The 5.5-mile Lake Minneola Scenic Trail in Clermont, Florida has the highest elevation of any rails-to-trails project in the state. As we were driving this high ridge area, the GPS indicated 166 feet above sea level -- high for Florida -- and we encountered more hills than any other of the dozen-plus Florida trails we've biked -- which made for a good 15 mile hilly workout before we meet our Elderhostel program for a behind-the-scenes look at the Disney kingdoms.
We began at the Minneola trailhead at 315 E. Madison St. From Highway 50, head north on Highway 27 to Washington and turn right (east), go to Bloxam and turn right again, and then left on Madison to the parking lot (signs point out each turn.) You'll first pedal the uphill access trail to get up to the old railroad grade/trail right-of-way carved out partway up the hill. Turn right to go to Lake Minneola and downtown Clermont, or left to get to the connecting South Lake Trail, which takes you to the West Orange Trail.
Dense stands of tree hide the residences for a ways...
...but soon you'll reach the lake and follow its south edge.
...including the beach and a nicely done park ...
...and if you head up the hill a block or two to the historic district downtown, you might run into their farmer's market as we did on a Sunday morning...
Heading back the other direction, you'll pass the park where we parked and then reach the South Lake Trail which gives views of the rolling hillsides and takes you on a roller-coaster ride up and down such hills as it heads to its connection with the west Orange Trail.
This new connector might be an indicator of trails of the future. The posts marking the half-mile increments, seen below, also include the GPS coordinates!
The connecting of the trails creates more than 30 miles of contiguous recreational trails between the counties of Lake and Orange and the municipalities of Minneola, Clermont, Oakland, Winter Garden, Ocoee and Apopka and provide a spectacular array of tranquil lake and rolling hill vistas, as well as enough total distance to encourage a host of running, walking and biking events.
Additional trailhead locations are at Clermont Waterfront Park (100 Third St.) and West Orange Trail County Line Station (17914 Old County Road 50.)
More info and map