. A large barge is on site and will be doing some 'under the bridge' construction on the shore.
This, in addition to the destruction by hooligans that drove a big wheeled pickup truck on the trail at night and destroyed fencing near the bridge.
A workman at the bridge site said it would be a month before their work was done. No word on the fencing repair just yet. The last I heard from the park people was that the fencing was on order and they were awaiting its delivery before repairs to the fence could take place.
I'll post here again, after the construction is done and keep you all informed!
Rode the trail with my wife on October 20. 2014. This was our second ride. Parked at the Chamber of Commerce Building in Chiefland about 3/4 of a mile from the Quality Inn.
I like this trail because it is peaceful, scenic, mostly well shaded, in good repair as well as fast and easy. Plan to return in the Spring of 2015 and ride the portion from Trenton to Cross City and back.
I stayed in Days Inn Chiefland. Trail access is right across the street and per a sheriff parking is accommodated within a Tractor Supply parking lot. You are some 3 miles from the Chiefland TH (South) and Depot. After I rode down there I am not sure why the sheriff did not share the depot as a parking spot. Others had used it as I saw empty bike racks. As what another had suggested I rode north then east to Trenton FL then on return rode to Suwannee River (west) Bridge then back east and south to my originating point. I think I liked the Trenton ride and town best. The scenery was enjoyable and the town was quaint, residents were friendly. Saw two restaurants I will consider visiting on my return (Hobos/Cracker Box Cafe). I rode down to Cedar Key for supper and it is one of those perfect old Florida towns. When I left I had felt like I had been in a time machine. I will be back! The view from Steamers Restaurant is indescribable! All in all a wonderful visit.
Late May and some still cool weather tempted us to take the trail from Fannin Springs to Chiefland, about 9 miles. Some good shade, but quite open from mile 3 to 5. Flat, easy biking.
If you want to get something to eat and drink (and heading south) turn left on NW 17th Avenue, right after the 7 mile post, and go to busy US 19, 27 & 98 where there is a new MacDonald's across the highway.
Rode this trail on 10 Feb. 2013. Enjoyed the portion of the trail from Old Town to Chiefland but Old Town to Trenton just runs besides state highway 26 and is boring; I turned around and return to Fanning then rode back to Old Town.
Before bringing in the New Year we made this ride on the final days of 2012..with a chilly start to the day of only 37 degrees! Add a few layers and the ride began. Starting in Chiefland we headed north and rode to Trenton with total peace and the trail completely to ourselves. We then headed west towards Cross City and stopped for photo opportunities while crossing the Suwanee River...singing a few lines of the state song by Steven Foster. With the beautiful Live Oaks and moss, and a lazy river it's"pure south". No doubt why they call this the nature coast. The next stretch is the long haul to Cross City, due to the fact that it was now over thirty miles. We got revived with lunch in Cross City and then returned to Cheifland to complete the loop....not to be missed if you make the trip to experience this trail, drive to Cedar Key and try out the wonderful restaurants and fabulous fresh seafood!!!
We started in Chiefland and rode our bikes to Trenton on Valentines day. Temps were in the low 70's and a little overcast. The trail had nice shade cover mixed with some sunny spots. We passed a beautiful tree forest on the way to Trenton and took a break at the Old Train Depot to use the restrooms and replenish our water. On the way back there were a few sprinkles to cool us off. I found this trail VERY well maintained and peaceful. The highlight for me was the canopy tree cover just outside of Chiefland and the Tree forest. I'll post a few pictures but they are from the phone so not the best quality.
This trail is very rural (for the most part). But, there are quite a few intersections when you get near the towns. It is well-maintained and doesn't seem to be used much. We rode the entire trail and practically had the trail to ourselves - very peaceful. Lots of shade
We took a side trip to Cedar Key to get a good meal (not much around Chiefland or its environs for that matter) and found Steamers Clam Bar right on the Gulf of Mexico. Great view, excellent food, friendly atmosphere, good service. The owner stopped by to make sure everything was OK and when we started to talk about bicycling, he gave me a book that a local had written about his bicycling odyssey across the US.
The trail from the old Trenton depot station across the river to Dixie County is very well kept & scenic. It's a great outing! Just one block south of the old depot station at 321 N. Main St. is Lavern's Country Kitchen. They are open for breakfast & lunch & feature southern cooking & hospitality. Lavern makes great BBQ pulled pork sandwiches & ribs. Breakfast is available all day on Saturdays!
"My wife and I did the 3 spokes of the trail starting at Chiefland, then to Cross City, and to Trenton before returning to Chiefland. Amounts to about 64 miles (had to do a little bit more at the Chiefland end or a metric century. Great Day. Ended it by driving to Manatee Springs (about 7 miles away) and rinsing off in the cool spring water. Worth the trip."
Great trail to ride in the spring. Be sure to do the Trenton leg of the trail and stop in at Petrello's at the old boarding house. We had a great roasted veggie pizza.
"Did the ""Dairy Queen"" ride yesterday, cycling from Trenton to the DQ in Cross City (42 miles round-trip, if you go past the DQ to end of the trail). Saw several snakes, a turtle, wildflowers, and enjoyed the beautiful view of the Suwannee River.
In addition to the trailheads at Fanning Springs and Chiefland, which are listed in the trail description, there are also trailheads in Trenton and in Cross City, both with restrooms. The trail was well maintained (thanks!)."
This is a scenic ride complete with a trestle bridge crossing the historic Suwannee River. Great views both up and down stream. It is a quiet trail with few other riders.
"I rode the Chiefland-Cross City legs on April 21, 2003. I agree with most of what another reviewer said. There are old depots at the three ends, the bathrooms in Chiefland were locked (on a Monday) but the ones in Cross City were open. Both of those depots are old and ugly at the moment. The one in Trenton is nicer, but I didn't try to use any facilities.
If you are coming west from Gainesville on 26, turn right at Trenton's Main Street and go to NW 4th Street to the depot where you will find parking. I liked the ride to Cross City, there was a bit of a wind from the south east, which made it easier on the way back. Seemed to be fewer intersections. The trail stops in the middle of nowhere a couple minutes past the Cross City Depot.
There is a small barber shop next to the parking area in Fanning Springs."
"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."
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