- Lisa Parsons
Swamp Mountain Biking
Alafia State Park Mountain Bike Trails
We heard about this trail system from a couple of local mt. bikers we met when we were riding Santos Trails near Ocala. They said go to Alafia ear Tampa. If you like these trails you’ll really like the trails at Alafia. So we put it on our list of must do stops in Florida.
We pulled up to the parking area and once again the place was packed. We have been completely surprised by the amount of people out mountain biking at these trails. Ahh, we found out from a local that the kids were out of school and that is why there were so many people out riding. The local, gave us some tips on routes to ride and went on and on about how great the trails were. He said he rode them all the time.
So with his advice we headed out to do North Creek first. We rode from the common area and entered a surreal landscape. The trail was lined with bright green ferns. Oaks towered overhead with long beards of Spanish moss hanging from their limbs. Below the oaks were bright green Palmetto palms. The trail started out through the ferns and then dropped down a dirt hill and swung in an arch along a wooden side ramp and then along a narrowing ridge line and over a bridge over a narrow channel in a network of swamps.
Then we turned off onto Spitfire, a single black diamond loop. Then we were along a narrower ridge line that wound out to the end and back. Below on both sides was a green swamp. We twisted around and came back to North Creek near the entrance we had entered on.
Continuing on I felt like I was riding in another world. We crossed bridges over North Creek and between islands of land surrounded by swamp. It felt like we were biking from swamp island to swamp island somewhere in the backwaters of the Everglades. We’d cross a bridge, ride across the land, and then cross over on another bridge.
The gaps between the bridge planks started to freak the dogs out and at one point Mica plunged into the green muck thinking it was solid ground to avoid running the bridge. She disappeared over her head and popped up in total surprise. She ran across the bridges from then on.
We stopped for a minute to take it all in and saw a large group of buzzards circling in the sky above the forest. An ominous sign. We wondered if one of the mt. bikers had taken a header and crashed their mountain bike and was now lunch for a group of buzzards.
As we rode along on one narrow ridge we passed a bright pink gnome. I mean this gnome was day-glo pink sitting in a tree opening just staring at us as we passed by. No we did not take a hallucinogenic before the ride. We really saw a bright pink gnome in a tree.
Towards the end of North Creek we turned off on Buzzard Bay. Immediately the stench found our nostrils and I realized that we had entered a roosting area for buzzards. The stench hung in the air and we saw white poop all over leaves, branches and on the forest floor. While stinky, the trail itself was a fun technical side hill along a point surrounded by swamp. The narrow point trail wound back just on the other side of the narrow finger of land.
Again we came back just feet away from where we started and finished up at North Creek. From there we rode part of an easier trail Hidden Rivers and another intermediate trail called Lost Meadow. Then we turned onto the connector trail and crossed under power lines. We turned on to Rollercoaster, a 2 mile loop that wound tightly back and forth. It had lots of rollers along narrow ridge lines. Often there were two routes, one easier and one with a dirt berm to catch air on the upswing.
Short break before heading off to ride Rollercoaster
We found ourselves at an opening that had a a well built wooden ramp that dropped down a steep slope with an entrance to catch air and then a dirt berm on the uphill at the other end to catch more air or go to the right and jump two berms. We watched as a group rode the ramp over and over honing their launch skills. There was a return route with a sign that said “Return to do it again” so you could do the jump and then ride back up to the top and do it again.We finished up watching the jumpers and then continued Rollercoaster through more technical rollers and swooping trail through forest. Again the trail spat us out near where we went in. from there it was a short ride back to the parking lot.
I have never ridden trails like this. The technical riding was combination of narrow ridge line, rocky terrain, bridges over swamp, and constant ups and downs through a completely different landscape then I’ve ever ridden through. It turns out the interesting terrain is due to the fact that it used to be an old Phosphate mine site. These trails are crazy and definitely worth checking out if you come to Florida. Bayou swamp mountain biking at it’s best.
For more info visit: https://www.alafiatrails.com/
Best time of year to ride. The local told me right now while it is cool.
Hazards. Narrow ridge lines that end in swamp, swamps, alligators, and probably snakes.