The Spanish conquistadors and explorers who discovered Pensacola and Perdido Key didn’t ride bicycles. Otherwise, they might still be here, cruising the coast, giggling — and forgetting about that whole rest of the New World thing.
Whatever you pedal, you can find your ride here in the Pensacola Bay Area. Attack steep, snaky trails on a white-knuckle woodlands mountain bike ride. Ride the slipstream in a peloton flashing through winding coastal roads. Or, take a slow ride. Cruise beach roads or scenic downtown boulevards through 450 years of history — with pit stops for fine local cuisine and refreshments. (Honestly, I prefer Option #3).
Saddle up, and let’s ride!
Perdido Key: Flora-Bama and Bridge to Beach Loop
Start your bike trek at Johnson Beach, Perdido Key’s section of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.
A short family-friendly ride (a 4-mile loop) takes you through the dunes with water on both sides. There are numerous boardwalks where you can peel off the road and enjoy a walk along the Gulf or the Intracoastal Waterway.
But if you want to stretch it out to 10 miles, take the road out to hang a right on Perdido Key Drive. Then take a right on Gongora Drive. You’ll be on a bike-friendly road that leads under the bridge and loops back along the Lost Key golf course and beach homes.
It will take you back out to turn left on Perdido Key Drive for a straight shot to Johnson Beach. I logged the course here on Map My Ride. I also created a longer ride from the Flora-Bama Lounge to Johnson Beach.
Other spots? Cruise Perdido Key State Recreation Area.
Pedal Pickens to Pensacola Beach: Miles of History and Coastal Beauty
There is something special about cruising through history and nature at Fort Pickens and Pensacola Beach. This is a ride that you really can dial up your distance. Take a family-friendly slow ride past ancient dunes, Pensacola Bay and the Gulf. Wind through campgrounds, and stop to check out the Civil War fortifications.
Want to go long? Take Fort Pickens Road and roll east. It’s nine miles out to the fort gate, then ride past Pensacola Beach to Via DeLuna and leave civilization again — for an eastern section of Gulf Islands National Seashore. It’s a stunning view, and thankfully flat!
If you reach Opal Beach, you’ll be at a good turnaround point for a 40-mile loop back to the fort.
Plus, there are plenty of restaurant stops along the way!
The Argo Trails: Get Your Adrenaline Fix
The University of West Florida has about 20 miles of trails for mountain biking, trail runs, hiking and horseback riding. Two loops contain trails thrillingly geared for riders of all levels — including families. Riders share the trails with equestrians and hikers, but no motors are allowed. Ahhhh, nirvana.
Some trails are open for two-way traffic, while others are one-way only. The Main Loop contains the more challenging route, while the Games Loop has a trail suitable for kids.
There are steep, winding descents, small creek crossings (often after rains) boardwalks and even a banked wooden curve that can test your skills and nerve. The trails have such names as the Mountain Bike Ladder, Spooky Trail, Hangman, Centipede and The Hip. Some of these loops can be challenging!
Check out the UWF Trail Map, or get into the details on the Pensacola Off-Road Cyclist website at porc.org.
Note: The trail is located at 11969 Pate St, Pensacola, FL 32514. Pate is a private road, but the gravel parking area for the trailhead is open to the public.
Take a Historic Slow Ride Downtown
Slow rides are fast, er, slowly becoming a past-time in Pensacola.
The group Bike Pensacola organizes a monthly mass ride to cruise Pensacola locales. The leisurely cruises roll through scenic streets of Pensacola's many historic neighborhoods — often with a top for refreshments.
But you can make your own slow ride. You can cruise to DeLuna Landing at Pensacola Bay, then ride out along the Bayfront. Or, take a turn into the downtown streets past historic homes, museums, shops and wonderful bars and restaurants.
Didn’t pack a bike? Rent one downtown at Emerald Coast Tours. They also offer 2-hour bike and Segway tours of downtown.
Ride the Scenic Loops
Serious riders know there is more to Pensacola for those who like to stack some mileage.
Scenic Highway is a popular and spectacular route along Pensacola and Escambia Bay, with sweeping curves, rolling terrain and steep (for here) climbs.
It’s also a busy thoroughfare, a branch of U.S. 90. It’s least busy on a Sunday morning. There is a popular route that takes you from Scenic to a loop around Pensacola’s airport.
Saddle up, folks. Let’s ride!