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Let’s Ride!

Three area trails offer bicyclists a choice of easy outdoor getaways.

The Safety Harbor area offers numerous opportunities for bicycling enthusiasts to enjoy easy recreational rides filled with scenic beauty and native wildlife. Three outstanding rides can be found on the Ream Wilson Trail, Upper Tampa Bay Trail and the Pinellas Trail.  Let’s take a look at each:

The Ream Wilson Trail

reamwilson2The Ream Wilson Trail officially resides in Clearwater, but I like to start at Philippe Park in Safety Harbor, which adds about two more miles of lovely scenery to the 5.5 mile trail. Stretching from the Long Center on Belcher Road to Bayshore Boulevard, Ream Wilson is a wide paved multi-use trail that offers a bit of challenge with an overpass over McMullen Booth Road and some rolling landscape.

This winding path is well worth the effort. You can’t beat its natural beauty, starting with the oak canopy at Philippe Park, skirting beautiful Tampa Bay and then traversing Kapok Park and Cliff Stephens Park.  Be sure to meander along the boardwalk at Kapok Park, one of Audubon’s recommended locations in Clearwater for outstanding bird watching. Here you can find a large variety of birds depending on the season  including limpkins, blue herons, egrets, red winged blackbirds, ospreys, ibis, anhingas, red shouldered hawks and even a couple of great horned owls.

On weekends, you’ll pass teams of disc golfers tossing Frisbees into steel nets on the disc golf course at Cliff Stephens Park, and you might even catch a Phillies spring training game at the stadium along the trail. Lots to see on this lovely ride, so it’s highly recommended!

 

 

Pinellas Trail – Dunedin to Tarpon Springs

pinetrail2The Pinellas Trail is a 34-mile-long paved trail open to bicyclists, joggers and walkers, and in-line skaters. Extending from Tarpon Springs to downtown St. Petersburg, the Pinellas Trail runs the gamut from laid-back and quiet to congested urban sidewalk. For the nicest ride, hop on the segment from downtown Dunedin to Tarpon Springs, a leisurely 12 miles each way.

This portion offers a pleasant flat ride on a wide paved trail and lots of places trailside to stop for a rest or a bite to eat.  I like to start at the old train depot on Main Street in downtown Dunedin (now the Dunedin History Museum), and ride north to the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks, where funky little gift shops and Greek diners offer a pleasant stop. Lock up your bike and take a stroll, enjoy a Greek pastry and watch the sponge boats come in.

On the way back, I always stop at Wall Springs Park, one of the hidden gems in the Pinellas County park system. Located trailside in Palm Harbor, this 195-acre park is on the site of a historic spring used as a public spa and bathing area from the turn of the 20th century until the mid-1960s. The park includes boardwalks, nature trails, picnic areas, and a 35-foot observation tower where you can get an outstanding view of the surrounding pine forest, tidal marsh and a bird sanctuary in the Gulf. Don’t forget to bring a pair of binoculars to spot the many birds found here including woodpeckers, owls, wood storks, ospreys and eagles.

Upper Tampa Bay Trail

UTBtrail2I’ve been riding the lovely Upper Tampa Bay Trail since it opened about five years ago in northwest Hillsborough County. This wide, paved trail winds for 7.25 miles through greenways, along a canal and eventually follows an old railway track. A favorite of rollerbladers and walkers, Upper Tampa Bay Trail is superbly maintained by Hillsborough County, with lots of water stops, picnic tables and benches along the way.

There are currently three trailheads with parking lots, but I like to start at the southernmost Memorial Trailhead near Hillsborough Avenue and do the entire roundtrip of 14.5 miles. A main trailhead on Waters Avenue offers restroom facilities and a large parking lot, as well.

Be sure to read the many signs posted along the way describing the trailside geography. Hard to believe the large green hill you pass at one point is a reclaimed landfill!

With three such outstanding trails available so close to home, Safety Harbor is a great place for those who love to ride bicycles to enjoy great sport—and beautiful Florida scenery.

Story and photos by Marcia Biggs written for Destination Tampa Bay magazine