General James A. Van Fleet State Trail
Part #1 of 2
The James A. Van Fleet State Trail is named after an American veteran who was a distinguished combat commander during WW I, II and the Korean War. The paved MUP travels some 29.2 miles through some of Florida's most scenic rural landscape beginning at the town of Mabel on State Route 50 and stretching south through Polk county.
Riders not familiar with the trail may anticipate a boring ride based upon the flat and arrow-straight terrain however it's become a favorite among time-trial bicyclists, though thanks to its remote setting, you'll likely encounter only the occasional speedster.
The real treat is for recreational riders who wish to immerse themselves in wetlands and wildlife. It will not disappoint; at least one-third of the trail crosses central Florida's 322,690-acre Green Swamp, the headwaters for some of Florida's most frequently canoed rivers - the Withlacoochee, Hillsborough and Peace, with excellent wildlife viewing opportunities, especially between Bay Lake and Green Pond Roads. During a recent morning ride I encountered an abundance of birds, squirrels, rabbits, gopher tortoises, a family of feral pigs, and a alligator, in addition to horses, cattle and Lamas in pastures along the trail.
Parking and Trail Access
To reach the Mabel trailhead from Clermont, take SR 50 west. Turn left or south at the intersection of SR 50 and CR 772 (SE 121st St), follow the short road to the trailhead. CR 772 is about 5 miles west of the SR 50 and Bay Lake Rd intersection in Mascotte. Facilities are sparse (covered shelter) at this trailhead, however parking is permitted on the grass.
To reach the Bay Lake Rd trailhead from Clermont, take SR 50 west to the intersection of SR 50 and Bay Lake Rd in Mascotte. Turn left or south on Bay Lake Rd and follow it until it intersects with the trail. Restrooms, covered shelter and a paved parking area are available at the trailhead.
To reach the Green Pond Road trailhead from Clermont, take SR 50 west to SR 33 (Commonwealth Ave) south. Commonwealth Ave is approximately 4.67 miles west of 12th St in Clermont. Follow CR 33 (Commonwealth Ave) about 16 miles to Green Pond Rd, turn right and continue to the trailhead. Facilities include paved parking, covered shelter and water.
To reach the Polk City trailhead from Lakeland, take I-4 east to Exit 38/Polk City, and follow SR 33 north to Polk City. The trailhead is at the intersection of SR 33 (S. Commonwealth Ave) and SR 655 (Berkley Road). The facilities include ample parking, picnic and restrooms, plus an expansive field of clipped grass, perfect for a game of pickup soccer. From this trailhead you can also head south to Auburndale along the Auburndale TECO Trail.
General James A. Van Fleet State Trail information and map (PDF).