I take four friends down to these two trails for a day-trip field trip and fact-finding tour. It is a 2.5-hour trip from Gainesville. The first trail we try is the currently 6.5 mile paved West Orange Rail-Trail (soon to be 26 miles long). It is a paved, mostly 14-foot wide trail that we discover is a highly popular recreational facility. As is always the case with these urban trails, we see a large number of smiling children, parents with toddlers in bike trailers, people on rollerblades, walkers, joggers, teenagers, seniors, and hard core bicycle racing/fitness types. In short, we see users of all ages, skill levels, and economic classes out having a good and safe time away from the traffic.
It is clear that the West Orange Trail is the “cadillac” of Florida Rail Trails. It has very impressive trail heads with picnic pavilions, bike and auto parking, water fountains, a phone, a playground and restrooms. One of the trailheads even has bike lockers, which provide long-term storage for bicycle commuters hoping to keep their bikes out of the weather as they sit locked up all day.
The Trail is scheduled to be expanded to its full 26-mile length soon, which will link the small town of Oakland at the Lake/Orange County border to Apopka. The Trail is flat, which allows for easy riding by even the less skilled bicyclists. It was paid for by Orange County, the Florida Preservation 2000 Rails-to-Trails program, the Federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program.
The nearby Cady Way Trail is a paved, 10-foot wide, 4.5-mile long trail that appears to have been built along a utility right-of-way. It passes through suburban northern Orlando, and features somewhat unfortunate high wood and chain-link fence on both sides (on one side, the fence is due to an adjacent Naval facility). Nevertheless, it is a popular trail, and we enjoy an easy ride. We discover that the trailhead at one end is very nice, with parking, restrooms, a trail map, drinking fountains, and picnic pavilions.
Both trails provide handy mile markers along the way, and often feature a “canopy” effect with overarching trees on both sides.
More about the Cady Way Trail
The Cady Way Trail, located near Orlando, is a 3.5-mile long asphalt path that follows a former railroad bed. The trail links the parks and residential areas of the City of Winter Park with Orange County neighborhoods. Establishment of the trail was the result of an innovative partnering of the City of Orlando, the Orlando Utilities Commission, the City of Winter Park, Orange County, and the Naval Training Center.
Most of the funding for trail construction came from the Florida Department of Transportation.
The trail alternates between being a single, 10- to 16-foot pathway to being parallel pathways (one 10 feet and the other 6 feet) separated by a median. When a single pathway, a white line separates pedestrians from skaters and bicyclists.
There are shelters, rest stops with benches, and water fountains along the trail.
The northern trailhead starts at Ward Park. The southern trailhead is at Orlando Fashion Square.