Using a combination of paved bike paths near the coastal town of St. Marks with established forest roads in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, cyclists can ride a scenic loop in southern Wakulla County using portions of the Florida Trail open for biking.
This touring ride lets you savor the scenery along bike-friendly portions of the Florida Trail.
It traces the southernmost portion of the Tallahassee-St. Marks Trail, the easternmost portion of the Coastal Trail, and forest roads circling the Cathedral of Palms and Shepherd Spring.
See the map below for a variety of alternate access points at Florida Trail trailheads off US 98. Using these alternate access points lets you vary the length of the ride.
You can trim this to a 16.8-mile ride by starting and ending at the Coastal Trail access in St. Marks, skipping the Tallahassee-St. Marks Trail entirely. Or start from the Tallahassee-St. Marks Trail northern terminus instead of the southern one to make this a 43.3-mile ride.
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Location: St. Marks
Length: 22.2 mile loop
Trailhead: 30.1544, -84.2041
Restroom: vault toilets along the Tallahassee-St. Marks Trail
Land managers: Florida State Parks, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
Phone: 850-245-2081 (paved), 850-925-6121 (unpaved)
Open daylight hours only. A hybrid or mountain bike is recommended, as the off-road portions in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge include some water crossings, mud, and gravel.
From Tallahassee, drive south on SR 363 through Woodville and Wakulla to US 98. Continue south to St. Marks to reach the trail terminus of the Tallahassee-St. Marks Trail, which is where the Florida Trail crosses the St. Marks River.
Start your ride at the southern terminus of the Tallahassee-St. Marks Trail, right within sight of the St. Marks River. Starting as a shady tunnel behind businesses on Port Leon Dr, after the trail crosses E Pine St it runs in front of a small neighborhood.
Once you cross Shell Island Rd, you’re out of the residential part of St. Marks for the most part. Passing under a powerline, the bike path passes a vault toilet after 0.7 mile.
The trail continues up a straightaway before it jogs out near Port Leon Rd, passing a bench where a crosswalk leads over to a small shopping center with a coffee shop.
After the trail curves through the woods again to meet the next straightaway, it comes up to US 98 after 2.8 miles. There is no traffic light at the crosswalk so be cautious of traffic.
In front of the next vault toilet, you meet the Coastal Trail. Turn west and follow this paved bike path paralleling US 98 through the forest on its north side. The Florida Trail uses it to connect to its next segment inside St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.
The bike path crosses US 98 again to switch to the south side to get over the Wakulla River on a dedicated bike lane on the US 98 bridge. It then returns to the north side, crossing US 98 yet again.
After 5.1 miles, the Florida Trail turns off the Coastal Trail into an often-swampy “No Bikes Allowed” segment along the Wakulla River. Pass the turnoff and continue along the Coastal Trail to reach Wakulla Beach Rd at 6 miles.
Cross US 98 to ride down that dead-end road one mile to the Wakulla Beach trailhead at MM 783.8. From here, the Florida Trail follows FR 200, a long, straight forest road on the property boundary compass west under a beautiful canopy of trees.
Where the Florida Trail turns off the forest road into the swampy Cathedral of Palms at 8.7 miles, continue west along the forest road, riding through the tunnel of tall trees.
If you would like to visit Shepherd Spring, don’t ride down the Florida Trail but take the turnoff after it onto FR 210, which leads back to a bench near the spring and the Cathedral via double-track.
Be sure to make the left off the straightaway just past FR 211 onto FR 215, otherwise you hit a dead end. You meet the orange blazes again at 9.9 miles.
Follow the blazes, which lead through longleaf pine forest and spans a floodplain atop culverts. At a four-way intersection, turn right onto the blue blazes, leaving the Florida Trail at MM 789. They lead to the Spring Creek Highway trailhead at 11 miles.
Ride along Spring Creek Highway, a narrow paved road with sporadic high-speed traffic, for 1.4 miles to reach its intersection with US 98. Once across US 98, turn right to join the Coastal Trail heading east.
After another 7.1 miles of easy cruising along the Coastal Trail – which dips into low spots that can flood in places – you reach where it ends at the Tallahassee-St Marks Trail.
Turn right and follow this iconic bike path down the orange blazes back to its terminus in St. Marks to wrap a very varied 22.2-mile ride.
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park
With a historic timeline dating back five centuries, San Marcos de Apalache protects layers of history accumulated at the confluence of the Wakulla and St. Marks Rivers
Wakulla Springs State Park
A 1930s resort turned nature park surrounding one of the world’s largest and deepest springs, Wakulla Springs State Park leads you back in time at Florida’s only state park lodge
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
Stretching across 70,000 acres in Florida’s Big Bend, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge protects one of Florida’s longest wild shorelines, more than 43 miles in three counties.
Florida Trail, Shepherd Spring
5.3 miles. Plunging into coastal swamps at the Cathedral of Palms, this popular hike along the Florida Trail centers on Shepherd Spring, a natural treasure within St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.