“All the best trails at Alafia River State Park.
— Ben Drawbaugh
This is without a doubt my favorite route through Alafia. It includes all the intermediate and difficult trails, but not easy or extremely difficult (which are definitely worthy of your time as well). It passes by a nice creek, many lakes and will have you coming back for more.
Park opens from sunrise to sunset (unless you are camping), it's $5 per car, a day, or $4 for an individual.
Need to Know
The only water is at the trailhead, but it is never too far away. There are also very nice bathrooms, a bike repair station (complete with tools) and two covered pavilions with grills.
Start off with my favorite trail at Alafia, North Creek Trail
, which is best when the creek is flowing. This trail is a solid, fast and flowy intermediate, but there are a few very fun hard options that quickly loop back. The only option that anyone skips is Buzzard Bay
, which is probably due to the smell.
Next up is the first fun half of Bridges
and Shelly's Loop
, which is short but a big rush. Flip on over to Frank's Loop
, try the challenging descent through a rock box and don't worry, there's only an alligator infested, algae covered swap in the way if you blow it. Go ahead and hit OAF
and Garden Ridge
while you're there because they are awesome -- Garden Ridge
is two ways, so I'd do it as an out and back instead of looping with an easy trail.
Next, cross back over to the second half of bridges (North Bridges
) where you'll cross two long slender bridges before weaving your way to the most fun double you can try to clear at the park and look out for the perfectly placed berm right after (no brakes required...braap!). There's a challenging lattice climb soon after with an optional difficult extension where you'll find some ups and downs and a great step-up jump that I'm sure you'll do more than once.
Finally, head towards Rollercoaster
and take a quick detour on the three Rabbit Ears
(if you can do all three without taking a break, you're in great shape). Rollercoaster
certainly deserves its name, and the only thing that is in question is if it's the best trail at Alafia. It starts off slow through a twisty and well-shaded area before getting to a section we like to call roller flow because of the ups and downs.
Eventually, it leads to what's best described as a pump track through the woods referred to as "The Red Dragon." The dragon isn't red anymore, because I guess they couldn't find any more red clay, but there are more pumps, berms, and jumps than you can handle -- including a 4-foot gap jump, which is optional. In addition, there are three hard options and a table top jump you may have to wait in line for on a busy day.
Bring it all home, to the trailhead, and either do it again, go for more on the extremely difficult trails or cool down on the flowy easy trails.
History & Background
Alafia River State Park is located in Bone Valley we use the terms mountain and valley very liberally in Florida which contains the largest known deposits of phosphate in the world. Located between Tampa and Orlando, Bone Valley has been mined for over a hundred years. Up until the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of 1975, the mining companies werent required to restore the land, and when the Lonesome Mine was determined dry in 1966, the company let nature take its course.