If you’re looking for a hike in “the real Florida,” look no further than Hillsborough River State Park. The hiking trails skirt the edge of the Hillsborough River, a waterway born from the fresh water springs of Crystal River and the boggy marshlands of the Green Swamp. Along the river you might see great blue herons, egrets, turtles, alligators and if your really lucky you just might spot a pair of adorable river otters as they take their meals among the rapids. These are some of the only class II rapids you will see in this part of Florida, so take a seat on the bank and watch as millions of gallons of water crash over the limestone that litters the riverbed.
After a half-mile along the river, you arrive at the suspension bridge which takes across the water to 2 trail loops that wind through the forest mixed with oak, palm and cypress trees. If you have little ones with you or if you’re just interested in a short hike, Banyard Trail is an easy 1.1 miles. But if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, take the 3.4 mile Seminole Trail through the marshland forest giving you a taste of a true Florida hike.
This is one of my favorite parks in the area. It’s under an hour from Lakeland and it has a wide variety of things to see. My most memorable moment at the park came 4 years ago when Grant and I camped overnight. Since the park doesn’t open until 8am, we basically had the river to ourselves for the first hours of sunlight. It was wonderful. We watched the sunlight peak between the leaves and sat on the river rocks to meditate and take it all in before the crowds arrived. This was the moment we saw the otters swimming, playing and eating breakfast. We watched them for 30 minutes or so until they swam on down the river and out of sight.
This park has a special place in my heart, which is why I chose it for Spark Explore’s first ever hiking meet-up earlier this month. We had an awesome group of people and had a blast exploring the park together!
Hillsborough River State Park
◈ Hiking Trails ◈
7.3 miles total
*We hiked 5 miles*
◈ What to Bring ◈
◈ Park Activities ◈
◈ Cost ◈