6 Trails to Get You On The Move


Whether you choose to walk, stride or ride, Gainesville boasts some of the best hiking, running and biking trails in the state. Fitness enthusiast and owner of Gainesville Running and Walking, Mike Carrillo shares some the top trails in the area to get you out and on the move.

Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail

Location: Boulware Springs Park

Distance: 16.5 miles of paved asphalt

Time to Complete: 8 hrs round-trip on bike

Best for: biking, running, walking and family outings

Admission: Free

Level of Difficulty: easy to moderate

The Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail is great for training. This wide paved asphalt point-to-point rail/trail goes from Boulware Springs Park to the city of Hawthorne, with some nice rolling hills and tons of wildlife along the way. It is relatively quiet and peaceful as well and primarily shaded. There are restrooms along the way, a water fountain at the trailhead and is wheelchair-accessible.

San Felasco Trails

Location: San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park

Distance: Southside trail, 2 miles; North side trail, 2.8 to 9 miles

Time to Complete: 30 minutes to 3 hours depending upon chosen section of trail

Best for: walking, running, hiking or mountain biking

Admission: $4 (If you plan on going often, the Florida State Park Annual Pass is great option that grants access into every state park for a $60 annual fee.)

Level of Difficulty: easy to moderate

San Felasco has a variety of options with different hiking loops of varying distances, providing a variety of distances and terrains. It is a great place to do trail runs because there are many different types of terrain, giving riders the ability to challenge themselves or take it easy. Wildlife including turkeys, bobcats, white-tailed deer and many species of songbirds can be found along the trails, making it a great destination for any nature enthusiast. The shade provided by the many species of hardwood trees makes this one of Gainesville’s best hiking and running trails. It’s also great for a quiet and peaceful hike as the southern two-thirds of the park is restricted to hikers. For those who enjoy mountain biking, there are more than 30 miles of trails in various lengths and elevations.

The Rock Trail

Location: West Newberry Road directly across from NW 109th Drive

Distance: 5-8 miles

Best for: Mountain biking

Time to Complete: 1-2 hours

Admission: Free

Level of Difficulty: moderate

This trail is owned by The Rock Church and has some of the best mountain biking trails around. The beginner to advanced trails are well maintained with manmade obstacles, jumps and bridges in select areas of the coarse. It is a great place to run or walk through the woods, but the real treat is mountain biking on the course. Being close to town makes the Rock Trail a convenient option as well.

La Chua Trail

Location: 4801 Camp Ranch Road or Boulware Springs at 3500 SE 15th St

Distance: 3 miles round-trip

Best for: Walking and hiking

Time to Complete: 1-2 hours

Admission: $2

Level of Difficulty: easy

The La Chua Trail is a three-mile round-trip trail within Paynes Prairie, from the North Rim of the Prairie to the observation tower. This trail is the perfect destination for any nature and wildlife-lover, spotted with alligators, cranes and other marsh animals. Birds won’t be in short supply either, as it’s also recognized as one of Alachua’s best birding sites. La Chua will also guide you past Alachua Lake and Alachua sink.

Paynes Prairie Hiking Trails

Location: U.S. 441, 10-miles south of Gainesville

Distance: 2.5 to 8 miles

Best for: Hiking and biking

Time to Complete: 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on trail

Admission: Main entrance is $4-6, and an additional $2 depending on the trail

Level of Difficulty: easy to moderate

Paynes Prairie is a local favorite because you get away from the sounds of cars and the city. It has many great options for routes, with a total of eight trails, including the aforementioned Gainesville-Hawthorne State trail. There are a few shorter loops around 1 mile in length, as well as some longer trails including Bolen Bluff (2.6 miles), Chacala (6.5 miles) and Cone Dike Trail (8.25 miles). Cone Dike Trail has the flattest of the terrains, but is also open and exposed to the most sun and travels into the center of the prairie waterway. Bolen Bluff and the Chacala trail are mostly hardwoods and shaded, and Bolen Bluff gives visitors a scenic view of Alachua Lake. All three aforementioned trails allow for biking as well.

O’Leno State Park Trails

Location: 410 S.E. O’Leno Park Road, High Springs

Distance: Trails vary between 0.6 – 4.25 miles

Best for: Walking, hiking, biking and canoeing

Time to Complete: 2-4 hours

Admission: $2-5, canoe rentals $3/hr or $15/day

Level of Difficulty: moderate

O’Leno State Park has multiple trail option, however the most popular are the River Trail and Limestone Trail. Any nature-seeker can take a trip along the River or Limestone Trails, where they can see natural wonders such as the disappearing “river sink” or a limestone outcrop. Be on the lookout for wildlife such as turtles basking in the sun and an occasional alligator. There are an additional 13 miles of marked and maintained hiking and biking trails for those feeling adventurous. For those who want to get an even closer view of the “river sink,” take a canoeing or kayaking trip along the Santa Fe River. Both canoe and bike rentals are available.

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