One of Florida’s jewels for active, outdoor enjoyment is the Legacy Trail, a rails-to-trails corridor stretching from Venice to south Sarasota. On the 10.7 mile asphalt path, you can pass cyclists, walkers, joggers, in-line skaters and wheelchairs. The trail is also dog-friendly. Nature surrounds you on the mostly exposed path – look for many types of birds, lizards, snakes, tortoises and rabbits. Signage helps identify plants and wildlife seen on the trail. Shaded benches with drinking fountains are placed nearly every mile and restrooms are available at most trailheads. Parks along the route offer playgrounds and picnic areas. There are only a few street crossings on the route and they are well marked. There is a pedestrian overpass over U.S. 41 that may force you to exert yourself a little but the rest of the trail is level and smooth. Other smaller bridges over waterways provide scenic views.
The southern trailhead is the Historic Venice Train Depot, 303 E. Venice Ave. and the northern terminus currently is at McIntosh Road in Sarasota’s Palmer Ranch community. Efforts are underway to extend the trail into downtown Sarasota. There are multiple trailheads along the corridor: Culverhouse Nature Park, Sarasota; Sarasota’ Osprey Junction Trailhead in Osprey; Laurel Park in Laurel; Nokomis Community Park, Nokomis; Oscar Scherer State Park, Osprey and Patriot’s Park, Venice. You can take a break in Oscar Scherer State Park, which offers hiking as well as kayaking, fishing and swimming in Lake Osprey.
The trail was originally the track for the Seaboard Railroad that ran from Richmond, VA to Venice and once brought the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to its winter headquarters. Old railroad crossings and signs are still in place and concrete mile markers show the distance to Richmond. There is also signage about the history of the area. Newer location markers are in yellow circles on the pavement. The Venice Train Depot features displays on the railroad and is open on Saturdays, 10am – 1pm, year-round.
If you want a longer ride, you can head south along the Intracoastal Waterway on the Venetian Waterway Park Trail, an 8.6 mile ride from the Venice Train Depot to Caspersen Beach. The trail is open from 6am to sunset. Learn more at www.scgov.net/visitors/parks-and-recreation/the-legacy-trail.