If you’ve done any running in Gainesville, you’ve probably noticed there’s ample runner-friendly streets, paths and trails at your disposal. You’ve probably also noticed, as I have, that shade in these areas can be hard to come by.
There are, however, some spots in Gainesville with enough shade to embarrass an umbrella.
It’s taken me a couple of years to find some of Gainesville’s most shade-centric trails. And now the time has come for me to pass this knowledge on to you.
For this list I’ll be using my very own shade rating:
= Very limited shade. Pray for clouds.
= Completely shaded. Seattle’s got nothin’ on this.
Without further ado, the top 5 shaded trails in Gainesville, Fla.:
Roughly five miles east of campus, Morningside Nature Center features about 7 miles of trail throughout 278 acres of beautiful running terrain. Though not wholly shady, Morningside has ample amount of shaded trail, particularly on the center’s 3-mile perimeter trail.
Ben’s tip: Bring your own water, as you won’t find any out here. Also, don’t be surprised to encounter (large) deer on the trails.
Sweetwater Preserve has it all: short trail loops, long trail loops, elevation changes and varying running surfaces. The preserve is free to enter, and you can park right at the trailhead.
Ben’s tip: Hop a rundown wire fence past the “closed trail” sign and follow twin tracks to extend the Sweetwater trails all the way out to Payne’s Prairie.
In my opinion San Felasco is the most beautiful place to run in Gainesville. Its tens of miles of trails meander through varying landscapes; I never get bored running here. The only downside to the park is its distance from campus, but it’s certainly worth an occasional trip.
Ben’s tip: The only park on my list with an entrance fee – $4. Although you can get away without paying, $4 is a steal to enjoy such a gorgeous piece of property.
Located just a half mile from the north side of campus, the Loblolly trails are ideal for relatively short and straightforward trail runs. Loblolly North, in particular, is extremely shaded and connects 8th Avenue with 16th Avenue.
Ben’s tip: The most convenient Loblolly parking is at Albert “Ray” Massey Westside Park. The park has bathrooms and a water fountain. According to the City of Gainesville, Loblolly is “considered one of the best birding spots in the county.”
My vote for the most-shaded trail system in Gainesville. On a hot summer day, the Clear Lake trails are 20 degrees cooler than outside temperatures. Because the trails are without designated parking, they are relatively infrequently run. My advice would be to run with a partner or some sort of protection, although I’ve never had problems running here alone.
Ben’s tip: Parking can be an issue; I’d recommend parking at The Woodlands of Gainesville, about a quarter mile from the trail. I lived there for a year and never saw anyone towed, though I can’t guarantee they don’t!
Finally, I’d like to thank rednivaram for allowing me to use this beautiful tree photo for my shade rating scale.
Happy shaded running!