46 Miles paved multi-use
3 bikes out of 5
Trilby to North Citrus Springs (Dunnellon), Florida
Food is available at several places along the trail. Water and restrooms as well as picnic shelters can also be found along the trail.
In-line skating, hiking, horseback riding, biking, and viewing wildlife
Withlacoochee State Trail, Region 3 Administration, 12549 State Park Drive Clermont, FL 34711 Phone: (352) 394-2280
First off let me say that planning a two-day ride with one night lodging on the Withlacoochee State Trail isn't easy. When my wife Kelli and I rode the Pinellas Trail, we rode from the southern terminus to the northern terminus and spent the night in a quaint bed and breakfast. The next day we reversed our route back to our car.
The problem with doing this on the 46-mile Withlacoochee State Trail is the lack of good lodging choices within riding distance of the northern terminus just north of Citrus Springs, Florida. After a lot of searching I could only find two older motor inn type facilities in Dunnellon, Florida. Both of those added at least an additional three miles minimum to the already fairly long 46-mile ride. Kelli came up with the wonderful idea to start in the middle, ride to the north and back one day and ride south and back the next day. Great idea, but the same problem still existed: the only bed and breakfast I found near Floral City (which is midway on the trail) was around five miles from the trail.
We did find several suitable choices in Inverness, which is seven miles north of Floral City. This would give us a manageable 32-mile round trip ride to the northern end and a long 60-mile round trip to the southern end. Although we decided to stay in Inverness, we planned on riding only 15-16 miles of the southern section, giving us a 30-32 mile round trip the second day. We wouldn't see the entire trail this trip, but we would have good lodging and see the majority of the trail. With a plan as thought out as this, what could go wrong? Nothing ever goes as planned, as we find out on most Outdoor Travels adventures.
We got a good deal on two nights in a bed and breakfast in Inverness, so we decided to take off after work on Friday and enjoy a relaxing evening in Inverness before getting an early start on the trail Saturday morning. As it turns out, Inverness is a very quaint and charming old town. There are three major restaurants in downtown; conveniently they are all next to each other. We had a few beers at Coach's Sports Pub and called it a night. The next morning we set off riding north. The trail in Inverness runs along a very pretty lake. We spotted several types of birds, took a few pictures and headed on (incidentally, if you need rentals or repairs, Suncoast Bicycles is located directly off the trail in Inverness). The trail north of Inverness is a mixture of wooded sections, a couple of small towns and suburban sections. As we headed towards the next town of Hernando we couldn't help but notice the abundance of auto repair, racing, towing and spare parts businesses.
Hernando is six miles north of Inverness and is the next major town along the trail. There are several places to get snacks and supplies. Of note, there is a fried chicken place right off of the trail that was frying up some chicken that smelled mouth-wateringly good. The parking lot was packed with patrons as we passed it on the way back, so I would imagine they fry up some good vitals. It was still early for us to eat, so we continued on. The trail runs pretty close to SR 41 in this area, so although some of the trail runs through forested areas, we never really felt like we were in the wilderness.
Around 12 miles from Inverness and 5 miles from the northern terminus, we found the Citrus Springs trail head. It's a very nice facility that includes handicapped access to the trail, fresh water, neat, clean restrooms and a small picnic shelter. We decided to stop for a break.
With only five miles to the northern terminus, we were feeling great. I read earlier that the state of Florida had built a wood-framed restroom facility at the northern terminus that was burnt down by local kids. I had heard that it was rebuilt with concrete block to foil the recreational arsonist in Citrus Springs. As we arrived at the end of the trail and the Citrus Springs facilities, I was ready to visit the restroom myself. The locals apparently had been busy vandalizing the new burn-proof building - all doors were locked and the water fountain removed. A simple sign on the door stated that the facilities were closed due to "excessive vandalism."
After posing for a couple of pictures, we left Citrus Springs and headed back to Inverness. We were getting hungry by the time we reached Hernando again. We contemplated stopping at the Chicken King. Although the greasy smells wafting from the Chicken King smelled heavenly, we decided to continue on to Inverness so that we could have a beer with our lunch. The King sadly doesn't serve brewskis.
We arrived back in Inverness none too soon and chose to eat at Angelo's - a little Italian restaurant that proved to be excellent! After a delicious lunch and several beers, I commented that I wasn't tired at all and since it was only 2:00 p.m., we should ride more of the trail. I thought that we could complete most if not all of Sunday's planned ride of 36 miles. Kelli was a little reluctant to agree to ride all of the 36-mile round trip, but was willing to try.
