Take a Hike! Three Great Trails Near Tampa Bay

The fall is in full swing – the nights are cooler, the skies are clearer, and the bugs have started to die down. It is the perfect time to grab your walking shoes, water bottle, snacks, and go for a hike. Not sure where to go? No worries! Below are three great options to explore the great outdoors.

Hillsborough River State Park: One of the Tampa Bay area’s oldest and most beloved state parks, Hillsborough River State Park has a 5.8-mile trail system as its centerpiece.  Opened in 1938 and built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, Hillsborough River State Park includes multiple connected trails with scenic overlooks, bridges, and benches, that immerse you beneath the shade of ancient live oaks, grand cypress trees, tall cabbage palms, and jungle-like ferns. The soothing sound of the Hillsborough River as it runs over limestone and through the brush guides you along the way as the park and nature trails showcase the beauty of nature. Rental bikes are available to explore some off-road trails.

Lettuce Lake Park: At the north edge of Tampa, Lettuce Lake Park is a perfect getaway for hikers, bicyclists, and picnickers. Nestled along the Hillsborough River, Lettuce Lake Park protects 240 acres of tall cypress trees, swamps, and ponds dense with water lettuce. A 1.8-mile boardwalk system leads you through massive cypress trees, coves, herons, and alligators. In the fall, the red maple trees burst with crimson. The jewel of Lettuce Leaf Park, however, is the observation tower, where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the Hillsborough River and the abundant park.

 

Myakka River State Park: Located nine miles east of Sarasota on State Road 72 is the Myakka River State Park. One of Florida’s oldest and largest state parks, Myakka protects one of the state’s most diverse natural areas. Hikers can explore trails that cross large expanses of rare Florida prairie. Visitors can enjoy wildlife viewing from a boardwalk that stretches out over the Upper Myakka Lake, then take to the treetops with a stroll along the canopy walkway. For a more intense backpacking adventure, try the Myakka Hiking Trail in the heart of the park. This 39-mile loop provides a mosaic of habitats to explore, including grasslands, open prairies, and shady oak hammocks.  The Myakka River, designated as a Florida Wild and Scenic River, flows through 58 square miles of wetlands, prairies, hammocks, and pinelands and provides ample opportunities for boating, fishing, canoeing, and kayaking.

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