and Lower North Bay Trail (FL)
33.3 miles (One Way)
Rating: 9 (out of 10)
203 Road/Driveway Crossings (1-way)
278 People Encountered (Both Ways)
Pros: Trail has standard trailhead stations with all the amenities. A few benches, garbage cans, and covered picnic tables were seen along the trail. Bike shops were located just off the trail. Camping was available at a KOA next to the trail, including tent camping. Tree Canopy was mostly open. No curb bumps. Food was available off the trail. No litter was seen along the trail. A Security Park Ranger was seen picking up litter which explains why there was none. There were maps at the Pinellas trailhead stations but I did not see any along the Skyway or North Bay trails. Trail was mostly straight with the exception of the Skyway Trail. Trail width was a wonderful 14 feet most of the time. No tree root bumps were seen or felt at all. Bicycle rentals were available. Mostly quiet trails except at busy crossings (many of which we rode over the top of) and also very noisy when the Skyway went along Interstate 275. Trail right-of-way was well mowed and maintained. Drivers were very courteous at intersections usually waving me through at four way stops or stopping when they did not have to. Emergency stickers were located frequently along the Pinellas Trail. The number of intersections for a trail going through the heart of a heavily populated area is actually low. Although a lot of people were encountered, people were not jam packed on the trail causing any slowdowns. Then again, it was a weekday.
Cons: There were car barrier posts in the trail to dodge at intersections. Trail Speed limit was 20 mph. 10 mph on the North Bay trail. I would have liked to have seen more trailside public restrooms. More restrooms were available at public parks located 1/4 to 1/2 mile off the trail but they are of little use if you don't know about them. There are a number of hills with significant grades related to ramps and elevated bridges going over busy roads. The lower Pinellas Trail is not your easy flat ride. Wikipedia says the only hazard on the Pinellas Trail is crime. There were a few low income, industrial, and homeless areas that caused me to pay much more attention to people and the surroundings but no one ever bothered me. Authorities recommend staying off the trail at night when most robberies occur. It might also be noted that according to an article in the Tampa Tribune by Kate Bradshaw, researchers are investigating water quality at water fountains located along the Pinellas Trail. Based on surprising initial results of consistent bacteria presence, including the type associated with feces, you might want to avoid usage of water fountains. Unsanitary water fountains are a problem with most public outdoor fountains. Take your own water. If you find yourself needing to drink from a water fountain, make sure the water flows at full force for at least ten seconds before you drink it. These three trails are probably way more crowded on the weekends in summer time when people are flaunting their skin.
Viewpoint: In a nutshell, Yes, I would certainly love to ride each one of these trails again. The scenery is spectacular. The trails are in almost perfect shape and well maintained. I was most impressed the Skyway - Clam Bayou Trail. Awesome ride! I'm lumping all these trails together as a single trip. Do realize the Fred Pinellas trail extends another 20+ miles to the North of where I started by Belleview Road south of Clearwater. Also, the North Bay Trail keeps on going to the north from where I turned around at Coffeepot Park. I simply did not have enough time to bicycle all this area has to offer in one day.
The downloadable GPS track of this lower Pinellas, Skyway, and North Bay Trail can be found here:
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