Well landscaped and maintained
Access to parks and the Venetian Waterway Trail
Limited trail side "refreshment"
No water on the trail
Limited places to stop and have a snack, brew or anything along this trail
Sarasota to Venice, Florida
U.S. Highway 41 and U.S. Highway 41 Bypass intersection.
Located east of U.S. Highway 41 Bypass on Nippino Trail. The connection to the park will be on the southwest corner of the park. There is an existing one mile primitive trail around the park that will connect to the trail.
Located to the east of U.S. Highway 41 on Collins Road. The park is to the south of Laurel Road. The fitness trail located on the eastside of the park is the connection to the trail.
Located off U.S. Highway 41 north of State Road 681. The trail will connect to the park through the park’s existing trails system. Overnight camping is permitted.
Biking, walking, backpacking, trail jogging
Sarasota County (941) 861-5000Official Legacy Trail Site
Lots of great photos to give you a good idea of what riding here is like!
As my wife and I stood on a concrete barrier staring through a chain link fence section at a purposefully dismantled trestle bridge, it was immediately apparent that the Legacy Trail was not exactly finished yet, as the official description above would lead us to believe.
The first thing that I noticed after researching this trail is the apparent lack of direct access trailheads. I poured over a Google map for hours trying to determine our best access point. In route to a road we never did find, we began seeing signs that indicated parking for the rail trail. We ended up parking at Potter Park. This presented a few early problems. I hadn’t researched Potter Park as an access point.
The Legacy Trail does not run through or beside of Potter Park.
There is no signage in Potter Park indicating where the Legacy Trail is.
It took a spin around the park and some helpful directions from the pool staff to get us heading in the right direction. It’s worth noting that if you access the Legacy Trail at Potter Park, you need to ride about 1.25 miles. Turn left out of the parking lot (Potter Park Drive) onto Central Sarasota Parkway and continue across McIntosh Road until you find the Legacy Trail crossing.
Happy to have found the trail, we were pleasantly surprised at the nice attention to details such as landscaping, street crossings, nice signage and the old railroad crossing hardware that has been left in place. Planning a circuitous route, we chose to tackle the section north of the crossing first since it is the shorter section from this access point. Although I didn’t track exact mileage, it was around 3-4 miles to the northern terminus below Sawyer Road.
Of note, there is no water along the trail with the exception of the southern terminus at the Venice Train Depot, so make sure to bring any refreshment that you may need. Riding rail trails can be a lot of fun as well as providing great opportunities for exercise and community access. The Legacy Trail offers all of these things. From a tourist perspective, I am always on the look out for rail trails that offer up places to stop along the way and have a snack or a cold pint of frosty beer goodness. Nothing beats pulling up to a trail-side pub, parking the bike and partaking of some re-energizing carbs in the form of grilled burgers and tall cold ones. I like this relaxed type of “adventure riding”. The Legacy Trail, running from Sarasota to Venice looked to be a great trail for this type of adventure.
So as we headed south, into the meat of the miles, we kept our eyes peeled for pubs and restaurants. Like most Florida rail trails, the Legacy Trail is flat and relatively straight, although there are a few small bumps and turns that actually help break up the potential monotony of riding down a dead flat see-to-the-end-of-the-earth trail. Along the trail, is really some beautiful for Florida scenery; slash pine, palmettos and pretty fields punctuated by a few nicely designed shaded rest areas abound, but alas, no pubs or restaurants. This section is exceptionally pretty leading up to a trail access point at Oscar Scherer State Park. To access the Legacy Trail from Oscar Schere State Park, drive to the Lake Osprey Picnic area. The trail is visible from there. Back on the trail, we passed an old trestle bridge that was left in place adjacent to the newly constructed pedestrian bridge – pretty cool!
Of note, pedaling a bit further south we noticed a small gravel parking lot that was being used as direct trail access parking at the Laurel Road crossing. Also we later learned that a short mile or so ride west on Laurel Road to Tamiami Trail there are several opportunities for “sort-of trail-side” refreshment. Of particular note, Saltwater Café looks to be a nice spot for food and a cold one. Other options included a Subway and a few other strip mall type businesses. Unfortunately for us, this was a post-ride discovery.
Just south of the Laurel Road crossing is another trail access area at Laurel Park. The Fitness Trail in Laurel Park provides access to the Legacy Trail. A surprise was in store for us. Just ¾ of a mile from Laurel Park, the trail turned to gravel as we were greeted by concrete barricades and chain link fence that prematurely ended our ride. We had ridden 9.07 miles of trail out of the 12.4 total length. Apparently although there are approved funding, 2-3 bridges that are in the southernmost 3.4 miles of trail have as of August 17th, 2008, yet to be constructed. Undaunted, we decided to finish up our ride and drive to the southern terminus to see the restored Sarasota Train Station and ride north as far as we could from there.
Arriving at the Southern Terminus, at Venice Road, we were surprised to find a beautifully restored train station and a nice park that were inexplicably deserted. After having an awkward chat with a man who had many questions and answers for them all we set out to explore what bit of trail we could report on. What we didn’t expect was the discovery of the Venetian Waterway Trail that connects with the Southern Terminus of the Legacy Trail. It was totally unplanned, and we were up for exploring it as well!
Returning to the terminus, we were beginning to have visions of burgers and beers dancing in our heads, and our motivation level was dropping rapidly as we began to explore the isolated southern section of the Legacy Trail. Lucky for us, we traveled a paltry .21 miles until we dead ended at another yet-to-be-built bridge impediment. Back to the car, we set the Garmin to lead us to the Sarasota Brewing Company for our post-ride carb loading.
On March 28, 2008 Sarasota County opened the largest public recreation project ever constructed in the area: The Legacy Trail. Totaling more than 12 miles in length the trail runs from just south of the City of Sarasota to Venice following the former CSX railroad corridor. The Legacy Trail hosts 15 areas to stop, rest, learn about its history or just enjoy the natural beauty surrounding the trail. The rest stops include 7 trailheads which offer access points with free parking. The trailheads are located at Potter Park in Sarasota, Bay Street Park and Oscar Scherer State Park in Osprey, Laurel Park in Laurel, Nokomis Park in Nokomis, Patriots Park and the historic Venice Train Depot in Venice. In addition to the trailheads, users will find eight rest station areas that offer restroom faculties and places to sit and relax. Purchased through a partnership between Sarasota County and the Trust for Public Land in December 2004 for $11.75 million, The Legacy Trail is the backbone of network of trails planned in Sarasota County. The Legacy Trail is open from dawn to dusk with the rules for using the trail posted at various locations as well as at each trailhead entrance point.