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Latest update: April 2022

Legacy Trail... Bike Venice to Sarasota

A Top 10 Florida Bike Trail... E-Z Google Map, Photos Galore

The Legacy Trail runs along an old Seaboard Railroad corridor between Venice and Sarasota. Beginning at the Historic Venice Train Depot, the first third of the way to Oscar Scherer State Park is the most scenic and diverse. Recently extended to downtown Sarasota, the trail now totals 18.5 miles. Well maintained and almost entirely straight, this is a popular trail enjoyed by recreational and road bikers, walkers, joggers and inline skaters. With the addition of the Northport Connector (fall 2022), the Legacy Trail is evolving into a regional trail system that will total more than 30 miles of continuous biking - and 9 miles more if you bike south from the Train Depot onto the Venetian Waterway Park Trail. (Map link and photos below.)

Legacy Trail

Map link... Legacy Trail


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Location: Sarasota County
End Points: Venice Avenue in Venice to Fruitville Road (SR 780) in Sarasota
Mileage: 18.5 miles. Connects to the Venetian Waterway Park Trail (eastern section), 4 miles
Surface: Asphalt, 12 feet
Trailheads: Legacy Park at the Historic Venice Train Depot, Patriots Park, Nokomis Community Center, Nokomis Riverview Park, Laurel Park, Oscar Scherer State Park, Osprey Junction, McIntosh Road, Culverhouse Nature Park, Ashton Road, Sarasota Springs, Pompano Ave. (June 2022), Payne Park
Nearby points of interest: Historic Venice Train Depot, Oscar Scherer State Park, Circus Museums at Ringling Museum (Sarasota)

Bike Shops/Rentals:

Bicycles International (rentals, sales, service)
Real Bikes (rentals, sales, service)
Venice Bikes and Trikes  (mobile rentals, repair)
See more here

Support and Advocacy:

Friends of the Legacy Trail
Friends of Oscar Scherer Park
Friends of Sarasota County Parks
Venice Circus Arts Foundation
Saving the memory of the Venice Circus Arena


Biking the Legacy Trail... Comments and Photos

The smooth paved surface is easy to ride the entire way. Excellent signage along the trail provides both directions and information on local history. Yellow emergency markers are embedded into the trail every 0.05 miles giving your location. Covered rest stations and benches are located every mile or so. Restrooms and water are at most trailheads. Local parks offer full facilities, playgrounds, and picnic areas. Old railroad mile markers are quaint reminders of the Legacy Trail's past (the number displayed on markers is the distance to Richmond, VA). Wildlife that may be seen along the way include gopher tortoises, snakes, lizards, rabbits, and assorted birds including the endangered scrub jay.

Here we visit the trail from south to north. The southern section of the trail is more tree-lined, providing nicely shaded sections, shelter from the wind, and a mostly quiet, rural feel. Causeways over small bays offer pleasant water views, and trail bridges over major roads (at US 41 and at Laurel Road) are a bonus. The northern section includes more residential and commercial sections, less shaded and with more road crossings..

 

Page Summary:

  1. Venice Train Depot to Oscar Scherer State Park (about 5.4 Miles)
    - Historic Venice Trail Depot, Legacy Park, Nokomis Park Trailhead, South Creek, Oscar Scherer State Park
  2. Oscar Scherer State Park to Culverhouse Nature Park (about 5,1 Miles)
    - Osprey Junction, McIntosh Trailhead, Culverhouse Nature Park
  3. Culverhouse Nature Park to Fruitville Road (about 8 Miles)
    - Ashton Road Trailhead, Sarasota Springs Trailhead, Pompano Road Trailhead, Payne Park
  4. Northport Connector (about 14 Miles)
    - Nokomis Riverside Park Trailhead
  5. More Information and Resources

Venice Train Depot to Oscar Scherer State Park (about 5.4 miles)

Heading north, we believe most people will find the first third of the Legacy Trail to be the most interesting section. It is certainly the most diverse. Here, riders cross three waterways and two major trail bridges, before reaching the surrounds of Oscar Scherer State Park. There are just three road crossings, and trail bridges take riders over the most hazardous.

Begin Trail, Legacy Park Trailhead

The Legacy Trail starts at E. Venice Ave. under the Venice Ave. Bridge, at its convergence with Venetian Waterway Park, a linear park running on both sides of the Intracoastal Waterway. It then runs past the Historic Venice Train Depot. Parking for both the Legacy Trail and Venetian Waterway Park is at Legacy Park behind the depot. A path runs around the park past parking, restrooms, picnic pavilions, playground, kayak/canoe launch), then links to the Legacy Trail.


Historic Venice Train Depot

The Venice Seaboard Air Line Railway Depot was built in 1927, with passenger rail service ending in 1971. Restored in 2003, the station boarding area now serves as a bus depot. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, tours are available. On the north side of the depot at Rollins W. Coakley Railroad Park, check out the restored caboose and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus train car. There's also a statue of circus performer and Venice resident Guenther Gebel-Williams, the "Greatest Wild Animal Trainer of All Time."


Train Depot to Nokomis Park Trailhead

Leaving the trailhead, this section starts through a shaded corridor, first crossing Hatchett Creek then continuing to the bridge over the US 41 Bypass - a huge benefit at this very busy road. The trail passes Patriot Park Trailhead (dedicated to victims of 9-11, parking, restrooms, picnic), then a scenic causeway spans Roberts Bay. Just over the causeway along Roberts Bay is the Nakomis Community Park Trailhead. (parking, restrooms, picnic, playground, playing fields, fishing pier, kayak/canoe launch).


Nokomis Park Trailhead to South Creek

Continuing north the trail crosses Colonia Drive to Nokomis Riverview Park (parking, kayak/canoe launch), across a bridge over a canal to the park on Florence Rd. This marks the beginning of the Northport Connector (under construction, more below). Then, another causeway spans Dona Bay. Laurel Park Trailhead (parking, restrooms, picnic, playground, playing fields, surrey rides), is along this section. We found the trail bridge over Laurel Road it to be a little steeper than most, but no complaints - it's a big asset! Oscar Scherer State Park begins just north of the SR 681 underpass, a very serene section.


Trail at South Creek / Oscar Scherer State Park

Crossing South Creek within Oscar Scherer State Park is a trail bridge and an old trestle bridge - a remaining section of the original 1911 trestle. Just over the bridge is an entrance to the State Park, with parking, picnic area, and many off-road trails (mostly hard-packed, but plenty of soft sand patches) - pay entrance fee at the pay station.


 Oscar Scherer State Park

The 1,400 acre State Park has parking, restrooms, camping, picnicking, hiking, fishing, playground, and kayaking on South Creek. There are about 15 miles of marked hiking and biking trails (best for fat-tire bikes). The park is an important habitat for the endangered Florida Scrub Jay.

Also visit us here: Kayaking at Oscar Scherer State Park

 

 

Oscar Scherer State Park to Culverhouse Nature Park (about 5.1 Miles)

Beyond the State Park entrance, the Legacy Trail continues for about 1.5 miles before leaving the Park. There are no notable natural features beyond this point. The trail continues through the massive Palmer Ranch subdivision. Yet even here, there's a 50' natural buffer on both sides until merging parallel to McIntosh Road. There are only a couple of residential road crossings, and typically fewer people on the trail here, so road bikers may have an opportunity to pick up the pace. Keep in mind the 15 mph speed limit.


State Park to McIntosh Trailhead

This section maintains a rural feel, though many of the once-open fields are now being developed into new subdivisions - the wide, mostly tree-lined buffer masks the surroundings. After crossing Bay Street is the Osprey Junction Trailhead (closed at this writing for park improvement construction, to reopen in the fall of 2022). Another road crossing is at Central Sarasota Pkwy. A 2/10 mile path leads to the McIntosh Road Trailhead (parking only). As this path may seasonally flood, an alternative is to bike on the sidewalk along McIntosh Road for 350 yards to the trail access point (see map).


McIntosh Trailhead to Culverhouse Nature Park

Though surrounded by subdivisions, the wide buffer masks the surroundings as the trail continues. The road crossing at Palmer Ranch Road can be busy, be careful and use the crossing signal. At Culverhouse Nature Park are parking, picnic area, nature trails, community garden. New construction at this writing includes upgraded parking and restrooms (summer 2022 completion). Formerly, the northern end of the trail was just past Culverhouse Nature Park, but now extended another 8 miles north to Payne Park and Fruitville Rd.

Culverhouse Nature Park to Fruitville Road (about 8 Miles)

This is the newest section of trail, completed in March 2022. It provides connectivity to downtown Sarasota, with neighborhood access to homes and schools - already a popular section, we saw both road bikers and locals. The trail now ends in downtown Sarasota at Fruitville Road, with a spur to Payne Park. There are four trailheads (one under construction to open in June 2022), with covered rest stations and benches regularly along the way. This is a more developed area relative to the rest of the trail and passes some industrial sites visible from the trail. There's a wide buffer, but little shade and more road crossings (13). The road crossings have enhanced signage with crossing signals or flashing lights that can be activated. Bridges over the busier roads will be welcome future additions.

Culverhouse Nature Park to Ashton Trailhead

The first section leaving Culverhouse Nature Park has a protected buffer. We were pleased here to visit our foot of trail, part of a Friends of the Legacy Trail fundraising effort (see below). From Sawyer Loop Road to Clark Road to Ashton Road is more industrial, with less vegetation along the buffer to mask the surroundings. These are all busy roads with crossing signals - take care. Ashton Trailhead includes parking, restrooms, picnic, playground, and event field.


Ashton Trailhead to Sarasota Springs Trailhead

This section is more residential, with the wide buffer mostly masking the surroundings except for one business area. This section includes four road crossings. We were taken with the ingenuity of one homeowner along the trail, with the "drawbridge" over the ditch. Sarasota Springs Trailhead features parking, restrooms, picnic, and playground.


Sarasota Springs Trailhead to Fruitville Road

Immediately past the Sarasota Springs Trailhead is busy Webber St., this section includes 6 road crossings. Here, the trail runs through a mostly residential area until nearing downtown Sarasota. The buffer is mostly open to the surroundings. A nice feature when crossing two creeks is the old trestles remaining next to the trail bridges. The Pompano Trailhead in this section is under construction, scheduled to open in June 2022. Approaching trail end is a spur to Payne Park.


Spur to Payne Park

The spur runs about 1/3 mile to Payne Park. At the 29-acre park are parking, restrooms, picnic, cafe, playground, disc golf, tennis. A shared-use path circles the park.

Northport Connector (about 14 Miles)

The Northport Connector is under construction. When completed (Fall 2022), it will add about 14 miles to the Legacy Trail system. Starting at Riverview Park Trailhead in Nokomis, it runs east along Florence Street, Edmondson Road, and Border Road. More a bike route than a trail, it's a mixture of bike lanes, sharrows, sidewalk and shared-use path. New construction will create a trail through Deer Prairie Creek Preserve for a more natural experience. Another spur will connect to Carleton Reserve.

Nokomis Riverview Park to Deer Prairie Preserve

About one-half mile north from the Nokomis Park Trailhead, watch for the boardwalk and Riverview Park Trailhead sign. The trailhead has parking only, but also a canoe/kayak launch. The bike route runs east as bike lanes, sharrow, sidewalk and shared-use trail. At Carleton Reserve, the trail turns southbound along S. Moon Dr. and then resumes eastward along Forbes Trail. After about a mile, the road is closed at a gate where future construction into Deer Prairie Creek Preserve is underway.

More Information and Resources

Support the Legacy Trail...
There are several ways to provide support to the Legacy Trail and its parks:

  • The Square Foot Campaign . With your donation, you will fund specific square feet of the Legacy Trail. You will receive a Certificate of Appreciation by email with the GPS location of your square feet. Your name and donation (listed as Anonymous if you prefer) will be listed on the Friends of the Legacy Trail donor list. 100% of the money received by FLT from this campaign will be used to help fund construction and amenities of the Legacy Trail and it connections. We visited "our" foot of trail.
Legacy Trail Certificate
Mudfish and Bobcat's mile
  • Capital Campaign . You will be recognized with your name, or your business name, on one of the Trail amenities, such as stop stations, shelters, benches, playgrounds, and more.
  • For general support or donations for the overall park system, visit Friends of Sarasota County Parks (foscp.org) or contact Shelia Roberson, Business and Partnership Services Manager, Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources at sroberson@scgov.net or 941-861-5758.

Nearby Biking:

Venetian Waterway Park
Myakka River State Park (eco-biking)
West FL Region - More trails plus Regional Overview map

Nearby Paddling:

South Creek at Oscar Scherer State Park
Myakka River State Park

Related Resources:

Sarasota County Government - The Legacy Trail
Legacy Trail Surrey Program
A wonderful way for our elderly or mobility-challenged to enjoy the trail
Cycling in Venice

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