Alachua County treasures: bikes, trails, and parks

As a paradise for outdoor activities and a beautiful natural wonderland, Florida, and particularly Alachua County, is a mecca for those who want to explore a place where almost every day provides an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. One activity that has been increasing in popularity for years is biking/cycling. Long ago viewed as simply an option for transportation, biking and cycling are now hugely popular as a form of exercise, socializing, and enjoying the community. Luckily for bike enthusiasts, Alachua County is host to a plethora of bike trails and enough bike shops to satisfy all preferences and budgets.

Sweetwater Park, located off of Williston Road, is easy to get to and boasts trails and connections to the rest of Gainesville. A window onto Paynes Prairie, it gives visitors a view of the birds and other wildlife that are so abundant in our area. There’s a small fee to park, and the trails and paths are open for use.

Located off of Main Street in Gainesville is Bivens Arm Park, a gem of beauty with facilities crying out to be used, lots of trails, and a pavilion. Parking is free and ample, and the grounds and facilities are well-kept and typically uncrowded. This is a perfect location to seek out some peace and quiet amid the bustle of Gainesville.

Loblolly Woods Nature Park offers parking off of 34th Street just north of University. (More parking is available from NW 8th Avenue and NW 31st Drive, and it is possible to access the park on foot or by bike from NW 16th Avenue.) Hidden behind a small green sign just north of University, it is open with pavilions and trails, water streams, and plenty of different habitats to explore. Loblolly is a great option for getting the kids out of the house on a sunny day.

Looking to explore even further? Hit the Hawthorne Trail! Information can be found at and

If you simply want to find your way around Gainesville, new “bike only” lanes have appeared on local roads. These new bike lanes are specifically marked and are designated exclusively for biking/cycling to protect riders and make them more visible to the public, which should encourage even more to join their ranks!

If you’re interested in purchasing a new or used bike (or bike accessories), there are a wide array of options available in the area. Schwinn Shop on University and Gator Cycle on Archer both sell and repair bikes, are extremely helpful, and have bikes for sale to fit a range of budgets. And these are just two options among dozens. After extensive research, I’ve concluded that most all of the local bike shops are well-stocked and friendly, with staff who are more than willing to provide information and advice.

Not sure if riding a bike is right for you? You can rent one from Go Gainesville downtown, cruise around, and check out how you feel. You just swipe your card and go! They provide inexpensive, clean, well-maintained rental bikes, and you’ll get to see for yourself if biking is a fit for you.

So get biking, Gainesville! Join those who enjoy a fun, healthy hobby and who are working to evolve our relationship with our roads and our beautiful community.

By Kate Johnson

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