Florida Springs Bike Tour

Day 1: Paynes Prairie to Gold Head Branch

Paynes Prairie State Preserve, Route 2, Box 41, Micanopy, FL 32667, (352) 466-3397. Reservations required

Camping first night:
Gold Head Branch State Park, 6239 State Road 21, Keystone Heights, FL 32656, (352) 473-4701. Reservations recommended.

Paynes Prairie State Preserve has an informative visitors center and observation tower which explain the importance of the area. William Bartram explored the prairie 200 years ago and described the exotic animal and plant life he found in beautiful detail. Sandhill cranes, hawks, water fowl and wading birds frequent the preserve as do alligators and otter. The animal diversity is enhanced by the variety of habitats in the preserve ... pine flatwoods, wet prairie, hardwood hammocks, cypress swamps and ponds in the uplands.

The first day of travel from Paynes Prairie State Preserve is a 63 mile ride east then north to Gold Head Branch State Park. The terrain is mostly flat, traversing swamp land, pine flatwoods, scrub oak sand hills and intermittent pastureland.

11 miles from the prairie is Cross Creek. This name refers to both a small settlement and a mile long creek which connects Orange and Lochloosa Lakes. The area was made famous by novelist, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in two books (later made into movies), Cross Creek and the Yearling. Marjorie's homestead has been preserved as a Florida State Historic Site, and very personal tours are given every half hour to small groups of visitors (limit of ten per group). The site is closed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and major holidays.

20 miles from Cross Creek is Orange Springs, a small rural community boasting a fine mineral spring and historic inn. From there the route travels northward through more settled farmland.

Goldhead Branch is a diverse park of deep ravines with shady green coolness ... great for hiking. Lakes within the park have designated swimming and boating areas. There are both campgrounds and cabins available.

Riding Conditions

For the most part the roads are well surfaced and lightly traveled. One 2.5 mile section of busier road will be encountered on US 301 between Island Grove and Citra. The road has four lanes and intermittent, high speed truck and car traffic.

A 2.7 mile stretch of SR 21 coming into Gold Head Branch State Park carries a high volume of traffic also. Of special note are the sand trucks that use this section. Truck traffic is particularly heavy in the mornings and late afternoons when they are departing from and returning to a sand mine adjacent to the state park.

The roads are open and unshaded. Don't forget to bring water, sunscreen and wear your helmet.


There are very few towns of any size along this route. Interlachen is the largest at mile 42. It also provides the best opportunity for restocking supplies before reaching Gold Head Branch State Park. There are restaurants in Cross Creek, specializing in local cuisine such as alligator, frog legs and cooler.

Directions from Paynes Prairie State Preserve to Gold Head Branch State Park

Park Entrance Station.
Turn left onto US 441.
Turn left onto CR 346.
Turn right onto CR 325.
Cross Creek, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings State Historic Site.
Turn right onto US 301.
Turn left onto CR 318 in Citra.
Turn Left onto CR 315.
Bear right at"Y' intersection to stay on CR 315. Orange Spring on left, behind Orange Springs Inn.
Enter Putnam County.
Cross SR 20 at Interlachen.
Enter Clay County.
Cross SR 100 at Grandin.
Turn right onto CR 315C at "T" intersection.
Turn left onto SR 21.
Turn left into Gold Head Branch State Park.
Park Entrance Station.

Total Trip Mileage to date: 63.3

As well as these directions, you should bring along your own map, in case you miss a turn, get lost, a road changes, or for any of the other thousands of reasons that you may need to vary your route.

Many thanks to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for this tour description.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »