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Cruise Your Way Through Tampa Bay’s 10 Best Bike Paths

Ciarra Luster
Nov. 27, 2017

From city routes to quiet trails through nature, Tampa Bay’s bike paths have it all.

Cruise Your Way Through Tampa Bay’s 10 Best Bike Paths
Photo by Ciarra Johnson

Before I moved to Tampa, it had been more than a decade since I really rode a bike. I tried in Atlanta but lacked confidence -- and a basic understanding of gears and navigating hills. Once I arrived in Tampa -- a city where the only hills are bridges -- I decided to give biking another chance. Three years later, it’s not uncommon for me (and the little guy in the basket above) to bike more than 100 miles a month, and with that comes a lot of familiarity with the best biking paths around.

It also helps that the city of Tampa has spent a lot of money and resources to improve bikeability over the last few years. With dedicated and/or protected cycling tracks popping up along a lot of roads all over town, there are so many more great, safe options for parents, babysitters, or nannies to take the kids for an outing. And many of the trails link up with parks, museums, aquariums, and beaches! Here are my favorite bike paths after spending a few years getting to know the area.


The Tampa Riverwalk

Location: Starts at Waterworks Park, ends at intersection of Channelside & Beneficial drives

This list isn’t necessarily a ranking, but the Tampa Riverwalk is my favorite bike path in town. Although it was a work in progress for decades, the final stretch of this 2.6-mile trail was completed only in 2016. The Riverwalk hugs the Hillsborough River as it runs through downtown Tampa, making it not only a practical downtown thoroughfare but also a great place to spot manatees and dolphins frolicking in the river. If you want to make a day of it with the whole family, the Riverwalk connects to the Florida Aquarium and the Glazer Children’s Museum, not to mention restaurants, beautiful parks, and the Amalie Arena, home of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Riverwalk is not too hard to find, but this handy map outlines all the attractions along the way, as well as some helpful details on parking. If you’d rather not BYOB (bring your own bike), you can rent from one of several Coast Bike hubs downtown. You should know before you go, however, that this is also an incredibly popular walking path, so use your best judgement while on two wheels. The Riverwalk is not a great place for biking for speed. It’s definitely meant for a leisurely pace, making it a great option for the kids.


Bayshore Boulevard

Location: Starts at Platt Street, ends at West Gandy Boulevard

If you live in Tampa, you should know all about Bayshore Boulevard. (It’s home to Gasparilla -- the third-largest parade in the U.S., after all.) It’s billed as the longest sidewalk in the world, clocking in at 4.5 unobstructed miles of pathway. With no intersections with cars and a fair amount of distance between the sidewalk and the road, you’ll feel safe with kids, and they’ll love gawking at the beautiful mansions just as much as you will!

The sidewalk runs along the eastern coast of the Tampa peninsula and offers a lovely view of the bay to the east and a truly stunning array of some of Tampa’s most stately homes to the west. Bayshore Boulevard is worth biking down on its own, but it also connects easily to the Tampa Riverwalk via the Platt Street Bridge if you’re looking for a longer ride. This is another example of a trail that has its fair share of pedestrians, but there is a dedicated bike lane on the road for those with a need for speed.


Selmon Greenway

Location: Starts at Ashley Drive & East Brorein Street

The Selmon Greenway is another new(ish) path that connects to Tampa’s urban core. It kicks off right where the Selmon Expressway crosses over the Tampa Riverwalk (just south of Brorein Street) and follows the shadow of the expressway heading northeast, taking you to the outskirts of Ybor City, 1.7 miles away. This shady trail is relatively underused and a great way to connect from downtown to Tampa’s historic district, where you’ll find plenty of breweries and restaurants to try when you want to take a break from biking. You’ll find this trail is a bit less congested than others on this list, so if you have a little one still getting used to biking, the Selmon Greenway is a great way to get out there without having to deal with crowds.


Courtney Campbell Trail

Location: Starts at Bayport Drive, ends at South Bayshore Boulevard

Let's get this #cardio done on this #friday #tampa #florida #roadbike

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As the owner of a single-speed bike, it is my opinion that the 11-mile Courtney Campbell Trail is not for the faint of heart. I have two reasons for this: First, it runs alongside the bridge connecting Tampa to Clearwater and as such can get pretty windy as you cross open water. Second, there is a seriously steep portion of the bridge (it goes 45 feet up!) that I legitimately thought might be the end of me about halfway through my first time attempting it. That said, the Courtney Campbell Trail makes for a scenic and fun bike ride in Tampa Bay. The truly ambitious might venture onto the nearby Ream Wilson Clearwater Trail (which you’ll find a bit further down this list), but I’d be lying if I said I ever did more than the ride over the bridge and back. The good news, is, if you start from the Tampa side, you could easily turn around before the big bridge to spare your kids --or yourself, I’m not here to judge.


