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Cycling in Central Florida

By: Jessica Roberts

If you are looking for cycling adventures during your next visit to Central Florida, we have many bike trails for you. So many, in fact, that the first challenge to a Polk County bike adventure is to figure out just what type of experience you want.

From paved trails around beautiful bodies of water to off-roading through the wilderness, and more than a few urban areas complete with quick dining or shopping options, Polk County has a ride that will match whatever you are looking to do. We have plenty of rural routes for fast roadies too.

Paved Bike Trails in Polk County

Chain of Lakes Trail

This 3.6-mile trail begins in Winter Haven, but extends a few more miles into Lake Alfred after crossing over U.S. Highway 17/92. The flat route provides views of many of the lakes in the northern Chain of Lakes, as well as parks, neighborhoods and businesses. Trail users can park at any of the downtown Winter Haven parking lots. The trail also runs parallel to numerous business districts within the city. You can ride into downtown for lunch at Fire or Bistro Pizza, or grab a cup of coffee at N+1 Coffee (next to The Bike Shop of Winter Have) or Amonie Jo’s Coffee. Lake Alfred has a nice plant shop as well as an antique store.

couple riding bikes around Lake Mirror in Lakeland

Lake-To-Lake Bikeway Route

If your plan is to mix a little sightseeing and noshing in with your pedaling, this Lakeland route is the way to go. This 26-mile urban cycling route includes scenic rides around lakes Parker, Wire, Morton, Mirror, Bonny, Hunter, Hollingsworth and Beulah in Lakeland. Signs clearly mark the bikeway to keep you on the route, which is a mix of parks and urban areas. Parking is easiest along Lake Hollingsworth Drive in Lakeland.

As for food options, Lakeland is loaded with bike-friendly options. Just up the hill from Lake Mirror is downtown Lakeland, where quick bite options range from pizza and sandwiches to open air cafes. Or you can head the other way from Lake Mirror and stop at the Poor Porker for everything from beignets to brews.

But that’s just the start of a pedal powered Lakeland adventure. For a one of a kind cultural ride, the largest single site of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright buildings at Florida Southern College is along the banks of Lake Hollingsworth. Feel like a cup of artisanal coffee and a quick bite? Just up from Lake Hunter you’ll find Concord Coffee and Hillcrest Coffee.

TECO Auburndale Trail

TECO Trail is a 12-foot-wide, 6.6-mile paved multi-use trail starting in Auburndale and leads to Polk City, where it connects with the General James A. Van Fleet State Trail. Make sure to stop at the bald eagle observation area – they have built a nest nearby – at the southern end of the trail. Full facilities are available at the Lake Myrtle Road Trailhead. Take Lake Myrtle Road east of the Polk Parkway and look for the trailhead.

For a quick bite, the Elite Cable Park and its dockside restaurant, Tantrums Lakeside Grill, is just a short walk from the Auburndale trailhead. The only waterfront dining location in the city, Tantrums offers fresh takes on seafood, including the ever-popular gator bites.

woman riding on Fort Fraiser paved bike trail in Lakeland and Highland City area

Fort Fraser Trail

This multi-use 7.75-mile trail runs parallel to U.S. Highway 98 between State Road 540/Winter Lake Road in Lakeland and State Road 60 in Bartow, with trailheads at Polk State College in Lakeland and in Highland City. Cyclists on this trail travel through tree canopies, pastures and populated areas. In total, there are five picnic shelters, six rest shelters, three trestle bridges, and plenty of places to eat when you arrive in Bartow.

General James A. Van Fleet State Trail

Van Fleet Trail is a 29.2-mile paved multi-use trail that has a trailhead in Polk City. This trail cuts through some of Florida’s most scenic and rural landscapes as it dissects the heart of the Green Swamp, the source of most of the state’s drinking water. The trail stretches from Polk City north to the town of Mabel on State Road 50. Some areas of the path are quite remote – you won’t find a general store or even a gas station anywhere near the trail – so plan to take extra water and a snack.

Circle B Bar Reserve

Circle B Bar Reserve is one of the most renowned nature parks in the nation, and its trails are great for cycling too. There is a mostly shaded, unpaved trail under a canopy of live oaks, which follows along the edge of Lake Hancock, opens up in the historic Banana Creek marsh system. This former cattle ranch boasts a wide variety of plants and animals, from insects to wild hogs and the always popular, always plentiful alligators.

Road Cyclists & Triathletes

You know the drill. You can find our most popular routes on Strava, including a 56-mile loop marked for IRONMAN Florida 70.3. If you are staying in Lakeland and need a metric or full 100 miler, popular routes begin near Road & Trail Bicycles and will take you through Bartow, Alturas, and Lake Wales. If you’re starting near Winter Haven, long routes will include Haines City, Lake Wales, Alturas and Bartow. The Bike Shop of Winter Haven will be happy to help you plan your day. Both bike shops host Saturday morning group rides.

cyclist riding Niner bike at Loyce Harpe Park mountain bike trail system in Mulberry, FL

Mountain Bike Trails

Loyce Harpe Park Trail

This 8-mile single-track trail system offers varied terrain including many technical trails that test the endurance of even the most experienced mountain bike rider. Once a phosphate mine, the main trail winds through the woods, around man-made ponds and up and down hills and dales. If you wander off the main trails, the difficulty increases. No matter where you are in the park, pay attention – one false move and you will be swimming with alligators.

Leave something at home, or need a new part after your big ride? LeRoy’s Bikeworks specializes in MTB and is just 2-miles from Loyce Harpe Park.

If Flat, Sandy Bike Trails are Your Thing

Lake Kissimmee State Park

With 5,390 acres of natural Florida beauty, this park offers outstanding activities on 13 miles of beautiful paved and unpaved trails. White-tailed deer, bald eagles, sandhill cranes, turkeys and even bobcats have been seen in the park. There is a fee for entering Lake Kissimmee State Park.

SUMICA Trail

SUMICA – an acronym for the business, Societe Universelle Mining Industrie, Commerce et Agriculture, that once occupied the area – was once a thriving lumber and turpentine town. It may look flat and open now, but that’s only because the tall pines that once stood there became the building blocks of America – wood for homes as well as pine resin for not only turpentine but also to be used in the shipping industry to seal ships. Also gone is the town that, after all the pines had been harvested, faded away in 1927. If you bike SUMICA, you endeavor out on 6.2 miles of trails that follow an old railroad bed that, thankfully, stands above the surrounding wet prairies. The main trail is a 2.1-mile loop that leads to a wildlife observation area.

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