Miles and miles of single track that look like everything from Florida to the north east!
Bellview (south from Ocala), Florida
by Dana Farnsworth, Outdoor Travels
81,290 acres of pure off-road riding bliss. Santos is the largest and best known mountain biking park in the Ocala, Florida area or, arguably for the entire state. Santos' official designation is Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway - that's certainly a mouth full... The Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway was born out of the failed Cross Florida Barge Canal which was terminated in the late 60s due to environmental concerns, among others.
Santos has a reputation as one of the finest places to mountain bike in Florida - you can believe the hype. Let me first say that there is something at Santos for any level of off-road bike rider. The trails are well maintained, well marked and even though the map looks like it's incredibly difficult to navigate, I found the trail system to be relatively easy to find my way around in its labyrinth, although a map and compass does come in handy. What impresses me most about Santos is the fact that it's relatively easy to create an enjoyable ride for all levels of biking ability.
Also know as "Bellview", Santos is named for the small town where the main trailhead is located. Standard trail markings are in place here - yellow trails are beginner, blue intermediate and red markings for advanced. The majority of advanced riding is located around two abandoned mining pits. Trails are all one way with arrows up indicating the trail is straight ahead and down arrows meaning "do not enter". Trails range from flat and rolling to rocky and steep. The large network of trails can make it easy for the un-initiated to get lost. In the event you do get lost, locals are always happy to help out with directions.
As I mentioned before, the majority of the advanced trails at Santos are in close proximity to the two large pits. The trails proved to be a very unique experience. Short of a couple of trails that have very large, long and fast drops, the overall personality of the advanced trails at Santos could be described as tight, rocky and rooted with short climbs and descents that put a premium on maneuvering your bike through a labyrinth of tight turns and rock obstacles.Overall, the impression that I got from Santos' technical trails was that they are pretty similar to northeastern trails. Since Santos is at a slightly higher elevation than some of the other Florida rides, the flora even looks a little northeastern.
The only downside of Santos that I can see is that it's up to you to string trails together to create a longer riding loop. It's a little hard to explain, but the majority of Santos' trails are short in nature (there are A LOT of trails there) and are marked for degree of difficulty, but not always with names.
When you exit a short trail, it's up to you to try to figure out what trail to ride next that would keep you in a good flow and provide an extended ride. People with a lot of knowledge of Santos' trail system can do this easily. However, for those with less knowledge of the system it would be nice to see a series of trails strung together with one trail name and then be well marked as such.
The good thing about such an extensive network is that one can spend a couple of days here and never tire of riding the ever-growing miles of singletrack. If you haven't ridden here before, put Santos on your short list of "must ride" destinations in Florida.
Trail length: Over 60 miles available
Difficulty: A little of everything from beginner to advanced
Outdoor Travels Rating: 4 out of 5 bikes - a true "don't miss this trail system" ride, no matter what your skill level may be.
- Miles and miles of single track in all sort of difficulty levels to choose from
- Hard to get lost - as most trails loop back onto others that return from where you came
- Terrain often looks like places other than the south
- Challenging rocky advanced trails offer a different experience to those not used to this terrain
- Navigation is challenging
- Easy to get lost - although it can be hard to get lost, a little exploring without map,compass and or knowledge of this system can land you almost anywhere
- Novices without knowledge of this trail system can easily end up on a difficult trail
Nuts & Bolts
Location: Bellview, Florida
Facilities: picnic shelters, bathrooms
Trails: over 60 miles and growing of single track of varied levels of difficulty.
Directions: From I-75 exit on Hwy. 484 (Bellview exit) and head east about 2 miles to Hwy. 475. Head north (left) on Hwy 475 about 4 to 5 miles to S.E. 80th Street. Head east (right) on S.E. 80th to just before it crosses SR 441. The entrance will be on your right about half a block from SR 441. It's marked with a sign that reads 'Santos Trailhead.'
Help Keep Outdoor Travels A Free Informational Source!
By clicking through the links of these great outfitters when you want to purchase new gear, you'll not only receive the best pricing, you'll also be helping Outdoor Travels pay the bills. We certainly appreciate this simple gesture!