Fresh-air fitness is beneficial for the mind, body and soul. Period.
Spending time outdoors has numerous health benefits. According to a 2018 study from England’s University of East Anglia, for example, it can reduce the risk of adult-onset diabetes, stress and high blood pressure. Thankfully, more than 40% of this master-planned community is dedicated green space, which makes open-air enrichment one of the many perks of living in Lakewood Ranch. Beyond the area’s 10,000 acres of lakes, preserves and parks, the community is home to 150 miles of multisurface trails and signature sidewalks ripe for activity by all ages.
“We have 6- to 8-foot-wide sidewalks for the casual biker, as well as for walkers and joggers, that connect everything in the Ranch — from our villages to our schools, Main Street, shopping plazas and our six community parks,” Lakewood Ranch Ambassador Greg Spring says.
Although pedestrian connectivity is available pretty much anywhere you go on the Ranch, the hard and soft surface trails throughout the community parks offer the best avenue to exercise among nature. So if you’ve yet to experience how nature nurtures, grab a friend, your kids or your pup to hike, jog, stroll or pedal among the tamer Florida wilderness that makes the Ranch so gorgeously green. Or feel free to go solo and marvel at great the blue herons, sandhill cranes, egrets and anhinga (those funny birds that always seem to be drying their wings) that you see along the way. It’s a stunning day in the neighborhood, and here’s our insight on some of the multisurface nature trails and paths among the parks of Lakewood Ranch.
Greenbrook Adventure Park Trails
13010 Adventure Place, Bradenton
Start here if you simply want to explore Lakewood Ranch’s green spaces sans tour or specific plan. The Greenbrook trail is about a mile-long shell trail going from the park pavilion to Lorraine Road. It winds by small ponds and behind some of the homes in Greenbrook. The ponds in Greenbrook are often visited by egrets and herons, and a short part of the trail winds through a wooded area with oak trees, palmettos and a wooden bridge over a wetland.
If the kids want to ride scooters while the parents stroll behind, this is the trail for that. Take advantage of the 6-foot-wide sidewalk that goes through Heron’s Nest and connects Summerfield with Greenbrook. Enter on the Summerfield side by way of Summerfield Parkway to Summerfield Lake.
Heron’s Nest Nature Park Trails
By way of Greenbrook Adventure Park
If you are looking for a varied, vast and scenic trail experience, Heron’s Nest is the place to be. Located south of Summerfield Lake off Adventure Place, the park has some of the most pristine trails in Lakewood Ranch, some of which have even played host to weddings. There are two approximately 20-acre lakes and an old oak tree standing between with connecting trails. One of the lakes has a small island that is basically a ginormous bird’s nest. Birds are especially visible early morning and late afternoon. Heron’s Nest trails are ideal for dog-walking and sunset-watching. On hot days, the shadiest trail is through the old oak stand just south of Summerfield Lake. Look for the majestic oak with a pine tree growing right in the middle of it. Those who require frequent respites should head to Heron’s Nest Lake, a half-mile trail with three benches along the way.
James L. Patton Park Trails
5725 White Eagle Blvd., Bradenton
Located across from Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church, off White Eagle Boulevard, Patton Park offers serene, quiet waterview trails. Lakewood Ranch’s newest and largest park, Patton was designed around four lakes. The sunny paved pedestrian path around Patton Lake is water-centric and offers vast views of reflections over calm lake water at every turn and over every bridge. There is also a natural surface trail to venture farther around the lakes. Here you are bound to see ample birdlife hanging out on the bridges fishing the lake. If you are interested in a water-walk combo, bring your kayak or canoe because this park offers a launch point to take advantage of the water as well. Oh, and don’t forget your sunscreen; there is little shade along the main path.
Bob Gardner Community Park Trails
2710 White Eagle Blvd., Bradenton
This 45-acre park’s trail covers almost a mile from its main entrance on White Eagle Boulevard west to Wood Fern Trail. Expect views of wetland preserves and conservation areas and migratory birds passing overhead. Halfway through the park, take the Discovery Trail detour, a shell path that winds through a conservation area filled with saw palmettos, slash pines and live oaks. It’s an easy way to immerse yourself in nature down to breathing in the fresh green smell. Along the Gardner Park trails, there are also plenty of spots for a picnic. Be prepared, the kids (and you) will no doubt want to take a few swings on the gravity rail. If you want to add some oomph to your nature walk, bring frisbees, and enjoy the frisbee golf course. If you bring Fido, be sure to have him try his paws on the agility course, then take a dip in the doggy wading lake.
Braden River Nature Park
Off Lakewood Ranch Boulevard just north of Hidden River Trail
A lesser-known spot, the Braden River Nature Park contains 2 miles of trails that are a bit off the beaten path. Located on the west side of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard between Riverwalk and Summerfield, trails go around Trophy (a bass-fishing locale) and Otter lakes. Walkers and bikers have created the trails over the years, and as a result, there are plenty of little paths that wind off the main trail into the woods. Trek with caution because these trails are fairly wild and often contain thick forests. The trails eventually connect to the tamer Heron's Nest in Summerfield.
6402 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., Bradenton
If you need a place to walk or jog that mixes nature and buzzing community activity, Summerfield Park, next to Town Hall North, contains a short paved path that loops around all the sports fields, courts and playgrounds, which creates the perfect opportunity to let older kids play while you get your outdoor exercise on.