A bike ride with an ocean breeze at your back and brilliant blue waters sparkling in the sun. Who wouldn’t be tempted by that?
Especially when we’re talking riding the length of the Florida Keys, a slice of the Caribbean connected to the Florida mainland by US 1.
That’s why the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail (OHT) is a destination ride. It is not, however, a continuous bike path.
The 108-mile route is appealing to cyclists visiting Florida because of its unique beauty and abundant services.
Following the route of the Overseas Railroad, and using some of the railroad’s historic bridges, it is a ride like no other in America.
Serving as the southernmost leg of the East Coast Greenway, it offers sweeping panoramas of mangrove-fringed islands in turquoise waters.
Our resources for exploring the area
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Location: Key West to Key Largo
Length: 108.3 miles linear
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open to pedestrian and bicycle use. Hikers should use sunscreen and insect repellent.
Class 1 ebikes (pedaling required) are permitted on state trails but other motorized transport is banned on bike path segments.
Because this is an island hopping route, sun and wind play a factor in your enjoyment of the ride. Check wind direction and speed before deciding which direction to ride, or to ride at all.
About the Trail
The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail uses a combination of bike paths, side path along US 1, and bike lanes on US 1 to connect the Florida Keys together.
Benches are provided in many places, especially at the ends of the long bridge crossings at the southern end of the trail.
If you are looking to ride the length of the Florida Keys, you must be comfortable riding with and in traffic to complete it all.
This includes crossing the Seven Mile Bridge in a wide bike lane with high-speed traffic next to you and no shelter from sun, wind, or storms for seven miles.
Some parts of the trail are better suited than others for day trippers looking for a paved bike path in the Florida Keys. Please see our Ride Details for our recommendations.
The historic bridges of the former Overseas Railroad provide a great deal of the allure to the trail in the Lower Keys.
They are best crossed when there are few people fishing along them. On weekends, both the bridges and US 1 can become overwhelmed by traffic and people.
It’s not unusual to find vehicles parking on the trail (even official vehicles) but especially near the bridges where the anglers gather, and especially on weekends.
The usual traffic, distracted drivers, and trash tossed by motorists is familiar to anyone using bike lanes or side paths. But this trail has some oddball hazards to watch out for as a cyclist.
Spare tubes, tires, and a repair kit are a must. Watch out for roughed-up surfaces from storm surges, construction debris, and iguanas darting in front of you.
Both cyclists and hikers need to think twice before slipping into a forest for a bathroom stop.
In the Florida Keys, the forests are full of poisonous trees: bushwhacking is a very bad idea here.
There are well-spaced campgrounds that a cyclist or hiker carrying camping gear can use. However, these generally require reservations well in advance.
But with so many classic motels and resorts along the route, if you budget for it, you can relax on the beach or the bay every night, and even get in a swim after your ride.
While your choice of direction for riding the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail should be determined by the prevailing winds, we describe it from Key West to Key Largo.
That’s how we rode it, for two very specific reasons besides the direction of the winds that week in late November.
First, the southern terminus of the East Coast Greenway (ECG) is at Key West, so if you’re looking to ride the entire East Coast along it to Maine, start here.
Second, hikers who are looking to walk the length of the entire Eastern Seaboard on a route called the Eastern Continental Trail (ECT) start north from the Southernmost Point buoy.
Their journey takes them along the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail to a series of connections through the South Dade Greenway to reach the Florida Trail, which spans 1,100 miles to Alabama.
Connections through Alabama and Georgia lead to the Appalachian Trail and the International Appalachian Trail, with a finish at Cape Gaspe, Quebec after more than 4,800 miles of hiking.
Most hikers take a week or less to walk the length of the Overseas Heritage Trail. Five days is common, but keep in mind it’s all on pavement. It’s tough on feet to do big miles.
For cyclists, our research rides took three days, although there are many cyclists who’ve done it in a day or two.
We’ve broken the trail up roughly into the Lower, Middle, and Upper Keys based on our own end points each day. Adjust as needed for your personal daily mileage.
These segments work well as a stand-alone ride for families and for cyclists who aren’t all that comfortable dealing with traffic along US 1.
Please see our individual segment pages (Lower, Middle, and Upper Keys) for exact locations of parking areas, pulloffs, and parks with parking along the route.
Each has an interactive map where you can zoom in and get directions to any particular trailhead or access point along the Overseas Heritage Trail.
Most trailheads are day use only. If you want to leave your car overnight, doing so at a state park or private campground is a good idea. Check before making plans.
Random camping is not permitted along the trail. Please make use of established campgrounds with tent camping.
Camping is much more expensive in the Florida Keys than elsewhere in the state so plan to share a site with friends to split costs.
Campgrounds that accept tent campers include:
|5.2||Leo's Campground||Stock Island|
|5.6||Boyd's Campground||Stock Island|
|34.2||Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge||Big Pine Key|
|38.0||Bahia Honda State Park||Bahia Honda Key|
|57.4||Curry Hammock State Park||Grassy Key|
|60.5||Jolly Roger RV Park||Grassy Key|
|68.7||Long Key State Park||Long Key|
|102.9||Key Largo Campground||Key Largo|
|104.1||John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park||Key Largo|
|105.0||Kings Kamp RV Park||Key Largo|
Call in advance to reserve a campsite. Fees apply. Some sites must be reserved online. These parks with campgrounds are listed south to north.
|0.0||Southermost Point marker|
|1.0||East Coast Greenway terminus marker|
|1.9||Smathers Beach parking|
|5.0||Key West Tropical Hammock & Botanical Gardens trailhead|
|11.9||Shark Key parking|
|24.8||Summerland Key parking|
|32.6||Nature Center for the Florida Keys NWRs|
|35.1||Spanish Harbor trailhead|
|38.0||Bahia Honda State Park|
|41.3||Seven Mile Bridge|
|50.4||Marathon Community Park|
|56.5||Grassy Key trailhead|
|57.4||Curry Hammock State Park|
|61.7||Tom's Harbor parking|
|64.2||Conch Key parking|
|66.8||Long Key parking|
|68.7||Long Key State Park|
|72.0||Channel Five parking|
|74.4||Channel Two parking|
|81.6||Upper Matecumbe Wayside|
|82.4||Green Turtle Hammock Preserve|
|86.5||Windley Key State Park|
|104.1||John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park|
|108.3||Key Largo Hammock State Park trailhead|
Articles about our personal explorations along the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail
Nine months after Hurricane Irma, we headed to the Florida Keys to see how both the infrastructure and the natural areas are healing. Here’s an overview of what we found, from Key West to Key Largo.
John takes a trip back in time with Florida Keys historian Brad Bertelli to discover the layers of history found on Indian Key, once the county seat of Dade County
Although John is a native Floridian, our research trip to South Florida became an opportunity for him to see many natural “firsts” in Florida that most people have on their life lists.
Videos from the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail