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Crystal River is best known for paddling, manatee viewing, diving and snorkeling at the springs and along the Crystal River and Kings Bay. We usually visit for kayaking, but were happy to see the city's growing network of paved, off-street bike trails and paths. We enjoyed biking around town, visiting some of its parks, springs, and historic areas. (Map link and photos below.)
Map link ... Crystal River Biking
Location: Citrus County
Mileage: 2 miles (Crosstown Trail); more on the Riverwalk and in-town biking
Surface: Concrete and pavers
Trailheads: NE Crystal St. (across from Crystal River Station)
Nearby points of interest: Three Sisters Springs, Hunter Springs, Crystal River/Kings Bay, Crystal River Preserve State Park, Crystal River Archaeological State Park, Yulee Sugar Mills Ruins Historic State Park, Fort Island Beach and Pier, Coastal Heritage Museum
Two main bike trail systems are growing, creating links throughout Crystal River. The Crosstown Trail runs north-south about 2 miles on an old railway line. The Kings Bay Riverwalk is a work in progress, some sections are complete and others under construction or planned. it will connect Kings Bay Park to downtown and the waterfront restaurants.
Crystal River's Crosstown Trail is built on a converted Seaboard Coast Line railroad bed, running north-south about 2 miles from NE 11th St. to W. Fort Island Trail (SR 44). A trailhead is located near the north end, across from the Historic Crystal River Train Depot (built 1901). From start to the Depot it runs roadside, then enters a shaded corridor interrupted by the major road crossing at US 19/98 (do NOT cross here, go a block east to the traffic signal). At NE 3rd St., it leaves the corridor and continue roadside along Three Sisters Springs Trail - and at the Springs (more below), along a canal - coming to an end at W. Fort Island Trail. This is an easy ride with some shade, the only negative being numerous road crossings. Fitness stations and benches are provided along the way. No other trailside facilities, but you're never far from restaurants, shops, and hotels.
This section is mostly complete, future extensions are planned. The path is on pavers with some concrete sections - a smooth and pleasant ride with one cross street at NW 5th Ave. From its start along US 19 at NW 2nd Ave. near Charlie's Seafood, we followed a meandering route to Kings Bay Park. The path runs a short way on NW 2nd Ave., then onto gravel a short way (200 feet) before the path restarts - this marks where a future connection to the western section of the Riverwalk will be built. The path runs behind Kings Bay Lodge to NW 1st Ave., turn right and proceed to NW 5th St. To the right is a path to The Crab Plant restaurant, and an eventual alternate link to Kings Bay Park. For now, cross NW 5th St. and proceed 150 feet where the path turns right off the road. Here it winds down to Kings Bay Park (more information below) past the picnic area and playground.
From Kings Bay Park, the path continues along NW 3rd St. to N. Citrus Ave. where it runs north to Old Downtown Crystal River (see below).
A short section here is complete. Starting at the corner of NW 6th Ave. and NW 6th St. near the Best Western Resort and Cracker's Bar and Grill, the path runs south of NW 6th Ave., past a private boat ramp and pool, and winds around to a boardwalk behind Cracker's overlooking Cedar Cove. It ends here with a view of the future connector to the east section.
The connector will mostly be new boardwalk along the waterfront. This will be a scenic highlight when done!
We also biked (and walked) around the old Downtown area (N. Citrus Ave.) and its historic buildings, many from the1920's. The old City Hall (1939, a Works Progress Administration [WPA] project listed on the National Register of Historic Places), now houses the Coastal Heritage Museum. A couple blocks over is the old "Michigan Town" neighborhood (settled by Michigan snowbirds in the 1920's) with bike-friendly streets and sidewalks (watch for cars and pedestrians). Many paddling outfitters here, too.
Parking (fee), restrooms, picnic/grills, playground, fishing
dock, kayak launch, boardwalk. Commercial vendors' kayak/paddlecraft
launch location. Along the Kings Bay Riverwalk
Parking (fee), restrooms, picnic/grills, playground, beach, kayak/paddleboard
launch, boardwalk. The springs (5 vents) are about 100
feet from the shoreline. Swim with manatees (but do not touch).
Part of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, with wildlife and manatee viewing, snorkeling, swimming, hiking, bicycling. Boardwalk. No parking on-site, access is by trolley shuttle, on foot or bicycle. There's no access to the spring within the refuge (even for swimming), only by water from Kings Bay. Local operators offer rentals, manatee tours. Kayaking/swimming at the springs is restricted during manatee season (Nov.-May). We didn't visit this trip, just biked by the entrance, but we've kayaked in the past. Entry fee applies.
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