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  • Lisa Parsons

Oleta River State Park, An Urban Mt. Biking Oasis

View from one of the picnic beaches along Biscayne Bay

We discovered an amazing park thirty minutes from downtown Miami. This beautiful park lies between Biscayne Bay and the Oleta River. It has an older forest (hammocks) of hardwoods and mangroves. To date, they are the largest and oldest mangroves we have seen in our travels in southern Florida. The park is just over 1000 acres and is Florida’s largest urban park. Besides over fifteen miles of mt. bike trails you can also paddle the mangrove; fish the waters of the bay or river; swim in protected water; or picnic along tables places along the shoreline. There is the BG Oleta Outdoor Center within the park. There you can rent mt. bikes, beach cruisers, paddle boards, canoes, or kayaks.

I rarely drive “in to” the city to mountain bike, so I was a little skeptical about the quality of mt. bike trails I would find there. However, we were not disappointed. The trails, built by mt. bikers are maintained by the local volunteer mt. bike organization, the Oleta Trail Blazers. We found a mix of bridges and ramps. There were lots of roots; it is next to a mangrove lagoon. The builders used any little change in elevation to add rolling terrain. Trails winded back and forth making the most of the space in between waterways. While we riding, we couldn’t believe Oleta River State Park exists on the edge of downtown Miami. Along the trails and shoreline of blue opal colored water, you can see the skyscrapers of North Miami.

Biscayne Bay with views of North Miami. Miami boats out cruising.

Our favorite trail was Gilligan’s Island. We soon realized it was named Gilligan’s Island for a reason. Our initial idea was to do a quick loop. Somehow spent more time that we had planned as we twisting back and forth along the tightly woven trails. This loop had more technical terrain with lots of short root drops, more bridges, and ramps, and it even had a real hill; about twenty feet high. The vegetation is a mix of hardwoods, mangroves, tall ferns, and more tropical plants making it an interesting ride. At one point we came out alongside a grassy waterway that felt like we had just emerged into the Everglades National Park. Then we swung back into the trees only to emerge alongside mangroves. Their tall bottom roots sticking up above the waterline like spider legs.

Trails along the mangrove lagoons.

We spent two days exploring the single track trails and walking the shoreline. Our next trip will be to paddle the bay and the mangrove lagoons to gain another perspective and perhaps see some Manatees. This is an impressive urban park!

The Kitchen Sink Trail

BG Oleta Outdoor Center rents mt. bikes, beach cruisers, paddle boards, canoes, or kayaks? You can get it all here within the park. They also offer tours.

Apparently the volunteers here work so hard they die.

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