Upper Tampa Bay Trail

Location: Starts at Copeland Road off Gunn Highway, ends on Montague Street off Memorial Highway

My little man getting his miles in. #beltrandentalsurgery #running #teachthemyoung #qualitytime

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If you’re looking for a serene, quiet ride through nature, the Upper Tampa Bay Trail is a great option. This is another Tampa trail I consider to be a bit of a hidden gem. I find it is rarely overrun, and it’s a great place to spend a quiet afternoon on your bike surrounded by tons of Florida greenery. The southernmost access point for the 7.25-mile trail can be found on Montague Street, just off Memorial Highway in Tampa. From there, the trail snakes north, ending in Lutz. There are six access points along the way, but be sure you have $2 with you to park in the adjacent lots.


Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail

Location: Starts just east of Highway 19 on North Jasmine Avenue, ends at First Avenue & Bayshore Drive in St. Petersburg

Ridin with Roach

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With 38.2 miles to explore, the Pinellas Trail is a lovely blend of some of the other trails on this list. Some parts are busy and connect bustling downtown areas, while others have a more “nature-y” vibe. I’ve never done the entire thing at once, but if you were so inclined, it runs south from Tarpon Springs to St. Petersburg. I really enjoy using it to connect between the cities that dot the trail. I’ve started out dining on tasty Greek food in Tarpon Springs and taken it 11 miles through Palm Harbor and down to Dunedin, stopping at the plentiful breweries along the way. This route also gives you the option to hang a right and head over the bridge to Honeymoon Island State Park. The rate to enter the park for bikers is $2, making it a little cheaper than arriving by car ($8). You also get to skip the line for cars, which can get pretty long. We like to take this detour when our dog is riding along in the basket because there’s a great dog beach right inside the park. The beach is also a perfect break from biking for you and the little ones, so be sure to throw a towel in your bike bag before heading over. If you want to cool off with the kids inside instead, the children’s museum at the Dunedin Fine Arts Center is just half a mile off the trail.

I’ve also done the long 20-mile (each way!) haul from Clearwater to St. Petersburg, where you’ll find a bustling downtown area full of breweries, restaurants, and a beautiful waterfront. In case you needed one more thing to love about the Pinellas Trail, there is also ample shade along large swaths of the path.


North Bay Trail

Location: Starts at First Avenue & Bayshore Drive in St. Petersburg, ends at 81st Avenue & Macoma Drive NE

The North Bay Trail picks up where the Pinellas Trail ends in St. Petersburg. The 6.3-mile-long trail curves around the waterfront, starting in downtown St. Pete and ending just south of the Gandy Bridge, near Weedon Island Preserve. This one gets pretty crowded, especially along the southernmost reaches, which wind through Vinoy Park and some really beautiful neighborhoods and a few small, sandy beaches. But if you take your time, it’s a nice way to tack a few miles onto your Pinellas Trail journey.


Ream Wilson Clearwater Trail

Location: Starts at Coachman Ridge Park, ends at Safety Harbor Waterfront Park

#safetyharbor

A post shared by Brittany Cagle 👻🌻🥁👗🌙🎨🔮 (@fiddleandfolk) on

The Ream Wilson Clearwater Trail is the one I mentioned as being pretty close to the westernmost trailhead of the Courtney Campbell Trail. Not that you should feel required to tack miles onto that already-lengthy excursion, but if you were so inclined, steer your bike north from the western end of the Courtney Campbell Trail and onto Bayshore Boulevard (oddly, not the same road mentioned above; we’re not always terribly creative with street names) to meet up in the middle of the Ream Wilson Clearwater Trail. Head east from there and you will hit adorable downtown Safety Harbor, or head west toward downtown Clearwater. While in Safety Harbor, take a quick detour off Main Street to visit a uniquely local attraction with your kids -- the Whimzey Bowling Ball House. This is a private residence, but the owners encourage visitors to come take a look at their fantastically decorated home and yard that you truly must see to believe. If you head west, the trail doesn’t make it all the way to the Pinellas Trail, but it will get you about halfway. This path clocks in at a little over 4 miles.


Town-n-Country Greenway

Location: Starts at Sheldon Road, ends at George Road dead end

#trailwalk #trail #exploration #nature #outdoors

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This little trail is nice and easy and perfect for kids. I’ve never used it to get from point A to point B like with some of the others on this list, but it’s lovely for a Sunday afternoon cruise. It’s never too busy, and it runs along one of the canals that cuts through Town-n-Country, just north of Tampa International Airport. The best place to access the Greenway (aka, the easiest place to park) is the Shimberg Sports Complex just off Hanley Road. Take the trail west from there, and it ends about 3 miles down at Sheldon Road. The city of Tampa is working to connect the Greenway to the Courtney Campbell Trail and the Upper Tampa Bay Trail.


Flatwoods Park Trail

Location: Starts at Flatwoods Park entrance on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, ends at Morris Bridge Road

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The Flatwoods Park Trail is awesome. Several of the trails on this list are a little more urban with lots of streets and city noise nearby, but this trail is in another world. I don’t get up to the New Tampa/University of South Florida area very much, but this trail is worth the drive. It cuts through the Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve -- meaning no cars in sight for 7 miles of lush Florida nature goodness. The trail doesn’t have a lot of shade, but it’s well maintained, with hydration stations along the way for hot summer rides.

 

Did we list all your favorite bike paths around Tampa? Let us know in the comments below!

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