July 2021:Halpatiokee Trails closed indefinitely due to an alligator incident
It had rained on and off the day and night before we arrived at Halpatiokee Regional Park, so it was a big question whether or not the Mountain Bike Trail would be open.
The idea was for one of us to bike the singletrack and one of us to tackle the hiking trail. You can guess who did which.
Fortunately, the rain held off in the morning and there were no warnings at the trailhead.
A fellow rider stopped to say that the trails at the south end of the park would likely be flooded in places. and he was right.
Cutting the ride short was preferable to not riding at all. I covered 2.4 miles out of the trail system and only hit one bad puddle.
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Trailhead: 27.104098, -80.257460
Address: 8303 SW Lost River Rd, Stuart FL
Restroom: at the trailhead and the ballfields
Land manager: Martin County
Open daily 7 AM to 11 PM. Trails close at dusk. Cyclists must wear helmets.
Some segments of the trail are posted “One Way.” Respect these signs to avoid causing an accident.
Just as there are places along the singletrack that are posted “No Hikers,” cyclists should avoid riding the South Fork Nature Trail, which is posted “No Bikes.”
If the trails are muddy, cut over to the paralleling forest roads. You don’t want your tires to damage a wet trail.
No matter if you are hiking or biking, carry a map. There are lots of trail junctions and not all are signposted. Snap a photo of the map displayed at the kiosk to bring with you.
This trail is maintained by the Airborne Mountain Bike Club. If you live in the area, consider volunteering to help keep it clear.
From Interstate 95, take exit 101 for Kanner Highway (SR 76) / Stuart. Go east one block. Turn right at the right at Lost River Road and follow it 0.6 mile to the second park entrance on the left, past the Holiday Inn Express and other businesses.
To reach the trailheads, turn right at the circle and follow the road around the baseball fields and past the tennis courts to where the picnic pavilions are.
The Halpatiokee Mountain Bike Trail is made up of 14 segments, color-coded on the signage with a difficulty rating posted. Blue blazes were along the route we rode.
To avoid riding over your skill level in the more technical segments, which include narrow boardwalks and tight squeezes, use the paralleling forest roads.
Posts at the start of each new named segment provide mileage, which is the overall mileage you’ve covered along the entire 7.5 mile loop.
On the northeast side of the lake, there are three named trails – plus the entrance and exit trails – that make up most of the 2.4 mile loop.
All riders enter the trail system up the open green area near Pavilion 7. Pass a forest road gate and the Enter sign points you into the pine flatwoods.
Much of the uplands of this part are a mixture of flatwoods and scrub. The singletrack is mainly covered in pine needles.
After you enter The Dips, a tight corridor through the pines broadens for a stretch. Look for the bicycle sign to dive back into the narrow corridor through the pines.
There’s a spot where the Dips and Steve’s Trail come up right next to each other. Watch the signage to avoid changing trails.
Watch the soft sand, too. As the trail enters scrubby flatwoods with a more dense understory, there’s a boardwalk around a banked curve.
Pavers define the next banked curve so you don’t slide on the pine needles.
Clumps of saw palmetto reach out and grab before you arrive at a technical side trail that isn’t on the map: The Hole.
It didn’t take long to figure out why it had that name. Unfortunately, with the rain, it was pretty wet and muddy.
Climbing back out of the Hole, it’s very rooty, complicating how well you can pick up speed for the uphill.
At the top is the junction of the Eastern Corridor and Steve’s Trail. Since that puddle in The Hole was enough to confirm it would be wet south of here, I switched to Steve’s Trail.
This is the decision point where you can head down the Eastern Corridor to tackle the South Loop.
Steve’s Loop led back north, twisting through the pine woods, coming out to the lakeshore for a short stretch.
After passing a Wrong Way sign back where it touched the Dips, it hopped up on a boardwalk.
A black diamond sign warned of the rough going ahead over the sprawled trunks of cabbage palms, followed by a boardwalk.
Passing a cowbell hanging in a pine, the trail jogged through more saw palmetto before reaching the final segment, Zig Zag.
True to its name, it does a lot of twists and turns while following close to the lakeshore.
Sometimes you only see the water through a gap in the vegetation, other times the view is pretty clear.
Especially past the tire, when the trail enters a thicket of ferns beneath the pines along the lake.
The pine forest opens up for a while before the saw palmetto defines the corridor again, and the singletrack gets sandy.
Slipping past the lake again, there are some nice views before Zig Zag ends and you’re on the final stretch called the Exit Corridor.
Stay with the blue blazes and follow the signs to come out to the green space leading to the parking area.
Since I didn’t get to ride this, we can only fill you in by what the map says and what Sandy saw while hiking.
The East Corridor does tend to get soggy in places, as do the hiking trails paralleling it. It touches the hiking trail briefly.
Ending within sight of the hiking trail and the forest roads and the entrance to the primitive campsite, it becomes the River Trail, leading right past the camp.
This is a technical ride through the palm hammocks along the South Fork of the St. Lucie River. It can be bypassed using the forest road south.
The next segment is 40 Acres, which is very twisty, followed by Roots, which we’ll guess is pretty rooty.
After that comes Hills, which includes following along berms on waterways scooped out south of the lake. Palmetto Express defines the southwest corner of the loop through pine flatwoods and palms.
The Western Corridor leads up the west boundary of the park within earshot of Interstate 95. It makes a u-turn onto U-Turn, which loops back down to the lower lake and then to the narrows between the two lakes.
The Lake Corridor hugs the lakeshore as it heads east and joins back up with where I turned onto Steve’s Trail. Here’s a picture of the full bike trail map from the trailhead kiosk.
In addition to the well-marked and signposted singletrack, there are many miles of forest roads that you cross and parallel.
Some work as bail-outs for the technical sections. Others provide places you can take a shortcut where needed. These roads are shared by hikers.
Learn what else you can do at Halpatiokee Regional Park.
See our video slide show of the ride at Halpatiokee Regional Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Find a wonderland of white sand and small shrubs at Seabranch Preserve State Park, which protects a sand pine scrub and more along the Atlantic Coastal Ridge
At Spruce Bluff Natural Area, trails lead to the site of a pioneer settlement and the largest Ais mound in South Florida amid scrub and wetlands in Port St. Lucie.
One of South Florida’s best backpacking destinations, Jonathan Dickinson State Park encompasses a vast mosaic of ecosystems along the wild and scenic Loxahatchee River