Pasco County
Pedaling Through Pasco

Pedaling Through Pasco

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Discover the best biking trails in Pasco, Florida

By Kevin Mims
Photos by Daniel Oines via Flickr

As I looked down the long, slender road ahead of us, effortlessly pedaling past spindly pines as the sinking sun cast shades of yellow and gold on the woods, things felt right.

It was just the beginning of our bike-centric vacation to Pasco, a destination my wife and I chose because of its reputation for having some of the most diverse biking trails in Florida. In fact, plans for a coast-to-coast trail system that will run through Pasco and incorporate the Pinellas, Starkey, Suncoast and Withlacoochee trails are underway. For now, the area’s lengthy, paved, car-free paths and low-key dirt trails full of wildlife and single-track mountain bike spots made it clear that if we wanted to spend our vacation exploring the state on two wheels, Pasco was the place to be.

For the first day, we started in Odessa, west of Wesley Chapel, and set out on the ever-popular Suncoast Trail. The greenway spanned 42 miles, most of which were in Pasco. We started at the State Road 54 trailhead and headed north for a smooth ride of about 10 miles round trip, greeting other cyclists and taking in the greenery around us as we pedaled. It was the perfect way to kick off our tour: light, easy and really fun. This was where we found out about a connecting trail, which we decided to explore the next day.

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Going deeper

Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park gave us the opportunity to really get away from the hustle and bustle of urban life and experience unspoiled, old-Florida wilderness on our second day of exploring. A part of the Starkey Wilderness Preserve, this scenic, 8,000-acre property connected directly to the Suncoast Trail via a 6.5-mile paved bicycle path, where we encountered an abundance of wildlife including deer and turkeys. Even though we were just outside New Port Richey, it felt like we were getting away from it all and connecting with nature as we rode past long-leaf pine trees and bushy palmettos, slowing twice to let deer cross our path.

Spot wildlife while pedaling along the paved Starkey Park bike loop.
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Serenity at Serenova

Riding under canopies of sprawling live oaks and a big, blue sky, we made our way through some of the 18 miles of multi-use trails within the Serenova Tract at Starkey Wilderness Preserve. Places such as this were why we chose to bring our hybrid bikes, which allowed us to ride as much as we wanted, regardless of whether a trail was paved or not.

Places such as this were why we chose to bring our hybrid bikes, which allowed us to ride as much as we wanted, regardless of whether a trail was paved or not.

On our third day of vacation, we explored more of the Serenova Tract, which is owned by the Southwest Florida Water Management District and covered more than 6,500 acres. We rode at an easy pace, letting the few equestrians and hikers we saw along the dirt path set the tone for us, spotting the preserve’s inhabitants—including gopher tortoises, wild hogs, deer and birds—from a distance. We brought a picnic lunch and, if it weren’t for grumbly stomachs, we probably would have preferred exploring more to stopping.

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Off road and on track

More off-pavement adventures awaited us at Conner Preserve, which had 12.5 miles of unpaved bike trails in addition to separate hiking and equestrian trails. Since it was a bit more rugged and wild than we were used to, it meant that the area served as more of a physical challenge.

We pumped and sweated our way along the rough terrain over rocks and past vegetation such as hibernating blackberry bushes. We were also treated with the opportunity to see wild animals undisturbed in their natural environment including two hawks, a pair of cranes and countless small ground critters.

Take a break to discover the abundant wildlife.

Our final two-wheel adventure put us in Dade City at the southern terminus of the Withlacoochee State Trail, Florida’s longest rail trail. We didn’t need to ride all 46 miles of it to see why cyclists from all over Florida and beyond flock there. Gopher tortoises were easy to spot along the sides of the tree-lined trail, and we were free to ride as fast as we wanted along the smooth pavement without worrying about cars or other motorized vehicles.

On a pause for water, my wife and I did some reflecting on our wonderful biking excursion. Neither of us had ever had such an active vacation, but we both agreed that we felt more refreshed after this week than after any other vacation we had taken. There is something about being outdoors and being active in nature every day that rejuvenates the mind, body and soul. We left with some great memories, a list of places to explore further, and a new outlook on what a vacation could be.

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Get in touch with nature riding the trails of Pasco.