Cycling Around South Florida

We tapped four local riders to share a few of their favorite spots for road cycling, mountain biking, and more

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As JFK once said, “Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.” With a trifecta of idyllic temperatures, endless days of sunshine, and hundreds of miles of mapped trail systems and bike lanes, our area is a paradise for cycling enthusiasts. We tapped four local riders to share a few of their favorite spots for road cycling, mountain biking, and more.

Road Warriors

Jupiter resident Kathy Petrillo. Photo by Steven Martine
Jupiter resident Kathy Petrillo. Photo by Steven Martine

In addition to having dopamine-releasing abilities, riding a bike brings myriad mental and physical health benefits ranging from augmenting brainpower to strengthening
the libido. And, unlike some other sports, it doesn’t age- or gender-discriminate.

For these reasons, competitive cyclist Kathy Petrillo loves to burn rubber. A triathlete since she was 16, Petrillo was turned on to “time trialing,” a form of competitive bicycle racing, by her friend Susan French 12 years ago. Today, the Jupiter resident is the fastest female time trial cyclist in the state of Florida.

Last summer, Petrillo set a new World Record in the ages 60-69 mixed category at the annual long-distance relay competition Race Across America (RAAM) with her four-person racing team, The Opportunists—who have raised more than $100,000 for the Opportunity Early Childhood Education & Family Center in West Palm Beach. And just this past December, the 60-year-old mother of an adult son with Down Syndrome—he’s an avid cyclist like his mom—took home two gold medals in her age group and won Fastest Female Overall at the Florida Senior Games, an Olympic- style festival for 50-plus athletes that Petrillo actually helped relocate to Martin County from Fort Lauderdale.

Jupiter resident Kathy Petrillo. Photo by Steven Martine
Jupiter resident Kathy Petrillo. Photo by Steven Martine

Between races, the cyclist stays in peak physical form with daily treks along Highway A1A to northern municipalities like Hobe Sound and Port St. Lucie. For Petrillo, a bonus to the cycling itself are the sweeping vistas of the Atlantic Ocean stretching to the horizon. “This is some of the best cycling in South Florida,” she says. “Whether I’m biking up to Stuart or 100 miles to Fort Pierce, I’m almost always by the water. That’s pretty cool.”

Allapattah Flats Wildlife Management Area. Courtesy of Martin County Office of Tourism & Marketing
Allapattah Flats Wildlife Management Area. Courtesy of Martin County Office of Tourism & Marketing

Matt Goforth, owner of bike shop On Your Mark Performance Center, agrees. “The beaches are exceptional places to bike, and you’ve got these long, continuous stretches of pavement where you can really go somewhere,” he says. “I like roads to move and bend, and that’s what’s so great about riding along the beaches here in Florida—you definitely get the movement.” He notes that many local cyclists flock to Juno Beach, Jupiter Beach near Carlin Park, and Jupiter Island for the well-paved roads, especially in the early morning.

“We’ve rented a lot of bikes to people from out of town, and the first thing they say when they bring them back is how good our roads are,” Goforth continues. He enjoys riding around Jupiter Island, where traffic is light and coastal scenery abundant. Blowing Rocks Preserve on the island and the National Wildlife Preserve in Hobe Sound are two spots he visits often. “Everything’s so scenic, like out of a postcard,” he says. Another great option is taking A1A up to MacArthur Boulevard, where cyclists can stop at Bathtub Reef Beach and the House of Refuge.

The East Coast Greenway Grissom Trail. Photo courtesy of the East Coast Greenway Alliance
The East Coast Greenway Grissom Trail. Photo courtesy of the East Coast Greenway Alliance

The East Coast Greenway is another stretch with panoramic vistas and landmark attractions. Extending from Calais, Maine in the north to Key West in the south, this 3,000-mile greenway jogs along A1A through most of the Sunshine State and connects with existing biking and walking paths, including the 2.5-mile Jupiter Riverwalk and the Martin County U.S. Highway 1 Sidepath, a 2-mile trail that culminates at Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Hobe Sound. In 2020, the greenway was named the nation’s most visited park, with more than 50 million bikers, runners, and walkers using the trail.

