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You are here > Home > Florida Eco-biking > Payne's Prairie
First report: Nov. 2016

Florida Eco-biking... Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park

Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Florida eco-bikingPaynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Florida eco-biking

Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park is located just north of Micanopy, FL and south of Gainesville, FL. Park roads are open to biking. There are also five trails labeled "biking" within the park, totaling about 20 miles - however, fat tires only as most are very sandy. For paved trail riding, the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail goes through the north section of the park. Here you will also find the La Chua Trail, hiking only, but the best place to view Park wildlife. Visit during cool weather, many gators. (Detailed map and photos below.)


View Larger Map
Location: Alachua County (Micanopy, Gainesville)
Mileage:
Various
Surface: Gravel, packed dirt, grass, sand
Trailheads: Visitors Center, Chacala Trail access, La Chua Trail access (See detailed map, left)
Nearby Points of Interest: Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park (Cross Creek), University of Florida

Encompassing 21,000 acres, Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park was Florida's first state preserve in 1971 and is a designated National Natural Landmark ("The Great Alachua Savannah"). With more than 20 distinct biological communities, it is important habitat for a variety of plant and animal life. Its cultural significance spans over 12,000 years having been inhabited since prehistoric times. The wild horses and cattle that inhabit the prairie allegedly can be traced back to Spanish ranching in the 1600's. Bison once roamed here and were reintroduced in 1975.

Activities include hiking, biking, camping, horseback riding, fishing, and wildlife viewing. The park includes a Visitor Center, picnic areas, restrooms and parking. There are observation towers and decks for wildlife viewing. 300-acre Lake Wauburg has a boat ramp and is popular for kayaking and canoeing, boating and fishing.

Part of The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, the park features 270 bird species. Wildlife include sandhill cranes, bald eagles, alligators, otters, deer, bobcat and snakes. Habitats include uplands and freshwater wetlands. The Alachua Sink, a swallow hole with direct surface water to groundwater connections, is a notable feature.

Pay a per person day-use fee at the entrance. Florida law requires bikers under 16 wear a helmet, but we recommend wearing one anyway especially when riding off-road.

BOBCAT'S PHOTO GALLERY at Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park
(tap or hover over photo for a larger view)

Among the park trails, 5 are open to biking (Cone Dike, Jackson Gap, Chacala, Lake, Bolen Bluff). While there were some sections bikeable for us (full disclosure: this is not our preferred style!), we found most to be sandy and difficult if not impossible to ride. Fortunately for us, the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail (paved) runs
through the park and can be accessed from the La Chua Trail parking area.
Visitor Center
This is considered the main section of the park due to campgrounds and Lake Wauberg,
and entrances to the mountain biking trails are in this area. However, the best wildlife
viewing is in the northern section at the La Chua Trail, including access to the
Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail for paved biking.
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Visitor Center and view Observation Tower and view Trails access from Visitor Center
Cone Dike Trail
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Florida eco-bikingPaynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Florida eco-biking Access from the Visitor Center, 8 miles roundtrip. This was hard-packed but rutty, and access was not easy as shown below. Bison can be seen in this area, we didn't see any but we thought some large dung heaps on the trail might be from bison.
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The pass-through at the gate was too narrow for a bike, someone pulled a plank from the fence and we lifted our bikes over. On Cones Dike We didn't see wild horses or bison, but did see a steer
Jackson's Gap Trail
Access from the Visitor Center, 1.2 miles, connects Cones Dike and Chacala Trails.
We started to ride from Cones Dike, but ran into deep sand and turned back.
Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, jacksons gap trailPayne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, jacksons gap trail Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, jacksons gap trailPayne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, jacksons gap trail Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, jacksons gap trailPayne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, jacksons gap trail Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, jacksons gap trailPayne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, jacksons gap trail Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, jacksons gap trailPayne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, jacksons gap trail
Start of trail near
Visitor Center
On Jackson's Gap Trail - watch for red blazes Deep sand, we turned around
Chacala Trails
There's a parking area off the main park road at Puggy Rd. (across the road from the campgrounds). Three loops totaling 6.5 miles. A workout, mostly sand, fat tires only.
Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, chacala trailPayne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, chacala trail Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, chacala trailPayne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, chacala trail Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, chacala trailPayne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, chacala trail Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, chacala trailPayne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, chacala trail Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, chacala trailPayne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, chacala trail
Parking area at Chacala Trail access This was the Yellow Blaze trail - there also are
White and Blue Blaze trails
Connector to Jackson's Gap Trail
Lake Trail
From the main park road to Lake Wauberg and the campground, 0.8 mile.
Parking, boardwalk, boat ramp, restroom, playground, picnic.
Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, lake trailPayne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, lake trail Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, lake trailPayne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, lake trail Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, lake trailPayne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, lake trail Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, lake trailPayne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, lake trail Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, lake trailPayne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, lake trail
Boat ramp at
Lake Wauberg
Trail and boardwalk to picnic area Picnic area Lake Trail
Bolen Bluff Trail
Access from US441 about 3 miles north of the main park entrance. 2.5-mile loop trail.
We didn't bike since there was a tall locked fence and the pass-through (again) was too narrow for bicycles. So, we took a nice hike though not all the way to the observation tower.
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Parking at
Bolen Bluff Trail
Entering the trail Along the trail Tree roots on the trail would have been rough biking Toward the Observation Tower
La Chua Trail
The best location for wildlife viewing. No bikes, but worth the 3-mile round-trip hike on boardwalk and dike along Alachua Sink to a viewing platform. We saw a variety of birds, a herd of wild horses and some extremely large alligators. No bison.
Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, la chua trailPayne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, la chua trail Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, la chua trailPayne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, la chua trail Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, la chua trailPayne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, la chua trail Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, la chua trailPayne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, la chua trail Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, la chua trailPayne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, la chua trail
Pass-through gate - here, wide enough
for bikes but
none allowed!
Boardwalk View along the trail Wild horses and very large alligators Trail from
viewing platform
Ecopassage Observation Boardwalk
Off US441 about 4 miles north of the main park entrance.
Good views of the prairie; a wall and tunnels allow wildlife to cross 441.
Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, ecopassage boardwalkPayne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, ecopassage boardwalk Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, ecopassage boardwalkPayne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, ecopassage boardwalk Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, ecopassage boardwalkPayne's Prairie Preserve State Park, eco-biking, ecopassage boardwalk
Lake Pithlachocco Trails
Not actually at Payne's Prairie but at Newnan's Lake State Forest, route 26 in Gainesville.
New in 2016, a nice 5.5 mile mountain bike course for those who enjoy this type of riding. Follow the blue trail markers (vs. hiking trails).
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Entrance off route 26 Entering trails Follow the
blue markers
Bridge over
Sunnyland Creek
Follow the
blue markers

Also visit us for paddling near Gainesville: Potano Paddling Trail

More information on Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park (opens in a new window):

- Florida State Parks - Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park

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