Named for Fort Fraser built in 1837 during the Second Seminole War, the trail follows an old CSX rail bed between Bartow and Lakeland in Polk County, Florida. The 12-foot trail is well maintained, almost totally straight with just a slight rise - easy to ride. Although running parallel to US 98, there's a wide buffer and portions run through natural areas with some shade (depending on time of day). It crosses a few roads and driveways, so keep aware. Picnic and rest shelters are located along the way. Three trestle bridges, historic and informational markers (one near the location of the old fort), and road crossing signs shaped like railroad crossing signs are a nice touch. The inspirational quotes on signs along the way are a unique and fun feature. (Map link and photos below.)
Map link - Fort Fraser Trail
Location: Polk County
End Points: Bartow to Lakeland, Florida
Mileage: 7.9 miles
Surface: Asphalt, 12'
Nearby Points of Interest: Circle B Bar Reserve, Polk Nature Discovery Center
Support and Advocacy:
Polk County Friends of the Parks Foundation
We rode the trail from south to north, visiting the three trailheads:
We also rode the spur to Circle B Bar Reserve.
The trail starts at the junction of SR 60 (E. Van Fleet Dr.) and US 98 (N. Broadway Ave.) in Bartow and runs 4/10 mile along SR 60 to the turn-off northbound. Here it crosses a covered trestle bridge and then just past the bridge is a spur to the left that goes to the Bartow Trailhead on N. Wilson Ave. (next to Tractor Supply Co.). The trailhead is parking only. Continuing north, the trail goes through a natural area and over another trestle bridge. It crosses Old Bartow Eagle Lake Rd. and then meets US 98 at Lyle Pkwy. From here, it runs between US 98 and a natural area abutting Lake Hancock to Highland City. About a half mile past Ernest Smith Blvd, a power line meets the trail and the trail then follows the power line with little shade. There's still a wide buffer off the road until Hancock Ave., where it runs roadside approaching the Highland City trailhead.
The trail is away from US 98, but gets closer after passing Bartow Regional Medical Center.
The main trailhead is in Highland City on 4th St. East. The trail runs into the trailhead, but if driving there's no direct access off US 98 - turn on Central Avenue and go one block to 4th St. East. The trailhead has parking, restrooms, and picnic facilities. Continuing northbound, the trail is roadside but soon is buffered and passes through a pleasant wooded area.
Halfway between Highland City and PSC trailheads (just north of Oak Hill Cemetery, mile 6.9), a 1/2 mile paved connector trail leads to the Circle B Bar Reserve on Lake Hancock. Formerly a cattle ranch, it's been restored to its natural wetland habitat with up to 7 miles of eco-biking available. View the eco-trails, map, and photos
Just past the spur is a covered trestle bridge at Banana Creek. The north trailhead is in Lakeland at Polk State College (PSC) behind the Polk County Sheriff's Office. Parking and a picnic pavilion but no other amenities. There's a direct access to the trailhead from the trail, but if driving enter through the PSC main entrance and drive past the sheriff's office to the trailhead.
The trail ends just north of PSC, at Winter Lake Road (SR 540) - plans are to eventually extend it north into Lakeland.
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