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Gulf Coast a Winter Wonderland for Cyclists

by S. Lynne on December 26th, 2014

Couple enjoying a winter bike ride on Hwy 30a beaches in Florida.Winter’s a great time for biking along the Gulf Coast in Northwest Florida and Alabama. The beach is still beautiful, the crowds have gone home, and the temperatures and rental rates have dropped. Best of all, the area offers plenty of paved bike paths that are safe as well as scenic. In fact, all of the major roadways between Fort Morgan and Perdido Key have biker-friendly lanes on the shoulders, with the exception of Gulf Shores Parkway — and it has a sidewalk that doubles as a bike path.

Alabama's Eastern Shore Biking Trail

Alabama’s Eastern Shore Trail winds along and near Mobile Bay.

Away from the beach, Alabama’s Eastern Shore Trail winds along Mobile Bay and through the picturesque towns of Point Clear, Fairhope, and Daphne. Gracious homes, quaint shops, and trees trailing Spanish moss make this a truly pleasurable ride.

The 20-mile stretch of Alabama Highway 180 between Gulf Shores and Fort Morgan is another popular route for bikers. It runs along a narrow peninsula bordered on one side by the Gulf and the other by Mobile Bay. For six miles, this route includes a separate bike path, offering views of woods, marshland, and Little Lagoon.  When the path returns to the highway, the road isn’t heavily traveled, so it’s still a pleasant ride.

In and near Gulf State Park, the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail system traverses a dozen scenic square miles. Bikers on its six trails can view the vegetation and wildlife of six different coastal ecosystems, ranging from pine and oak forests to lakes, marshes, and dunes. Birdwatchers will appreciate the fact that four locations on the trail, Gulf Oak Ridge, Twin Bridges, Catman Road, and Rosemary Dunes, have been chosen as viewing points by the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail. Animals commonly seen along the trail include alligators, armadillos, raccoons, coyotes, otters, foxes, and wild boar. Interpretive signs placed at intervals identify many of the area’s natural features.

There’s a 15-mile out-and-back ride along U.S. Highway 98 that takes cyclists from Destin to Fort Walton Beach and back. It includes a ride across the double-bridge crossing to and from Okaloosa Island, where riders can enjoy the Gulf of Mexico on one side and Choctawhatchee Bay on the other. A 7.5-mile stretch of the north side of U.S.98 on Okaloosa Island includes a lane designated for beach access, which makes it an excellent choice for cycling traveling east and west.

In the Highway 30-A area is the Timpoochee Trail, nearly 20 miles of paved surface that stretches from Dune Allen (Emerald Coast Parkway) at its western end to Rosemary Beach on the east. Wide enough to accommodate bikers cycling in either direction, it passes through forests of pine, oak, magnolia, and palmetto palm, runs over dunes and down to the beach. Lakes and marshes dot the route, which also runs through the picturesque villages that line Highway 30-A.

For places to stay and more information on the Alabama and Northwest Florida Gulf coasts, look no further than  BeachGuide.com. Just click on the links for  Gulf Shores vacation rentals,  Orange Beach vacation rentals,  Perdido Key vacation rentals,  Fort Walton Beach vacation rentals, and  Highway 30-A vacation rentals. And don’t forget to ask property managers   about special deals. Biking tour packages that include meals, accommodations, and other extras are available year-round.

gulf coast paved biking trail

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