The Palatka to Butler Lake Trail – Keystone Heights to Grandin Section This is the only sector of the trail that is currently completed. We will continue to refer to it optimistically as the Palatka Trail, even though it is nowhere near Palatka as of November, 2010. The “Park Spur” shows as a spur on the map (google… link) however the town doesn’t seem to realize the two trails are related to one another or that one might like to get safely from one to the other. We pedaled across Highway 100 and several blocks north and south 4 times looking for a trail crossing sign. There is none. The Palatka Trail at this point is a sidewalk that runs right beside State Road 100, between the highway and the two huge drug stores – Walgreens and CVS that stand like sentinels from opposing camps on opposite sides of Highway 21. As a matter of fact, to proceed from the Park Spur to the Eastbound part of the trail, the best way is to turn left one block before Highway 100 on Commercial Street – this will then run right into the trail which does have a trail crossing sign at this point. The trail itself is lovely and smooth, and protected from the highway by thick groves of trees – pines and oaks – along its entire length. It follows the abandoned Georgia Southern and Florida Railway rail bed. After about a mile it crosses county road 214 and soon arrives as the Twin Lakes Park and trail head. Here is ample parking, clean restrooms, a water fountain and a large picnic pavilion – not to mention a huge baseball field and other sports fields. Just east of the trail head the trail angles left away from Highway 100 and continues through dense forests. At mile… you cross from Clay county to “Bike Friendly Putnam County” There is no sign announcing this on the trail, but there are signs on the highway and also the trail has been more recently paved and changes suddenly to a shiny black.
In Putnam County, the trail continues on, rejoining Highway 100 and running past Putnam Hall where here is a bar called the Howling Wolf Bar (not recommended). You will also encounter a yard we named “Pickers Paradise” due to the massive quantity of junk assembled on both sides of the trail. There are serious-looking “No Trespassing” signs on the highway although none visible from the trail, and although we did not see a junkyard dog we felt there could be one on guard and the collection definitely does not invite browsing.
Beyond this the trail continues one through its most scenic section with huge oaks to route 315 and the town of Grandin. At Grandin the trail crosses State Highway 315 and ends abruptly. You can ride a little further on a back road paralleling the rail bed, and then when that ends unless you have really skinny tires you can follow the grassy rail bed. Let’s hope that Bike Friendly Putnam County can get their act collective together and extend this wonderful trail on into Palatka.
Right at this point, where the trail peters out, you can (carefully) cross Highway 100 to the Twisted Oaks Vineyard. On our way into town in our vehicle, this had looked inviting and we were anticipating a pleasant glass of wine under the spreading grandfather oaks. But sadly this appears to have been someone’s dream that is now gone with the wind. As we stood under the massive oak surveying the withered vines and the ruin of what was once a wine terrace and arbor, a chill gust of wind swirled dead oak leaves around our ankles serving as a grim reminder of the transient and elusive nature of dreams.
More Information Trail Facts Trail End Points: Palatka, FL to Lake Butler, FL Counties: Bradford, Clay, Putnam, Union Trail Length: 5.2 miles Trail Category: Rail-Trail Trail Surfaces: Asphalt, Grass Trail Activities: Bike, Mountain Biking, Walking TrailLink ID: 6395876
Description: The Palatka to Lake Butler State Trail (PLB) corridor stretches nearly 47 miles from the vicinity of SR 238 in Lake Butler to west of US 17 in Palatka. The project is located along the former Norfolk-Southern Railroad right of way and the trail is being constructed on top of the existing abandoned railroad bed through Putnam, Union, Clay and Bradford counties. The corridor was purchased with Preservation 2000 funds through the Office of Greenways and Trails Acquisition Program. The Rails to Trails Conservancy played a key role in preserving the corridor for conversion to a rail-trail and the trail was designated as part of the Florida Greenways & Trails System in 2007. Construction of a 12-foot wide multi-use recreational trail along this corridor is being completed in phases and the first paved section of 5.2 miles opened in Clay County in 2008. The construction was administered by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and funded in part through the Transportation Equity Act of the 21st Century Act (TEA-21). The Trail is managed by the DEP Office of Greenways & Trails. The Clay County segment of the PLB Trail passes through downtown Keystone Heights, it connects to a 10-foot wide, 5.5 mile bike path funded and developed by FDOT. The bike path opened February 2009 and connects downtown Keystone Heights to Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park. Twin Lakes Park in Keystone Heights serves as the main trailhead for the Clay County segment and was developed by Clay County with funding from the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program. The remainder of the PLB Trail is still in the design phase. The final design must be completed before any additional paving can occur and the 47-mile recreational trail is fully constructed. There are plans to connect St. Augustine to Lake City by way of this trail system at some future date, to make the total length of the Trail over 100 miles. Although the trail has not all been paved as stated above, most of the trail is flat and grassy, the grass appears to be maintained and low. Majority of the trail runs parallel with SR 100 and can be seen from the road. Parking & Trail Access: Known access point in Keystone Heights at Twin Lakes Park, 6065 Twin Lakes Road. There is a parking area at this location. Since the Lake Butler and Palatka streches of the trail are still unfinished, there are no major access points known at this time. Trail Status as of 2010-10-10 By rockydraud on October 10, 2010 Enjoy this trail now. It will even get better as the weather cools. This trail provides a wonderful chance to enjoy a ride thru North Central Florida's rural, lake, pine forest, and prairie environment. And do it NOW because as soon as the economy comes back, this area will change. But STAY ON THE TRAIL. The trail is beautiful, but property on both sides is PRIVATE! Don't be tempted by anything resembling a side trail. Be a courteous, respectful and stay on the trail and enjoy your ride. We're all so lucky to have access to this trail. Obtaining right of way was probably not easy. You can get on this trail from Twin Lakes Park as Traillink.com suggests or downtown Keystone Heights (park in a shopping center) or on the current east terminus, at Grandin. It's easy access from Gainesville, Melrose, Hawthorne, Keystone Heights, and Grandin is only 15 miles Palatka! Trail Info Trail Length: 10.0 miles Trail Surface: Hard/Pavement Trail Grade: Flat < 1% Region: NorthEast Trail Link 1: Trail Link Camping: Gold Head Branch State Park Distance: 5.5 miles