Local Spots to Workout in Gainesville (That Aren’t the Gym!)

By Chris Pregony
Path in a lush forest

Did you know that sunshine can stimulate your body to release the feel-good hormone serotonin? For many of us, our jobs require us to be inside all day, and it is amazing what a little fresh air can do for our moods. One thing I love about Gainesville is how many options there are for outside activities. Just because Florida is flat doesn’t mean you can’t find some killer hiking and biking to satiate your wilderness spirit. Here are some local spots to workout in Gainesville that are not the gym!

Southeast Gainesville

La Chua Trail (Hiking)
4801 Camp Ranch road, Gainesville, FL 32641

For opportunities to witness nature, no other trail comes close. You can see alligators in their natural habitat along with wild horses and the occasional hog. The trail is about 1.5 miles to an observation deck, so round trip is about 3 miles. It is great for families and visitors to Gainesville, but it is not good for pets!

Hawthorne Trail (Road Biking/Running)
3300 SE 15th St., Gainesville, FL

This 16-mile paved trail runs from southeast Gainesville at Boulware Springs Park to the town of Hawthorne. Each mile is marked on this paved and well-maintained path. It is relatively flat and provides a beautiful ride or run.

Northwest Gainesville

Devils Millhopper (Hiking/Stairs)
4732 Millhopper road, Gainesville, FL 32653

Located off of Millhopper road, this geological wonder is a must see. The sinkhole has been visited since the 1880s. Stairs wind down about 120 feet to the bottom of the sink. Small streams and lush vegetation lead the way down this iconic landmark. It is great for exercising as well as leisure, depending on how you attack the stairs.

Loblolly/Westside Park (Hiking/Trail Biking)
3315 NW Fifth Ave., Gainesville, FL 32607

Loblolly is located just south of Eighth Avenue and runs adjacent to Westside Park. This fun network of trails runs right along Hogtown Creek and offers dirt trails as well as wooden bridges. Right nearby behind Westside Park (east) is another network of trails that are a lot of fun to run, bike or just explore.

San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park– Alachua Trailhead
(Trail Biking/Trail Running/Hiking)
13201 Progress Blvd, Alachua, FL 32615

This is another must if you are in the area. This one is just outside of town near Alachua, but it is most definitely worth the drive. This state park has about 7,000 acres and is made up of a series of loops that can go as short as 3 miles or as long as 30. The maintenance of the trails is impeccable. There is a $4 entrance fee that is well worth it. The trails take you through a multitude of diversity of North Florida’s forest and the elevation change is quite impressive.

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Alfred A. Ring Park (Hiking/Running)
1801 NW 23rd Blvd., Gainesville, FL 32605

Ring Park, which is located off of Glen Spring road, is a great one for the whole family. It is made up of a short series of trails that are well kept run along Hogtown Creek. There is also a small playground located a short walk from the parking area as well as a nice observation deck overlooking the creek.

West (Central) Gainesville

Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (Cross Training)
157 Gale Lemerand drive, Gainesville, FL 32611

Can’t seem to find a mountain to climb here in Gainesville? Well, look no further than the Swamp. Ben Hill Griffin stadium is not only home to our beloved Gator football team, but also to exercise enthusiasts who want to be outside. It can be one of the most challenging workouts you can do in town. You can walk the bleachers, run the stairs, spring the spirals or jog the zig zags.

Here are some non-runner or biker spot to workout in Gainesville:

  • Some local pools are open on a reservation basis.
  • For a fun spin on hiking, try geocaching in O’Leno State Park.
  • Get your canoe or kayak out and paddle along the 26 miles of the Santa Fe River’s designated paddling trail.

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