17+ miles – Beach and Trails – Fort Myers Beach, Florida
Highlights: Up to 9 miles of Gulf Coast Beach and 4.5 miles of multi-use trails.
Trailhead: The best place to start this ride is at the north entrance to Lovers Key State Park . You will find this just before the Big Carlos Pass Bridge if you are coming from the south. When I arrived at 7:30 am I found the entrance gate locked until the park opened at 8 am. Although, shortly after I parked, a state park official pulled in and unlocked the gate. It looked like you could sneak in around the fence and climb over the rocks just below the bridge if you want to get an extra early start. Just inside the fence there was a picnic area and several portable toilets, but no water. You will also find a box with paper trail maps available. There is a $2 per person entrance fee that can be paid in the pipe just in side the gate.
About Lovers Key State Park: This 1,616-acre park between Fort Myers and Naples is comprised of four barrier islands— Lovers Key, Inner Key, Black Island and Long Key. The park offers 2.5 miles of white sandy beaches on the Gulf of Mexico and a variety of recreational opportunities including wildlife viewing, fishing, kayaking and swimming.
Swim, sunbathe and experience some of the best shelling on southwest Florida’s gulf beaches. Hike or bike on 4.5 miles of island trails including the 2.5 mile Black Island Trail that follows the inner waterways of the island. Kayaking and canoeing in the 920 acres of waterways fed by the gulf and bay are favorite pastimes at the park. Source: Lovers Key Brochure.
The Ride: This ride starts with 5 miles out and back on the Lovers Key Beach. After the beach you can explore the 4.5 miles of multi-use trails on the inner islands of the park. Then if you are still looking for more miles you can cross the Big Carlos Pass Bridge where you will find another 7 miles of open beach riding all the way up to Fort Myers Beach.
To start the go through gate and take a right to head out to the shore along Big Carlos Pass. After taking a left at the water you will follow the shore along the inlet for the first 1/2 mile before reaching the Gulf Coast Beach. When the tide is out the sand is packed almost as hard as a gravel road and I have to admit that it could probably be ridden on a skinny tire mountain bike,
Shortly after rounding the point you come to an interesting ghost forest area. The beach starts out fairly narrow but as you near the park’s main beach area the sand expands to about 300 feet wide. The first boardwalk leads the main parking area where there is also a gift shop that sells t-shirts, souvenirs and an ice cream.
About 0.4 miles further you will find Hurricane Charley’s Restaurant where you can get hamburgers, hotdogs and other beach style foods. Kayak, SUP and bike rentals are also available at both concessions.
Past the concession the beach starts to narrow again and if you watch the trees inland there are several osprey nests. I spotted several of them along the beach and on the inner island trails. After rounding the south point there is about another 1000 feet of beach that can be ridden along New Pass until you reach the turn around point for this portion of the ride at just over 2.5 miles from the start. From here retrace your fat tracks in the smooth sand back to the north parking area.
Next up is the trail portion of this outing. The Black Island and Eagle Island Trails are an easy off road ride on a fairly wide gravel track. Both trails follow inner waterways of the park and make for a somewhat interesting ride. The trails are smooth and nontechnical by mountain bike standards, but are much better than riding on the busy Florida roads.
To access the trails from the north entrance you will want to follow the signs pointing to the main beach area along the gravel service road. The first turn off to the left goes to the 2 mile lollipop loop Eagle Island Trail. I didn’t see any eagles, but there were 2 more osprey perched on dead trees on the other side of the water.
After completing the Eagle Island Trail continue on the service road for about another 0.5 mile until it opens up at the parking area. There is a sign on the left marking the start of the 2.5 mile long Black Island Trail. This is also a lollipop loop that takes you out to the island that is to the east of the Eagle Island Trail. For pictures of the trails see the GoPro Hero time-lapse video below. The Lovers Key Beach, Trails and Roads totaled about 12 miles of easy, but nice off road riding.
In the Area: If you are looking to extend this ride further you can access another 7 miles of beach by crossing the Carlos Pass Bridge. There is a narrow side walk along both sides of the bridge that can be used to stay away from the heavy traffic. The beach can be accessed right under the bridge. The sand starts out really wide, but soon narrows and you may have to weave your way through a small section of trees before it opens up again. I only went out and back for a couple miles here, but it looks like it could be ridden all the way up to Fort Myers Beach.
Time-lapse Video: The ride from my GoPro Hero in 10 second photo mode. It was done in the following order: Lovers Key Beach, Black Island Trail, Park Roads, Eagle Island Trail and then the beach towards Fort Myers.
Post Ride Beverage: I did this ride early in the morning, so I not get to sample any of the nearby establishments. If you have a recommendation, please leave it in the comments below.
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