This is the first of what will become a catalog of Tallahassee area trail reports. We want to start with Munson Hills because it’s so approachable and accessible for all ages and skill levels. Hard-core cyclists will enjoy how fast it can be. Recreational cyclists and nature enthusiasts will enjoy the scenery of this classic upland pine forest, which is maintained with regular prescribed burns. There are several interesting sinks and the forest itself is lovely. Depending on the time of year you can also see wildflowers, butterflies, huge fox squirrels, and lots of birds including the red-cockaded woodpecker (endangered).
The Munson Hills trail system is accessible from 3 trail-heads. The first and most obvious is from the parking lot at the top of the St. Marks Trail (Capital Circle and Woodville Highway interchange) where you can view the map featured at the top of this post. Scan the tree line and you’ll see the trail (Papercup Trail).
The next access is about a mile down the St. Marks Trail. You can’t really miss it. There’s drinking water here, and 3 trail options. The right fork and middle fork are the Munson Trail; ride either way without taking any side trails and you’re going to end up right back here. The left fork is the East Connector (to the Twilight Trail).
The last access is from the back of the sports fields at J. Lewis Hall Sr. Sports Complex. Ride along the tree line behind the fields and you’ll see the trail. This trail-head puts you on the Twilight Trail.
The Munson Trail forms a 7 mile loop. Terrain varies from loose sand to hard pack red clay with some rolling hilly sections, but no significant climbing (we’re on the coastal plain here). It’s fast and flowy. If you’re new to mountain biking, this is a great place to get a feel for things because there are so few technical features on the trail; if you’re an experienced pro you’re going to have fun with speed and weaving through the tight spots. There are a few small jump sections where you can get a little air with the right speed. Both directions work, so when you get bored with one, try the other. In fact, different parts of the trail are better depending on which direction you’re coming from. The clay sections were recently (within the last year and half) reworked by Trail Dynamics (out of Asheville, NC) and have cut down on the soft sandy sections (there are still a few, particularly during dry spells). There are two shortcuts/sidetrails: Tall Pines and the Luge.
The Tall Pines Shortcut cuts the trail in half from the end of Papercup. Other than the first section (fun hard-pack descent) it’s a pretty natural path through the woods.
Luge is all new from the Trail Dynamics modification and is a super-fun weavey flow on hard-pack clay.
Most riders ride out Papercup from the parking lot and then do a lap or two with the Luge thrown in, or one Munson lap plus a half-lap by taking the Tall Pines shortcut.
If you want a longer ride, Twilight is worth checking out. Other than some short sections on the connectors to it, it’s totally unchanged since before the rework, so plan on loose sand (it’s good after a rain). Give yourself time too, it’s a fairly long trail by local standards. The Twilight loop itself is 10 miles, and both connectors are each about a half mile.
OK, now you know, so grab a bike and get out there.