ARSP was the not the first IMBA epic that I have ever done, but it was the first one since this blog and quest started, almost a year ago. Maybe that is why I compare so many of the IMBA Epics that I have done since to Alafia! Or maybe Alafia has been really put together really well.
I have many more IMBA Epics under my belt now, so how does Alafia stack up now? The facilities are top notch, super nice restroom, a big pavilion, a bike wash and some shaded parking in a decent sized parking lot, and a big overflow parking lot. One could easily get spoiled! Many IMBA Epics are in the middle of no where and many riders think that is how it should be. It seems that IMBA as updated their definition on an Epic again. "The 2013 class of Epics celebrates true backcountry riding experiences that are technically and physically challenging, more than 80 percent singletrack and at least 20 miles in length."
That leaves out ARSP. To give it's due is now considered one of the
"Hall of Fame Epics Rides"
"We have also created an IMBA Epics Hall of Fame to recognize the rides we have honored in the past but no longer meet the new criteria"
IMBA has yet another category called "Model Trails", no trails are listed yet, but I think that is where Alafia would fit in best. There is no "Shuttle" option, but add a pump track and it could be a Ride Center as well! I personally do not think shuttling should be a necessity, but a "Ride Center" is supposed to have it all. But I digress. Alafia has really well marked and maintained trails. A beginner can ride part (many bail out points) or all of the several miles of the Easy Green trails, plus fire roads. An Intermediate rider can get a 10 mile ride in, on mostly Intermediate Blue trails. An advanced rider can add some great Difficult Black diamond or Double Black Diamond trails into that Intermediate ride for a challenge or do them all for a good 15 mile, 1.5 to 2 hour ride.
You can easily stack loops on loops or loop back to do a trails, that you really like, over and over again.
So what am I trying to say? Well I agree that ARSP is a few miles shy of an epic and does not have that back country feeling. On any given day there are a number of riders in the parking lot and on weekends the overflow parking is put to good use. Hardly backcountry. But go in very off times and you will feel more isolated and may even see an alligator, wild hogs, turtles and armadillos.
Anyway you slice it ARSP is a must ride if you are anywhere in central Florida. It is a Model of how a trail system should be set up and maintained. I really like the One way trails, this really reduces those head on OH SHIT moments. During high traffic times, you still get wrong wayers and hikers on the MTB trails, so keep that in mind. Also to mix things up, the North Creek trails is ran in reverse direction on Wednesdays.
For a more backcountry feel, just several minutes away is Balm/Boyette, more mileage, smaller parking lot and just one composting restroom (albeit large)
We docked the motorhome at Hidden River in Riverview. All the amenities that you need and just on the edge of the city congestion to the north and west, gets rural quick to the southeast. Closer that Brandon and less traffic.
Here is a nice write up on blog at SingleTracks.com
For directions and other great info click here http://www.singletracks.com/bike-trails/alafia-river-state-park.html