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Reported: June 2021

Crystal River Preserve State Park... Florida

Unpaved Eco-biking and Hiking on Public Lands

Crystal River Preserve State Park covers 27,000 acres along the Gulf Coast for about 20 miles from Yankeetown to Homosassa, and including the mouth of the Crystal River. The main visitor section of the Preserve is north of the Crystal River (W. State Park St. off US 19/98), including the Visitor Center, 7-Mile Loop Trail (a popular eco-biking destination), and hiking trails. To the south, W. Fort Island Trail (also off US 19/98) offers access to several trails. Activities include biking, hiking, paddling, fishing, and birdwatching. Established as an estuary (where saltwater meets fresh) protecting the area between the Crystal River and the Gulf of Mexico, much of the park remains untouched. No fee. (Map link and photos below.)

Crystal River Preserve State Park, FL eco-biking

Map link...
Crystal River Preserve State Park, FL

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Location: Citrus County (off US 19/98 west of Crystal River)
Mileage: 7-mile loop trail; more on park roads
Surface: Limestone, crushed rock and shell, packed dirt, sand
Trailheads/Parking: at the Visitor Center; 7 Mile Loop Trailhead (W. State Park St.) (See map)
Nearby points of interest: Kings Bay, Crystal River, Crystal River Archaeological State Park, Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park

Bike Shops/Rentals:


Support and Advocacy:

Friends of the Crystal River State Parks

 Page Summary:

  1. Eco-biking and Hiking at Crystal River Preserve State Park
  2. Biking at the Preserve
    - Visitor Center and Park Road
    - 7-Mile Loop Trail
  3. Hiking at the Preserve
    - Crystal Cove Trail
  4. South of the River (W. Fort Island Trail)
    - Redfish Hole Trail
    - Fort Island Gulf Beach and Fishing Pier
  5. More Information and Resources

Eco-biking and Hiking at Crystal River Preserve State Park... Comments and Photos

While biking is allowed on the State Park road, Crystal River Preserve's unpaved 7-mile Loop Trail is the eco-biking highlight. Several marked hiking trails intersect. Accessed from W. State Road St. off US 19/98 (north), we explored the Visitor Center, 7-Mile Loop Trail, Crystal Cove Trail (hiking), and the kayak/canoe launch at Mullet Hole Fishing Area. While nearly all of the 27,000 acre Preserve is on the north side of Crystal River, small Preserve out-parcels are located just off US 19/98, and along the opposite (south) side of Crystal River off W. Fort Island Trail Road. Here we visited Redfish Hole Trail (hiking) and continued to Fort Island Beach and Fishing Pier (see map). Note: in the saltwater environments especially (western section of the Loop Trail nearest the Gulf), the insects are notorious, and bug repellent can make for a more pleasant visit.

Biking at the Preserve

Visitor Center and Park Road

To reach the State Park Visitor Center, turn onto W. State Park St. from US 19/98, then left on N. Sailboat Ave. (about 2.5 miles). While there's a small trailhead nestled in the woods at the start of Loop Trail, for security purposes, we elected to park at the Visitor Center and bike the Park road, first to Crystal Cove Trail, then on to the 7-mile Loop Trail, and return (about 1.7 miles round-trip on Park road, lightly traveled).

Visitor Center

Parking, restrooms, picnicking, a kayak/canoe launch, and dock for power boats. The small museum includes wildlife exhibits and aquarium, with a native species garden outside. Seasonal boat tour and sunset cruise.

Park Road

The State Park road is an easy ride through pine, swamp and hardwood habitat. Mixed sun and shade. Motor vehicles may be encountered, we only saw a couple, and a few at the Visitor Center.

7-Mile Loop Trail

To reach the 7-Mile Loop Trail trailhead from US 19/98, turn onto W. State Road St., then go straight at the turn to the Visitor Center (follow the sign) and continue to the small parking area. Go through the gate at the kiosk. We saw one other biker this day. The trail runs straight for about a mile, crossing a creek, before the loop starts, we then toured in a clockwise direction. This is the coastal side, with several tidal creeks and views of the coastal marsh. Further along is a more wooded section with oak and cedar hammock, and pine flatlands. On fat tires or mountain bikes, the limerock, grass and dirt trail is an easy to moderate ride with just a few rough spots (flooding or mud are possible after rain). Mixed sun and shade depending on which habitat you're riding through. Benches are provided at intervals along the way but no water or other facilities so be prepared. Wildlife may include assorted birds, otter, snakes, and wild boar. Winter is generally best due to heat and bugs.

Trailhead to Start of Loop

On the Loop

Hiking at the Preserve

Crystal Cove Trail (1.7 mile round-trip, hiking only)

There are two ways to access the Crystal Cove Trail: (1) along N. Sailboat Ave. (about 1/10 mile south from W. State Park St.,) a sign at Mullet Drive points to Crystal Cove Trailhead and Mullet Lake Fishing Area - the trailhead has parking and a restroom, there's also a popular fishing hole and a kayak/canoe launch linking to the Crystal River; (2) further along N. Sailboat Ave. is another access point roadside with a small parking area. (On this trip, we were focused on biking and only hiked a short distance.) The full trail runs along a canal to a lookout at the river, with a couple of short loops to give a different view on return. Part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, with assorted birds and waterfowl, alligators, snakes, squirrels, turtles - even manatee have been seen in the canal near the river. Shaded, can be buggy.

Crystal Cove Trailhead off Mullet Drive

Access along Park Road

South of the River (W. Fort Island Trail)

Redfish Hole Trail (1.4 miles round-trip, hiking only)

Along W. Fort Island Trail, about 4 miles west from US 19/98, watch for the Redfish Hole Trail trailhead on the left (south). This an old borrow pit and is a popular fishing hole. Starting at the trailhead is a wooded section with shade, then the trail opens up onto an open area of creeks and tidal marsh with no shade. We kept to the trail to the left, a leg to the right led around the pond where we saw several people fishing. Winding around the pond, we came to a dead end and returned. This is tidal, so watch for the tides and wear shoes you don't mind getting wet. Can be buggy, especially in the summer. Part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, the ponds are particularly good for seeing wading birds. Parking, no other facilities.

Fort Island Gulf Beach and Fishing Pier

Fort Island Gulf Beach and Fishing Pier (a Citrus County Park) is outside the Preserve at the western end of W. Fort Island Trail (SR 44) - about 14 miles from US 19/98. Here are parking, restrooms, picnicking, shower, boat ramp, and a boardwalk between pier and the sandy white beach. Great sunsets. The boat ramp is free (until Jan. 1, 2022 when a ramp fee will kick in), providing access to the Gulf of Mexico, and then it's about a mile to the mouth of the Crystal River. Note: The Crystal River Nuclear Power Plant, now shut down, is part of the "view."

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