Cycling Natural North Florida’s 32-mile Nature Coast State Trail is an excellent way to experience some of Florida’s Rails-To-Trails locations. The smooth paved trail follows several old railroad bed that joined at Wilcox, just north of Fanning Springs. This trail runs from Trenton, in Gilchrist County, through Fanning Springs and Old Town, in Dixie County, and then to either Chiefland (Levy County) or Cross City (Dixie County).
The ride from the Fanning Springs trail head and parking lot to the Suwannee River Bridge is an easy and flat 3.5 miles. You’ll pass through some pine forests and as you approach the river, you’ll find yourself looking down into some primeval (and scenic) swampland.
On your return to Fanning Springs, be sure to grab a bite to eat at the BBQ Shack. It’s an unimposing place within walking distance of the trail head and serves some pretty good eats. In my (humble) opinion, Florida really doesn’t have a BBQ “tradition” like the Carolinas or Texas (And by-the-way, neither does our northern neighbor, Georgia!). What you’ll usually find in our big metropolitan areas is roasted meat, usually served with sauce made of synthetic hickory smoke and ketchup. However, Natural North Florida does have some places that actually smoke their meat, and the BBQ Shack is one of them. I always see smoke coming from their chimney–and any place with a pig on the roof is OK with me.
Be sure to give this place a try on your next bike trip–or the next time you’re driving through Fanning Springs on US19/98.