For a taste of Old Florida, hop on the Martin Grade Scenic Highway/CR 714. Nestled between Stuart and Lake Okeechobee, the 12-mile, oak-canopied road meanders past swamps, woods, grass flats, and ranchland reminiscent of Florida’s cowboy glory days. Riders can also follow the byway to the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail (LOST) and Allapattah Flats Wildlife Management Area, a 20,945-acre habitat with a 5-mile shell rock trail system that rolls by an estuary frequented by wading birds and the occasional alligator.

Shire McLendon Mountain biking at Jonathan Dickinson State Park. Courtesy of Shannan Currier of Bikes Palm Beach
Shire McLendon Mountain biking at Jonathan Dickinson State Park. Courtesy of Shannan Currier of Bikes Palm Beach

Mountain Madness

Despite not having any actual mountains, South Florida boasts a plethora of mountain biking (a.k.a. MTB) trails for every level.

When Shannan Currier feels like mountain biking, she heads to Halpatiokee Regional Park. Named for a Seminole Indian word meaning “alligator water,” Halpatiokee is the largest park in Martin County, with 7.5 miles of biking trails. A marketing manager at Bikes Palm Beach in Juno Beach, Currier says the spot is great for working on your technical trail-riding skills. “There are a lot of roots and trees and elevations you can climb for a bit then ride downhill, which is always fun,” she notes. “It’s kind of something us mountain bikers are lacking in this area.”

Halpatiokee Park Trail. Courtesy of Martin County Office of Tourism & Marketing
Halpatiokee Park Trail. Courtesy of Martin County Office of Tourism & Marketing

Airborne Mountain Bike Club of the Treasure Coast, a nonprofit MTB club that offers educational resources and mentorship programs, maintains Halpatiokee Regional Park and cares for two additional trails in the area, including Grassy Island Trail in Okeechobee and the Crossroads Parkway. The latter is a private property located in Fort Pierce near Ten Mile Creek with mountain biking trails that Airborne’s 700-plus members have consent to use.

The Camp Murphy Off-Road Bicycle Trail at Jonathan Dickinson State Park is one of the most popular mountain biking destinations in the state. Club Scrub, a nonprofit committee of the Friends of Jonathan Dickinson State Park, maintains the nine miles of beginner, intermediate, and “black diamond experts only” sections and the highest ancient sand dunes south of Lake Okeechobee. Julie Goforth, a self-described “mountain biking girl” and co-owner of On Your Mark Performance Center, notes that “the park is pretty easy and definitely beginner-friendly.” If you’re new to the sport, she recommends getting your feet wet on the novice trails first. “As your confidence grows, you can always pop on a more challenging loop,” she says.

Bluegill Trail goes through the Loxahatchee Slough Natural Area. Credit Palm Beach County Environmental Resources Management
Bluegill Trail goes through the Loxahatchee Slough Natural Area. Courtesy of Palm Beach County Environmental Resources Management

Nature Cruising

For a rejuvenating dose of Mother Nature, load up your bike, grab a water bottle, and head to one of the dozens of state parks throughout Palm Beach, Martin, and St. Lucie counties.

According to Florida State Park Foundation CEO Julia Gill Woodward, Florida is blessed with one of the most extensive trail systems in the nation. “There are more than 70 cycle routes and hundreds of miles to enjoy the stunning scenery and an abundance of wildlife,” she says. “That’s a win-win for cyclists and the parks and communities they traverse.”

Hobe Mountain at Jonathan Dickinson. Photo by Kossina Creative
Hobe Mountain at Jonathan Dickinson. Photo by Kossina Creative

In addition to being a hot spot for mountain bikers, Jonathan Dickinson State Park, which spans 10,500 acres, offers one multiuse trail and three main roads for pleasure riding. Popular among nature lovers and history buffs, these trails pass through a mosaic of ecosystems filled with wildlife like Florida scrub jays and gopher tortoises. Keep a sharp lookout for the remaining Camp Murphy buildings built when the park was a top-secret radar training school established by the U.S. Army during World War II. For breathtaking views of the park, Atlantic Ocean, and Loxahatchee River, make a pit stop at the observation tower on Hobe Mountain, an 86-foot-high hill accessible via Park Drive.

