31.7 miles (Asphalt)
Rating: 2 (out of 10)
55 Road/Driveway Crossings (1-way)
28 People Encountered (Both Ways)
Pros: The west, east, and south trailheads had parking, restrooms, and a pavilion and/or picnic tables. The trail was nice smooth 12 foot wide asphalt. The trees provided mostly a closed type tunnel canopy on the south trail and the west-east trail provided more open views. Litter along the trail itself was rare. There were lodging options close to the trail. There were indications that center posts were once placed on the trail at intersections but had been permanently removed which was nice. Intersections were smooth with no curb jumps. The number of road and driveway crossings were very very low for the distance. Number of users was also ridiculously low with only one bicyclist seen. The right-of-way was mowed but only for about four feet from the edge. The ride was typical of rails-to-trails with little change in elevation meaning no hills despite the ragged profile views below. Trail was very straight with only a few curves. There had to been about two dozen covered benches along the trail which provide a place to wait out rainstorms or have a food or drink break. The north eastern part of the trail appeared to be older and had a little asphalt cracking plus a few root bumps but nothing that presented a danger to riders.
Cons: Didn't see any water fountains. First thing I noticed while heading north out of Chiefland was the trail gave bicyclists stop signs at some intersections but provided no warning signs to motorists like at NW 140th Street which is not typical of Rails-to-Trails. Motorists should be told it is a people crossing either by signage or pavement crosswalk markings. No bike shops were seen. No camping was available near the trail. The trail going north closely paralleled Old Fannin Road which I got glimpses of from time to time and more often than not what stood out on those glimpses was all the roadside trash. The West-East trail section closely paralleled busy 4-lane US-27 on the west side and busy 2-lane Route 26 on the east side making for a lot of traffic noise. Car and truck exhaust occasionally wafted through the air making the trail feel exactly opposite of being out in nature. I saw some restrooms in Fanning Springs when my bowels started getting in an uproar but the doors were locked. I did not get any photos of cyclists on the trail because the only cyclist I saw during the entire 63 mile round trip ride passed by me while my bicycling shorts were around my ankles while I was taking an open air dump. Crap happens. I could not physically wait any longer to find a restroom. 20 miles between trail restrooms is not acceptable. There was a good bit of twigs and leaf debris on the trail but no maintenance people were ever seen. The north side of the trail was under high voltage power lines frequently.
Viewpoint: In a nutshell, NO, I will never ride this trail again. With substandard markings at some intersections, lack of restroom facilities, a dog chase from several pit-bulls, four-wheeler ATV noise, trashy roadsides and cities that looked real rundown, I rate this ride quite low. This is one of those bicycle rides that I so wanted to be over with. This is not saying your experience will be bad. The trail is a good thing for several small cities and offer them what other larger cities only dream of having which is a car free bicycle route through their city. Realize that cities with populations at or less than 2000 have less to offer visitors. It should be noted that I did not go exploring through each trailhead city. Just because I found Nature Coast Trail not to my liking doesn't mean you won't see wildlife, enjoy the view of Suwannee River, and find the cities entertaining.
The downloadable GPS track of the Nature Coast Trail can be found here:
Click on any thumbnail below to bring up a larger view photo gallery with commentary.