Best Place to Mountain-Bike (2006)

Markham Park

You don't have to be a geography genius to realize that Florida -- with a not-so-majestic peak of 350 feet above sea level -- is incredibly vertically challenged. As states go, ours resembles a slice of Swiss cheese floating in water. So how, you may ask, is there any decent off-road biking in these parts, let alone a spot that reigns supreme? Answer: What Markham Park lacks in verticality it more than makes up for in technicality. Manufactured from fill leftover from when the park's lakes were first dredged, trail conditions range from rocky to hard-packed sand. And with a combined distance (novice, intermediate, expert, and pro) of roughly ten miles spread across some 90 acres, these trails ride like and resemble a mini version of the northern trail Razorback -- undeniably the best in the state. According to the weekend warriors who flock here en masse, Markham offers something for everyone: fast, flat sections punctuated by short technical climbs and technical descents, with some double-track roads for newbies. The climbs may not be long and the downhill drops not overly steep, but designers have cleverly thrown in water breaks, steps, logs, rocks, small ramps, and a host of other obstacles that place more of a premium on how well you handle your bike going down, as opposed to how fast you go. Seriously intense, dude! And upon spotting trail names like Middle Earth, you would totally be forgiven for thinking you were nowhere near the Sunshine State -- right up until the moment a swarm of mutant-size mosquitoes tries to eat you alive. Which reminds us: Bug spray is as essential as a water bottle. The park is open in winter from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; summer from 8:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Entrance fee is $1 per person ages five and older.


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