Another popular destination, which many consider the jewel of Palm Beach County’s parks system, is Riverbend Park. Set alongside the Loxahatchee River Natural Area, many of the park’s 15 miles of trails and access roads are shaded and offer regular sightings of native plant life and indigenous wildlife like deer, gators, and bobcats. Riverbend is also the hub of the Jeaga Wildways, a massive trail system connecting more than 165,000 acres of preserved public land in Palm Beach and Martin counties, including Jonathan Dickinson State Park and natural areas like Cypress Creek and Loxahatchee Slough.

Savannas Preserve State Park. Courtesy of St. Lucie County Communications Division
Savannas Preserve State Park. Courtesy of St. Lucie County Communications Division

Not far away is Bluegill, a 10-mile, round-trip levee trail that runs along the C-18 Canal with trailheads in Riverbend Park and Sandhill Crane Access Park in Palm Beach Gardens.

Straddling Palm Beach and Martin counties, DuPuis Management Area is a 21,875-acre, multiuse site in Canal Point worth a day of exploring on wheels. The protected area is home to a preserved battlefield from the Seminole War and contains miles of gravel roads as well as a trail for off-road bikers dispersed among wet prairies, ponds, and remnant Everglades marsh.

A little farther north, Port St. Lucie’s Savannas Preserve State Park, the largest freshwater basin marsh on Florida’s east coast, offers 15 miles of nature trails. 

Bikes Palm Beach Group Ride. Photo by George Robb
Bikes Palm Beach Group Ride. Photo by George Robb

Link Up!

Join these local bike shops and orgs for fun group riding excursions*

Bikes Palm Beach

13975 U.S. Hwy. 1, Juno Beach; bikespalmbeach.com; 561.627.2453

Saturdays at 7 a.m. to Hobe Sound via Jupiter Island

J-Town Bikes

126 Center St., Jupiter; jtownbike.com; 561.575.2453

Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 7 a.m. to A1A/Marcinski Road; Sundays at 7:30 a.m. to Carlin Park

Riders Only

6230 W. Indiantown Road, Jupiter; ridersonlybikes.com; 561.510.6659

Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. to Jupiter Island

Sprockets

10191 SW Village Pkwy., Port St. Lucie; sprocketsbicyclespsl.com; 772.336.3399

Family-style cruiser rides launching in early 2022

Treasure Coast Cycling Association

Palm City; treasurecoastcycling.com

Check website/Facebook for upcoming rides

Treasure Coast Cycle Werks

8611 U.S. Hwy. 1., Port St. Lucie; tccyclewerks.com; 772.446.7771

Check website/Facebook for upcoming rides

Village Bike

8965 SE Bridge Road, Hobe Sound, villagebike.com, 772.546.7751

Saturdays at 8 a.m. to the Jupiter Lighthouse

*Call ahead or check the shops’ websites/social media to verify days, times, and destinations have not changed.

5 to Buy

Get trail-ready with these locally sold cycling essentials

Arundale Sports Bottle Cage

 

Hydration Station

The Arundale Sports Bottle is a handy must-have that keeps your water bottle secure on any terrain; $18, On Your Mark Performance Center, Lake Park

Bontrager Anara LTD Women's Cycling Jersey

 

Rainbow Bright

Elevate your sartorial game with vivid attire like this Bontgraga Anara LTD Cycling Jersey. $75 (women’s), Village Bike, Hobe Sound

Serfas ESM-350 E-Lume light combo

The Right Light

One of the top-rated bike lights on Amazon, the Serfas ESM-350 E-Lume Light Combo guarantees your safety on morning, afternoon, and evening rides. $56, Bikes Palm Beach, Juno Beach

Lumos Helmut

Smart Safety

The Lumos All-in-One Ultra Bike Helmet combines a bike light and turn-signal indicators and is compatible with an Apple Watch. $140, Bikes Palm Beach, Juno Beach

Garmin Edge 1030 Plus

High-Tech Help

The ultimate handlebar computer, the Garmin Edge 1030 Plus is packed with personalized essentials like workout recommendations, hydration alerts, and ride-specific mapping. $600, On Your Mark Performance Center, Lake Park

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