The trail south of Inverness is notably more forested and rural. It runs through pretty wooded areas, along the Withlacoochee River and through scenic fields. We passed a very interesting pub around four miles south of Inverness, just outside of Floral City, which was our next major stop. Floral City is around six to seven miles from Inverness. There is a nice gazebo and restroom facilities next to the trail. Floral City is also home to The Shamrock Inn a nice, friendly little pub. There is a very succinct sign along the trail that sums up the pub in six four-letter words: Good Food, Cold Beer, Next Left. We still had several miles to ride before turning around, so we made a mental note to stop on the way back for a few brews.
I figured we could go at least ten more miles before turning around. This would put us in the Withlacoochee State Forest. South of Floral City the trail runs through some of the most remote sections of land yet. The next stop of note is Hampton's Edge Bike Shop. They are around six miles south of Floral City and are open only on the weekends. Just south of the bike shop we found Lake Townson Park. They have picnic shelters and fresh water.
We continued on for another two to three miles and got within approximately 12 miles from the southern terminus when we decided to turn around and head back. We were both pretty tired and thoughts of a cold beer in Floral City consumed our thoughts! We stopped again at Townson Park and headed to the Withlacoochee River access east of the trail for a little side exploration and a little rest. We rode our bikes over the water and along a cyprus forest on a dock and took a small rest before heading back out. Along the way Kelli spotted something in a field along the trail that turned out to be a large flock of wild turkeys. I estimated that there were around 50 60; I have never seen this many turkeys in one place - there's gotta be a joke there somewhere!
The eleven miles north to Floral City seemed to be twice as long as they did earlier. Thoughts of cold beer motivated us to continue on. When we reached Floral City, we couldn't have been happier. We parked our bikes in front of the Shamrock Inn and went in for a few cold ones. Needless to say, we had a good time there and had a well-deserved rest. We were also treated to a little local flavor: Several older guys were cutting a rug to the sounds of a karaoke saxophonist who was equipped with his own mini-light show! (see this bonus pub-spy-cam Trail Video) It was a big night in Floral City but, sadly, we had to go as almost seven more miles were ahead of us before we reached Inverness. As we stepped out of the Shamrock's door, we were a little shocked: it was getting dark! As we hit the trail with renewed energy, dusk gave way to night. We were peddling in the dark! In an uncharacteristic move, we even passed the next pub that was just outside of Floral City.
When we finally made it back to Inverness, it was dark and we were really tired. We returned to our bed and breakfast, got cleaned up and had dinner at Stumpknockers, one of the three restaurants in Inverness. Good food and a few cold beverages were our reward for what turned out to be an interesting 56-mile ride! I was hoping that we could check out the next morning, drive to southern terminus and ride the last 12 miles of the Withlacoochee State Trail that we didn't get to ride today. We awoke Sunday to a cold rain that had settled in for the day. It was a good thing that we rode as much of the trail Saturday that we did. The rest of the trail was going to have to wait for another day. In summary, the Withlacoochee State Trail is a really fun ride that can be enjoyed by anyone. I recommend riding the southern sections from Inverness to the southern terminus if you can only ride a portion of the trail. The scenery is nice and the towns of Inverness and Floral City are nothing short of charming.
The Withlacoochee State Trail is the longest (to date) paved rail trail in Florida. It occupies approximately 46 miles of an abandoned railroad right-of-way, passing through three counties (Citrus, Hernando and Pasco) en route from Citrus Springs in Citrus County to Trilby in Pasco County. The Withlacoochee Trail State Park starts just north of S.R. 50, a mile east of I-75 and continues through the Withlacoochee State Forest, runs close to the Withlacoochee River, past the Silver Lake Campground, then continues north through the Floral City, Inverness, Citrus Springs, and ends at Gulf Junction just south of Dunnellon. The rail bed traverses six distinct natural communities, and provides visitors access to the central Florida landscape in both developed and natural conditions. The most prominent natural feature within the Withlacoochee Trail corridor is the flood plane of the Withlacoochee River. The trail intersects this flood plane in several locations, allowing visitors to observe flood plane habitats and lakes. A unique natural vista occurs along the trail corridor, south of the Withlacoochee State Forest/Croom Tract. Other important natural features of the trail corridor include scenic Lake Henderson and the Tsala-Apopka chain of lakes. These productive water bodies attract many bird species that may be observed by trail users.