Balm-Boyette Scrub Nature Preserve

Balm Boyette is much more secluded than some  of the other. There is a 2-mile ride in on double track before you even get to the trails! Early morning rides are almost guaranteed to be filled with local wildlife including white-tail deer, gators, fox, snakes, lizards and a plethora of birds. The trails are challenging, long and flowy and well-marked. With a simple plan before you ride can easily yield a 15-20-mile ride without riding the same trail twice. There are a few picnic tables strategically placed for a little break when needed. I have ridden here twice and both times the parking overflowed into the streets – yet while on the trails, I saw few if any other riders. This place is truly the place to go and get away from everything – if you ride with music, turn it off for a while and just listen to the natural sounds of “nature” at its best! One last note: If you’re looking for a place to take a true beginner or someone that is looking to build on their skills – this is the place. With the long green/blue trails and the limited contact with other riders, you’ll have a playground minus the typical psychological intimidation. Access to the preserve is free, but if you ride here often, hook up with SWAMP and put in a few hours, they’ll be greatly appreciative. No facilities at all and parking limited.

About The Preserve

A 5,723-acre preserve consisting largely of abandon phosphate pits with a large area of undisturbed scrub habitat. During the 1960s (and prior) the land was pitted with phosphate mines. The natural water flow had been altered from its original state into a series of stagnant pools. The park contains over 22 miles of biking trails. The area got its name from the three creeks that run through portions of the property—Bell Creek, Boggy Creek, and Fish Hawk Creek, all of which flow into the Alafia River. The preserve has a mix of wetland and upland habitat types, including pine flat- woods, wetland forests, and improved pasture areas. It is home to many rare species of plants and animals including flakelet fern and grass-pink orchids. Click for directions to trailhead: https://goo.gl/maps/geXEUTtjW3A2

All SWAMP trails are rated Green, Blue, Black and Double Black. The greens are flowy and mostly flat with high visibility. As the trails go up in ratings, they become a little more technical at each step with more elevation changes, tighter turns, limited line-of-sight, rocks & roots. Honestly, I haven’t really seen anything all that technical that I would label Black or even a Double Black, but I do understand the need for letting folks know they’re about to get into something their skill level may not be able to handle – it’s a good system and works well here. The rocks & roots are standard MTB terrain, easily navigable on most any hardtail bike, but can be a little slippery when wet. The Blacks & Double Blacks come with the warning of “extreme elevation changes”. While that phrase is somewhat subjective, here in these areas, means steep 10-ish-foot drops with immediate 10-ish-foot climbs, literally! Now add in some very deliberate sharp turns and man-made obstacles, yes, some skill is needed to negotiate these trails.

Don’t get me wrong, you still need to know how to ride, handle a bike and need to be in descent cardo shape to ride these trails. Like stated above, it’s different here and comes with its own set of challenges. Without the presence of altitude, you are constantly peddling and that in itself can make things a bit challenging. There is no gravity to get you over the rock & roots or up the other side of the “sudden” drops in the trail. So respect what it here or you may find yourself flat on your back or worse, off the side swimming in one of those gator filled ponds!

Greens and some Blues allow traffic in both directions, while some Blues and all Black are one-way. I did ask a local “who has the right of way”? In mountainous areas, the right of way goes to the rider climbing – but it’s all flat here…his response was, “Hmm, I don’t know, that’s a good question”. It’s also my understanding that the bike trails are for bikes only and hikers and runners are not supposed to be on them.

Ride Photos