Following a former narrow gauge railroad corridor from the main line at Croom to a depot built in 1885 in Brooksville, the Good Neighbor Trail is a 10.1-mile linear paved bike path providing a crucial connector in the Coast to Coast Trail across Central Florida.
Western terminus: 28.5488, -82.3859 (Russell Street Park)
Eastern terminus: 28.5894, -82.2284 (Withlacoochee State Trail)
Length: 10.1 miles linear
Open: Sunrise to sunset
At the south end of the trail in Brooksville, park adjacent to the 1885 Train Depot and Countryman Family One Room Schoolhouse Museum at Russell Street Park. There is a restroom at the park.
On the books as a future recreational asset for Hernando County for nearly twenty years, the Good Neighbor Trail officially opened in October 2018. A little more than half its length is within Brooksville and its surrounding rural residental areas, but except for the portion west of US 98, you never feel like you’re riding through someone’s backyard. The corridor dates back to the heyday of lumberjacks felling the “yellow pine,” as long-lived longleaf pines were known, and sending them off to sawmills. Narrow gauge trains facilitated the process, in this case the Southern Railroad. It was later taken over by the Atlantic Coast Line and rails widened to accommodate standard gauge trains.
Riding north from Brooksville, there is one tricky crossing to contend with: US 98, which is usually busy no matter the time of day. On the city side of US 98, the classic Coney Island Drive Inn is just up the hill and worth a lunch stop.
Once you’re past US 98, the corridor is deeply shaded by forest for much of the stretch up to Old Jasmine Drive. Two very sharp jogs happen at McIntyre Road and Mondon Hill Rd. Both roads often have traffic that can’t easily see you. However, you’re surrounded by farms and ranches in this part of town.
Once you’re northeast of Mondon Hill Road, there is a stretch with tall chain-link fence on both sides of the trail. Since we could hear gunshots, we presume a shooting range is nearby and the fence is there so cyclists don’t wander into it. Once the trail reaches Richloam Road, it parallels it behind a screen of trees. It’s hilly through this stretch, so we think that the road used the railroad bed a long time ago. There are a few more rural road crossings to keep alert for.
Leaving the rural residences behind, you enter Withlacoochee State Forest for the final stretch. It’s straight as an arrow and the grade rises very, very gradually through this mature sandhill forest. There are two spots where the bike path crosses the Florida Trail. The first is along one of its yellow-blazed loops, and the second is along the orange blazes as you approach the Croom intersection.
Ending after 10.1 miles at a T intersection, the Good Neighbor Trail meets the Withlacoochee State Trail. If you are following the Coast to Coast Trail, turn right to head towards the Interstate 75 underpass, Silver Lake Recreation Area, and the Ridge Manor Trailhead.
If you’re looking for the nearest trailhead and restrooms, turn left instead to head up to the road crossing of Croom-Rital Road. There is a picnic bench and bathroom at this trailhead.
- Biking the Good Neighbor Trail (12/4/2018) - A morning of exploration allowed us to experience the not-quite-open-yet Good Neighbor Trail and its historic context during our visit to Brooksville this September.