The St. Marks Trail
Clark Evans, January 15, 2008
A map of the main portion of the trail may be found by clicking here.
The St. Marks Trail is one of Tallahassee’s oldest and most famous trails, opening in 1988 as Florida’s first “rails-to-trails” conversion project. In its heyday in the 1800s, the old Tallahassee-St. Marks Railroad transported goods from the bustling port town of St. Marks into Tallahassee, the territorial state capital. Nowadays, it transports walkers, runners, cyclists, and equestrian users along a 20.5 mile paved corridor extending from Gamble Street south of Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee to Riverside Drive in St. Marks. In the future, it will extend to the west side of Tallahassee, running from near Florida State University all the way to St. Marks and providing over twenty-two miles of relatively uninterrupted travel.
The main trailhead is located on Woodville Highway just south of Capital Circle/US 319 and approximately five miles south of the Capitol Building. Other primary access points include J. Lewis Hall Park in Woodville 3 miles south of Capital Circle and the Wakulla Station Trailhead 9 miles south of Capital Circle. The portion of the trail north of the main trailhead is 12’ wide, maintained by the City of Tallahassee, and runs north for 4.8 miles. The portion of the trail extending south to St. Marks is currently 8’ wide (soon to be widened to 12’ wide), maintained by the State of Florida, and runs south for 15.7 miles. The St. Marks Trail is currently home to two Gulf Winds club races, the Tallahassee Marathon/Half-Marathon in early February and the Flash 12 K in mid-February, supports the annual “Run to Posey’s” on Christmas Eve, and has hosted a number of other races in past years.
Much of the St. Marks Trail travels along the edge of relatively quiet, rural portions of south Tallahassee and Wakulla County. In Tallahassee, it winds its way behind several southside residential communities before reaching Woodville Highway and, ultimately, the Apalachicola National Forest. South of town, it runs along the edge of the forest, through the town of Woodville, and then along an isolated, well-shaded and forested corridor to St. Marks. It might not hurt to run with a partner just for safety’s sake through some of the isolated regions north of St. Marks. It has relatively few traffic crossings over its entire length and is ideal for nearly any type of running activity or workout.
Paralleling the portion of the trail from the main trailhead south to St. Marks is an unpaved singletrack bridle path. My experience tells me that horse use of the trail is fairly limited and rare, so if you’re looking for an off-road alternative to the regular paved path, feel free to use the bridle path. Of course, be on the look out for any horses that happen to be on the trail at that time!
The St. Marks Trail also serves as the gateway to the Munson Hills off-road trails, a set of two singletrack trails – the Munson Hills Trail and new “Twilight Zone” extension – encompassing approximately 18.5 miles through the Apalachicola National Forest. The main trailhead for the Munson Hills Trail is 1.25 miles south of the main St. Marks Trail trailhead and features a water fountain and primitive restroom facilities. The “Twilight Zone” extension has its own trailhead behind the playground at J. Lewis Hall Park in Woodville, 2.5 miles south of the mail St. Marks Trail trailhead. Both trails traverse rolling, sandy terrain through pine forests, making them easy on the legs and a nice escape just south of town.
All in all, the St. Marks Trail is the gem of Tallahassee’s numerous paved trails and a fine path amongst all of the paved and unpaved trail in and around town. Explore it for yourself: just head to one of the trailheads, run for as long as you like, then turn around and head back to where you started. Your legs will be happy to blaze along the flat corridor, especially during the Marathon, but your mind will likely want to go a tad slower just to take everything in.
For additional information on the St. Marks Trail, click here.