The Legacy Trail of Sarasota County
Scroll to the bottom of the page to watch the Legacy Trail video!
If you are looking for a straightforward, calming, and delightful cycling route on Florida’s west coast, the Legacy Trail offers an unmatched experience. This 18.5-mile-long recreational multi-use route connects the attractive little town of Venice to Sarasota.
If you are new to Sarasota Florida and want to experience all it has to offer, this Trail is one of the most scenic and diverse sections you can’t afford to ignore. Almost entirely straight and well-maintained, this is an admired trail enjoyed by joggers, walkers, inline skaters, and road bikers.
History of The Legacy Trail in Sarasota County, Florida
The legacy trail initially served as a railroad before becoming a common recreational trail. On November 12, 1911, the first traveler carriage traveled on the new Seaboard Air Line Railway Sarasota to Venice extension. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers built the Venice Train Depot, which was inaugurated on March 1927. Through the railroad, Venice was able to escape the Great Depression and the Florida real estate bust.
Between 1933 to 1970, the railroad facilitated transport of the Kentucky’s Military Institute faculty and Cadets to winter programs in Venice. Goods and servicemen were also transported to the Army Air Base during World War II.
There was little freight service until January 1992 after the final passenger train left Venice in April 1971. From 1960 through 1992, the Legacy Corridor/Seaboard Air Line was used by Barnum & Bailey Circus and the Ringling Bros to travel to its winter home in Venice.
The train depot in Venice was purchased and renovated by Sarasota County, and in October 2003, the renovated Depot was restored. At the Depot, which serves as the local transport hub for Sarasota’s Transit, the Venice Area Historical Society offers historical tours. The multi-use trail will also have a trailhead there.
After years of planning, the County liaised with the Trust for Public Land to purchase the long scenic CSX railroad corridor (12.5 miles), which runs from Center Road in Venice to South of Clark Road. The Trail connects to the VWP at Venice Avenue Bridge’s historic Venice Train Depot.
In 2018, the extension of the trail to Payne Park and the addition of a connection to North Port were approved by County voters in 2018. This extension’s grade-level trail portion was finished in 2022. FDOT expects to complete bridges at Clark and Bee Ridge Roads in 2024.
Who Can Use the Trail
Even though the Trail is mainly accessible to walkers, runners, and cyclists, between late January and mid-April, you can as well ride a pedal-powered Surrey Ride at the Sandra Terry Community Center for a tour of the Trail’s original segment, while learning about the Trail’s history and the local wildlife. Sarasota Florida County Parks & Recreation oversees organizing the free tour; however, they accept tax-deductible donations.
Navigating the Trail: What May You See?
The Trail is incredibly amazing for the variety of scenery it cuts through, including woodlands, suburban backyards, pastures, and marsh prairies.
A great stop along this stretch is Oscar Scherer State Park. The park features an additional 15 miles of offroad trail system, much of which is soft sand. However, you can ride nearly any kind of bicycle on the accessway to the Legacy trail, and it’s close enough that you could also walk that race bike with thin tires. (see our video on the park at the very bottom of the page!)
You can eat, hike, or even swim in the park’s little freshwater lake. Just be on the lookout for an endangered Florida scrub since this is its home.
Another favorite spot is a 1911 train trestle over South Creek, the river that flows through Oscar Scherer Park.
When Does the Trail Open
The Trail opens every day from 6 am until sundown and can be accessed anywhere along its route. Some trailheads offer a convenient location to rest and free parking. Others provide restrooms, bike repair stations, playgrounds, and other amenities, as well.
The trail is such a pleasant place for bicycling, walking, and running. It’s also a fun location to spend time and observe different landscapes. Tourists and locals alike take advantage of this outdoor gem of Sarasota County. You can easily spot plant life and wildlife along the trail, such as scrub jays, bobcats, foxes, and Gopher tortoises, to mention a few. So, what’s stopping you from heading to the trail and having all the fun while appreciating the nature around it?