The Pinellas Bayway trail is relatively short trail at a little less than 4 miles, but is a great connector between the bike lanes through the St Petersburg barrier islands, Fort DeSoto State Park, and the Skyway Bridge Trail. The Bayway trail is pretty straight forward, but does have a bridge crossing (Delgado Memorial Bridge) and major intersection (Pinellas Bayway and FL 679) that offer some challenges to riders who prefer to stay off of public streets.
Once you’ve made the turn towards Tierra Verde though, there is much more dedicated bike trail down to Fort DeSoto. There are areas where the trail shares the road, particularly across the bridge between Ilsa Del Sol and Tierra Verde. Fortunately, that bridge is currently being replaced by a new, higher span (planned to open Summer of 2020), that hopefully will include better accommodations for bicycles and pedestrians.
Once you cross the bridge, most of the trail on Tierra Verde is dedicated paved bicycle trail separated from the road. This is a nice, winding trail along the main road that is lined by palm trees and other vegetation. It’s not a shaded trail though, so make sure you wear plenty of sun screen.
The trail includes several beautiful views of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and the waters of the Pinellas National Wildlife Refuge.
Another highlight along the trail is the Tampa Baywatch headquarters building on the right side just before you enter Fort DeSoto. Tampa Bay Watch is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of the Tampa Bay estuary through scientific and educational programs. The headquarters building looks like kind of a lighthouse on the top of a nice South Carolina marsh house overlooking Shell Key.
From the Pinellas Bayway intersection the trail winds 6.5 miles down to the gate to Fort DeSoto State Park.
Fort DeSoto is the largest park within the Pinellas County Park System, and consists of 1,136 acres made up of five interconnected islands (keys). It includes over 7 miles of waterfront, almost three miles of beautiful white sandy beach, an 800-foot-long boat launching facility, 238-site family camping area with facilities, 6.8 mile, 12-foot-wide asphalt recreation trail, and an historic fort dating from the late 1890s war with Cuba.
Fort DeSoto has another 5-6 miles of paved bike trails, some of which are shared lanes on the road through the park. The Eastern end of the park offers what is probably the best view of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in the whole Tampa area.
There are a County Park Service office, concessions, and bike and kayak rentals available in Fort DeSoto, along with a ferry to Egmont Key. In addition to some of the Tampa area’s best and most scenic beaches, the park offers something for everyone who’s visiting the Tampa area.