Tampa-St. Petersburg is known as a major metropolitan area located on the west coast of Florida. But hikers and naturalists also understand that dotted throughout Tampa and its surrounding areas are an abundance of trails for the avid explorer.
These attractions are examples of the uniqueness of Florida’s biodiversity that have captivated the inhabitants and charmed visitors for as long as locals can remember.
A rare opportunity to head downhill can be found in Alafia River State Park.
Alafia River State Park located in Lithia is open daily to the public from 08:00 AM until sundown. The park does not charge an entrance fee and pets are welcome as long as they are kept on a leash.
According to the park’s website, this particular area is a paradise for hikers as well as horseback riders and mountain bikers who love coming here to enjoy the many trails that begin from a central point heading downhill, a rarity in Florida!
Discover the sights and sounds of the Alafia River in Alderman’s Ford Nature Preserve.
The Alafia River twists and turns through Alderman’s Ford Nature Preserve, carving its way through the landscape, the water’s song calming the mind and bringing peace and contentment to the heart and spirit – sound therapy.
Trekkers familiar with the area know that here the trails offer the hiker the chance to watch the birds and listen to their song or cool off under an ancient Oak tree.
The main trail named the “Durant” trail is 3.3 miles long and designated by Florida Hikes as moderate with the exception of points where ascending the river bluffs is required.
Enjoy a day of pure heaven on Caladesi Island.
Caladesi Island offers easy to moderate hikes along a system of trails that total 2.9 miles, all of which begin and end at a point called “Island Trail”.
Veer off to the “Hammock Trail” that takes the hiker through one of the few remaining patches of virgin slash pine in Central Florida then to Dunedin Pass where the sun lights up the water.
Up ahead await mangroves and a lagoon that is home to a variety of birds, including snowy egrets and the endangered roseate spoonbill that make this space the perfect place for peace, contentment and reflection.
Where can I watch eagles nesting in the Tampa area?
Eagle Lake Park is located near Tampa in Largo. From the moment you reach the beginning of the main trail you are hit with the sight of tall pine trees that create dense woods.
The songbirds sing to the hiker, welcoming them into the forest and down to the banks of the river where the Cypress trees stand.
If you are lucky enough to find your way to the bald eagle’s nest located in one of the tallest pines, you may see one resting on a branch or swooping down to catch a meal in the water.
Yes, you can experience rapids in Florida!
Hillsborough River Hiking Trails (located in Hillsborough River State Park) lists six miles of some of the best hiking trails in the state for visitors to enjoy.
Shorter loops on the upper level of the park or lower ones that take the hiker through shady trails lined with old Oak trees are both short in length and easy to walk. Whichever path you choose you will enjoy a rarity in Florida – rapids!
What makes the Hillsborough River Trails so special?
The river rapids created by the tannic water that flow over the limestone rocks makes the “Nature Trail” a place of serenity.
Hikers can head to the “Baynard Trail” where a suspension bridge awaits the traveler underneath the canopy of the forest to an open area a short distance ahead where the fragrance of wild citrus groves act as the perfume of the woods, eventually reaching the “Florida Trail”. From there the hike takes you through sections of cypress, oak, and hickory that have stood the test of time.
What can I see in the Weedon Island Preserve?
According to Wikipedia, the Weedon Island Preserve, located in the western part of Tampa Bay not only contains several ecosystems, but it is also an archeological site for early indigenous tribes of Florida.
This park is popular among nature lovers and water enthusiasts who can hike 4.7 miles of trails while on self-guided bird and wildlife watching walks. This preserve has a couple miles of roads that are ADA friendly for hikes of easy and short distance.
What’s the best thing about Morris Bridge Park?
Situated in Thonotosassa is Morris Bridge Park, home to 14.4 miles of trails of easy to moderate levels of difficulty so hikers of all ranks can enjoy the trek.
Alltrails.com recommends that hikers visit the park between October and May. The best thing about Morris Bridge Park is that it allows our furry friends to accompany us on our hikes as long as they are on a leash no longer than six feet in length.
Are you looking for more resources to learn about hiking in the Tampa Bay area?
YouTube has short, informative videos on trekking in Tampa. Watch this YouTube Video to learn more about the Morris Bridge Park.
The video allows the viewer to see what the park is like, specifically the “Bald Cypress Trail” and gain an appreciation ahead of a visit to one of the many beautiful destinations for hiking in the Tampa area.
By now we hope you feel well-informed about hiking opportunities on the Suncoast.
In most places in the US, it would be impossible for a hiker to stumble upon an indigo snake crossing a path or an alligator lazing in the sun on a warm summer’s day, fully aware of one’s presence, yet perfectly happy to share its home with a human. But in Tampa, it’s just part of a normal day hiking.