Consistently ranked as number 1 for spring mountain biking in the country, the Santos mountain biking trails system is outstanding by almost any measure.
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Length: 27 Miles in the System, plus Connects to Another 25 Miles Out & Back
Trailhead(s): Santos Trailhead
Elevation Gain: Negligible
Trail Type: Trail System
Difficulty: Beginner to Expert
Permit Required? No
Season: Year Round
The Santos mountain biking trails system is outstanding by almost any measure. In fact, it has consistently ranked as number 1 for spring mountain biking in the country. I know . . . Florida? Let me tell you, though, Florida does have some really great mountain biking and Santos is the crown jewel. I feel qualified to tell you this because, not only have I ridden all over the country and in Canada, before I moved out west I mountain biked at Santos at least once a month for over 5 years and never got bored. That’s pretty amazing for any trail system, particularly for one in Florida.
What Makes the Santos Mountain Biking Trails System So Great?
In addition to outstanding trails (which I discuss below), part of what makes the Santos mountain biking trails system so great is there is a campground right at the trailhead. Camping there means you can ride right out of camp and on to the trails. During the cooler months of October – April, we made a point of camping at Santos one weekend a month to ride and hang out. The ability to get up, have breakfast around a campfire, take a morning mountain bike ride, come back to camp and have lunch, head out for an afternoon ride, then return to camp, have a beer or two, cook dinner, and hang out with friends is hard to beat. If you go to Santos and have time to camp, I highly recommend it and have provided a link to reservations below.
The Santos Mountain Biking Trails and Why I Love to Ride Them
The Santos mountain biking trails system is made up of two connected sections – the Santos Trailhead section and the Vortex Trailhead section. Both sections offer a mix of beginner, intermediate, and expert trails. All together, the Santos mountain biking trails system offers 6 beginner, 9 intermediate, and 6 expert trails, as well as trails that connect directly to the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway Trail. If that is not enough, the Vortex section has a massive jump pit area for those who like to fly.
Beginner Trails and the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway Trail
The beginner trails in the Santos system are flat, but beautiful, fast, and flowy. They are trails that any rider can enjoy. They are also built in such a way as to enable access to all of the intermediate trails.
Of particular note, the beginner trails connect to the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway Trail. By connecting to the Greenway Trail, serious cross country riders can ride 25 miles each way from the Santos Trailhead to the Ross Prairie Trailhead at Ross Prairie State Park. It is a long ride, but incredibly beautiful with options to take intermediate trails along the way. Of course, you do not have to ride the full distance of this out and back. A great shorter ride is to ride to Landbridge that crosses over I75, for a fun out & back ride of about 25 miles in beautiful forest.
The intermediate trails at Santos are just plain fun to ride. They offer great flow, some rocks and roots, and some fast berms, as well as a few wood features. For experts, they are great to ride fast and are the means to connect to almost all of the expert trails. For beginners, many of them allow you to start working on stepping up your skills, with low consequence. For intermediates, they offer a perfect fit with the mid-range of intermediate skills.
The beauty of the expert trails at Santos is that the Santos Trailhead side and the Vortex Trailhead side are built in an old limestone quarry. That means rock. If you like technical riding and a lot of rock, you can find it at Santos. Obviously, there are no big downhills, but there are a lot of short, punchy technical climbs and descents and the trails are built to put your “cleaning” abilities to the test.
My favorite expert trail is the OMBA Red Trail (also know as the “Vortex trail”), rated most difficult, that runs around and above the jump pit area in Vortex. This is a great ride with a little bit of everything and will challenge the skills of all but the best technical riders.
Of particular note on the Santos Trailhead side of the system are John Brown, Rattlesnake Ridge, Anthill, and Sinkhole. All will give you fun technical riding with, in my opinion, John Brown being the most demanding and fun. For a great ride, ride out of the trailhead and hit all of the expert trails on the Santos Trailhead side, connecting them with fast riding on the blues.
One final note: The expert trails offer a lot of wood features built in the last few years. They are a ton of fun and I highly recommend riding them if you have the skills. Just be very careful if they are wet (which in Florida is very common), because the wood becomes like a sheet of ice.
The Santos mountain biking trails system is a must do for any mountain biker paying a visit to the Sunshine State. It is one of my favorite systems in the country and offers something for everyone. If you ride here, I’m pretty sure you will agree.
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Santos Mountain Biking Trails Slideshow
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