The trails are shared-use and many of the rougher patches are avoidable, or at least walkable.
Starting from the Boulware Springs to Sweetwater Connector
, this route winds through the restored upland pine area, then directs you down to the bridge over the creek and into the trail segments that wind up and down the creek bed.
Expect deep sand in the East Trail
upper portion before a fun descent into the creekside hammock, then a gradual gravel climb that leads to the West Trail
, which is done in reverse.
Finally, take the doubletrack back across the creek and through the lower half of the East Trail
to the parking lot.
Need to Know
There are restrooms at the historic Boulware Springs building a short walk from the parking lot and the paved trail connects all the way through downtown Gainesville past restaurants and a local bike shop to the north, and out past Payne's Prairie to the south.
Trail Details and map:
From the Boulware Springs/Hawthorne Trail parking lot, turn right to head north on the paved Hawthorne Trail. The entrance to Sweetwater Preserve is on the left about a quarter mile up; this will lead you into a deep sand section that is recently-restored upland pine habitat. Stay right at the East Trail
fork to head through more pine trees and sand to the oak hammock, where you'll reach a segment labeled on Strava as "How to make a good mtb segment" - this section has a mild downhill grade and some manageable but technical roots.
Keep right at the fork and cross the large bridge to enter the western part of the preserve, and take the trail on the left at marker number 9
to climb a gravel trail that leads to the West Trail
. Turn right at marker 6
to start the West Trail
in reverse, on a segment called "Down to the River." This is a fun, slightly down-turned section through the woods, which crosses the doubletrack at marker 5
to throw you towards the creek before turning back.
Continue across the doubletrack again at marker 4
and you'll climb a segment referred to as "Pine Straw," which has some mildly technical, tight sections and switchbacks. When you get back up to the top, turn right at marker 7
and follow the winding trail sections on a segment called "Sweetwater Swerve." It is easy to accidentally cut parts of this trail; however, all of the offshoots lead back to the doubletrack.
From the doubletrack, you can try the West Trail
segments in the other direction or, as described in the route, head back east to the creek bridge. When you reach the next fork, go right, and you'll have a smooth ride back to the sandhill. Go right again through the sand to return to the Hawthorne Trail, and cruise back to the Boulware Springs parking area.
Trail Brochure with Map
History & Background
Originally an area of unmanaged hiking/biking trails and homeless encampments, Alachua County purchased the land that is now Sweetwater Preserve in 2006, and it (especially the eastern portion) has gone through many stages of invasive species removal, native re-planting, and prescribed fire.
Shared By: Gary Sansone