When you think “trail running,” the Sunshine State probably isn’t the first location that comes to mind. With its flat terrain and touristy reputation, Florida is more often associated with beaches and theme parks. However, this sub-tropic paradise just might surprise you.
The warm climate, unique ecosystems and active pace of life have begun to make Florida a popular destination for runners. From historic districts to waterfront loops to off-the-grid enclaves, the eight trails below are perfect for getting some dirt on your sneakers this summer.
Miccosukee Canopy Road
5600 Miccosukee Road
This 503-acre route, located in Tallahassee, is a public conservation effort to designate more greenway spaces around Florida’s capital. With 17 miles of connected trail loops that weave across open pastures, through dense forests and up hilly gradients, it’s a challenging course for every runner.
There are several running groups to join in Tallahassee like the Gulf Winds Track Club, which hosts monthly races and “fun runs” through these trails.
Cypress Creek Natural Area
10035 Indiantown Road
This 2,083-acre route, located in Jupiter, features multiple running trails through diverse Florida habitats like marshes, swamps, prairies and flatwoods. The panoramic views, wildlife sightings and accessible, well-marked footpaths stretching on for miles attract both recreational and serious runners alike. The Cypress Creek Natural Area is part of the Northeast Everglades conservation lands, and its unique topography is suited for all types of experience and fitness levels.
San Felasco State Park
11101 Millhopper Road
This 6,500-acre route, located in Gainesville, is one of the only mature forests in Florida, and is home to native species of rare plants and animals. Runners who prefer a quiet, off-road wilderness immersion can choose between three different trails, ranging in distance from .9 miles, 4.8 miles and 5.6 miles. Each offers tranquil scenery, rugged elevation and dog-friendly access if kept on a leash.
To find a running group in this area, check the Fit2Run event calendar, which hosts a number of runs throughout the week for regular attendees and newcomers alike.
Rock Springs Run Reserve
30601 County Road 433
This 14,000-acre route, located in Sorrento, fringes the Wekiva River shoreline, just a half-hour commute from the urban sprawl of metro-Orlando. With more than 14 miles of multi-purpose trails, runners can share this pristine rural setting with other outdoor enthusiasts like bikers, horseback riders and park rangers. The main draw of Rock Springs Run is a large, winding creek tributary that was created from natural artesian aquifers and flows throughout the entire park.
North Shore Park
901 North Shore Drive NE
This 33-acre route, located in St. Petersburg, channels the vibrant pace of a Florida lifestyle while providing relaxing greenery right in the center of a modern city. The park is just a short distance from the heart of downtown and full of recreational activities from tennis and volleyball to softball and is home to a serene waterfront trail that meanders along the Tampa Bay. The 6.3-mile footpath is ideal for runners who enjoy an urban landscape, coastal vibes and accessibility to other athletic complexes too.
Get in touch with St. Pete Road Runners to get involved with group runs through this area.
Grapefruit Trail Loop
1414 Norbert Road NE
This 12-acre route, located in Palm Bay, is considered one of Central Florida’s most rigorous and advanced trails. It’s designed for the competitive athlete who’s familiar with rugged single-track trail. Runners should be prepared to share this 2.5-mile course with BMX or mountain bikers and to exercise caution with the sharp turns and uneven surfaces. In a state known for its smooth and flat topography, the Grapefruit Trail Loop is an excellent option for a seriously tough run.
Spruce Creek Preserve
90 Devito Drive
This 1,637-acre route, located in New Smyrna Beach, is part of an ongoing restoration project by some of the area’s high school students and faculty members. Inside the nature preserve are multiple amenities like horseback trails, canoe launches and more than 3 miles of scenic running trails which lead to a 15-foot observation tower.
To find running groups and upcoming events, from 5Ks to half-marathons, in or around New Smyrna Beach, visit their Local Races calendar page.
Bird Basin Park
2080 SW 157 Avenue
This 10-acre route, located in Miami, rambles through peaceful, secluded marshland, seemingly an entire world apart from the noise, crowds and energy of South Beach. The terrain here is not as challenging as the Grapefruit Trail Loop, making this course suitable for both leisure and technical runners. With a multi-purpose trail that stretches for 25 miles, outdoor aficionados can spend hours exploring the area’s biodiversity, while logging plenty of cardio time in the process.
Whether you’re a Florida resident or out-of-state vacationer, these routes are worth giving a try—regardless of how experienced or skilled of a runner you are. Enjoy gorgeous scenery, off-road peace and the challenge of a new trail.
Author: Jessica Thiefels
Jessica Thiefels is a long-time writer and runner, and is currently a full-time blogger. She is also an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition specialist, and the owner of her own personal training business, Honest Body Fitness. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for health articles, new workouts and more.