May is National Bike Month and Timucuan Parks Foundation encourages you to celebrate by getting out to your local parks to ride the trails. The First Coast has many great places for bicyclists to enjoy all types of biking. Most of your local parks and preserves are back open for recreational use with some restrictions to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Established in 1956, National Bike Month is designed to showcase the many benefits of biking and to encourage more people to give it a try. Biking can help reduce stress and anxiety, increase happiness, improve mental focus and help you sleep better. According to an article in the Harvard Health Letter, the top five benefits of biking are:
- It is easier on your joints than walking or running.
- It gives you an aerobic workout which is good for the heart, brain and blood vessels. It also releases endorphins, the body’s feel-good chemicals.
- It builds muscle from your legs to your abdomen to your arms.
- It helps to increase bone density.
- And benefits everyday activities like walking, standing, stair climbing and endurance.
While biking is great for your physical health, it is also great for mental health—and so is spending time in local parks and preserves. Combining biking and nature is a win-win situation. So grab your bikes and get out on our local trails. You can pick from paved paths to hard-packed natural surfaces to more difficult sandy soils, whatever suits your cycling style. Some suggested trails are:
- The Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail, which is part of the City of Jacksonville parks system, is a 14.5-mile paved trail that runs from Imeson Road to two miles past the town of Baldwin. Camp Milton Historic Preserve is located at about the halfway point. Start there, if you like, to ride six miles to the old train station in Baldwin, have a picnic lunch and ride back for an easy half-day outing.
- In the northeast corner of the county is the off-road paved Timucuan Trail that runs the length of Big Talbot Island. Ride three miles from the south end of Big Talbot to the wooden boardwalk on the north end and the scenic overlook at Spoonbill Pond. Continue over the bridge to the Amelia Island Trails for a longer ride (14.5 miles one-way).
- Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, which is a 450-acre park located right on the ocean, provides many off-road bike paths through mature hardwood forests for mountain biking enthusiasts. Off-road trails range from flat and easy to more sandy, twisty, rooty and more technical. You can also take a ride on the beach. There are trails for everyone. Note: there is a $5 entrance fee to Hanna.
- An alternative to the often busy Hanna Park are the lesser traveled off-road natural trails of many of the city’s preservation parks. Hidden treasures include the oasis of pine needle-covered trails of Julington-Durbin Creek Preserve in Mandarin, tall pines and dark creeks at Sal Taylor Creek Preserve on the Westside, and the scenic bridge connecting the City’s Cedar Point Preserve and National Park Service’s Cedar Point on the Northside.
Visit our parks map page and select the bicycling icon to find other places to ride (Note: Except for the Rail-Trail and the Timucuan Trail, most are off-road and require fatter tires).
To stay safe while riding, do not ride in large groups. Cover your nose and mouth with a mask, bandana or a neck buff. Also, make sure you pass other riders and pedestrians with more than six feet of space between you and them or even more, if you can. Wear a helmet, and take plenty of water and insect repellent. And remember, park restrooms are not open at this time.
Enjoy your ride! Take lots of pictures and post the best to @timucuanparks or #timucuanparks.