Top Rides in Southeast Florida

Hugh Birch State Park

The vast expanse of the Everglades and the pressures of development may limit the space available to Southeast Florida's bikers, but the area presents interesting alternatives. Here, GORP presents three off-roading adventures for bikers in Southeast Florida — GORP

These secluded acres of intracoastal hammock retain a small piece of what was once the dominant ecosystem along the south Florida coast. Although some of the cycling on the park grounds occurs on the mile and a half of paved service road looping the interior of this barrier island, you can also ride about two miles total out-and-back double-track. Most of the riding follows the exercise course, which has stations directing the participant to do a certain number of repetitions of, say, deep knee-bends.

Although it is probably not over a couple of hundred of yards long, one single-track route takes the rider under an ancient canopy. The exposed roots from these monsters are high enough that the rider needs to concentrate on making the maneuvers required to go up and over. If this is too demanding, the paved route inside the park safely allows the rider to share the shady and breezy circle with hikers, rollerbladers, and slow-moving vehicular traffic.

I enjoyed riding the double-track section cutting through the forest by the picnic pavilions on the north end. Although it is a despised exotic tree, the thick stand of Australian pines, whose evergreen boughs remind me of the taller and more graceful white pines of my native north Georgia, have deposited a thick layer of blonde needles underneath. It is hard to think of it as an invasive pest when you pass through this section. These trees pale in comparison to the stately, huge banyan tree near the southern picnic pavilion, where I saw a young girl—father coaxing one moment, scolding the next—who had overestimated her tree-climbing skills and was stranded in one of its crooks.

Although it's not a long loop, I saw something different and amusing each time I made one of my five laps. If it wasn't the raccoons trying to mooch or sneak a meal in broad daylight and bolting across the path in front of me as I caught them in the act, then it was a crab that had walked out on dry land, or a yacht in the intracoastal, moving quietly except for the wave rolling in front of it. And when I finished riding, I walked over to the beach at Fort Lauderdale and played beach tourist for an hour or so. You can see a lot of strange things in 90 minutes on a south Florida beach.

Finding the trail: Exit Interstate 95 onto Sunrise Boulevard, County Road 838, headed east. Look for the entrance to Birch Park just prior to running into the ocean. Park in the lot just west of the southern nature trail.

Notes on the trail: Continue north on the park's paved road and investigate each trail you see going off to the right and left. There aren't that many trails, and the possibility of getting lost inside this park is slim to none. On the northern end of the island, a hiking trail (only) heads to the left. Go down to this trailhead and turn right for the short single-track paralleling the main road. The forbidden trail goes to the interior and the site of the primitive youth camp (or is it youth primitive camp?). Look for the gated double-track on the inside of the loop on the northern end of the island. Don't forget to be a beach bum after you're finished riding.

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