A bike ride with an ocean breeze. 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. The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail (OHT) is one of the most appealing destinations for cyclists visiting Florida thanks to it’s unparalleled beauty and abundant services.
This TRAIL is not yet fully rideable due to extensive damage from Hurricane Irma. We have removed our guidebook to the Overseas Heritage Trail from Amazon and will not publish it again until we have had an opportunity to assess the situation personally during the summer of 2018.
Following the route of the Overseas Railroad, the original connector between the islands, the Overseas Heritage Trail (OHT) crosses many historic railroad bridges offering sweeping panoramas of mangrove-fringed islands in turquoise waters.
Location: Key West to Key Largo
Southern terminus: Southernmost Point [24.546513, -81.797484]
Northern terminus: Garden Cove Drive [25.170925, -80.374141]
Length: 109.2 miles
Land Manager: Office of Greenways and Trails
There are dozens of access points along US 1, but only a handful of parking areas in the Upper Keys. The Lower Keys provide better access to the trail.
Northern terminus: Garden Cove Drive [Key Largo]
Southern terminus: Southernmost Point [Key West]
While it’s certainly a beautiful ride, the Overseas Heritage Trail (OHT) is also a challenging ride because of missing segments, ongoing trail construction, and heavy traffic along the bike lanes. In the most populated areas of the route – Big Pine Key, Marathon, and Key Largo – the bike path is bisected by dozens of driveways, which means watching out for motorists who aren’t watching for you. But on the quiet islands – of which there are many – you can pick up speed and savor the salt breeze.
Summer 2015, we explored the Overseas Heritage Trail to find out what parts of it are open, since we kept hearing that it is “all” open. It’s not. An extraordinary number of trail-building projects were going on, adding more miles of bike path along the route, but there are still some Keys with no bike path at all. Most bridge crossings are still on the bike lanes of US 1. We found a lopsided number of access points for the trail: lots of parking spots to the south end, and almost none at the north end.
Benches are provided in many places, especially at the ends of the long bridge crossings at the southern end of the trail. There are well-spaced campgrounds that a cyclist carrying camping gear can use. 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.
This was a scouting trip, as it’s our plan to return and ride the route ourselves. To prepare for the ride – and to provide detailed information for hikers who walk the Overseas Heritage Trail as part of the Eastern Continental Trail – we put together data charts and service information for the entire route and included it as part of the final chapter of the new edition of The Florida Trail Guide: 18 detailed pages of information. This is what we’ll be updating in 2018.
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