When we first moved to Florida I searched the area for hiking spots near our house. Most of the nearby hiking trails were less than a mile long, so hiking didn’t seem a viable exercise option. During the last couple of years though,I missed my woodland activities, so, I signed up for a hiking trip to Greece. New boots in need of breaking in, I began the hunt for places to hike, preferably, with some hills and less than two-hours away by car. Ah you say, hills in Florida, that’s not going to happen. Well there are some, apparently, though a bit of a drive.
I set as my goal to have a 100 miles logged onto my shoes by mid-April. Admittedly, some of that would be treadmill hill climbing.
As of this post I have reached about one-third of my goal. My last couple of trips were up to north Hillsborough County to the Hillsborough River. In order to hike the river, you need to know who owns the land. The lands surrounding the river may belong to a county (Hillsborough, Pasco or Hernando), a municipality, the State (as State Parks or State Forest), Water Management District (affectionately known as Swift Mud by us locals), or even the Federal Government. The SWFWMD site and the Fish and Wildlife Site are the most helpful in choosing trails as they have the most up-to-date information. But…and it is a big but, the descriptions of hikes are often somewhat vague. Google and other online maps may or may not show all parks from all jurisdictions. You may want to check alltrails. com , for the reviews. However, their maps seem to be out-of-date, as do the existing books.
I needed hikes that would be greater than five miles, so the SWFWMD properties seemed to fit the bill. But beware, a lot of the trail here is paved. The unpaved trail is a lightly used hiker-biker trail. The best parking area is the Flatwoods Site. After paying your $2, walk about a quarter-mile, to the Central Kiosk where there is water and everyone gathers.
If you need information there is usually someone who is familiar with the area. From here you can do up to sixteen miles hike on the Main Eubanks Trail, a loop trail.
The trail here is well-marked with numbered posts (this wasn’t true at the other parking lots where I couldn’t find the numbered posts). February is a great time to hike as there are no bugs and the humidity is manageable.
About ten miles north of the SWFWMD property (or according to one map just an extension) is Hillsborough River State Park. The park has a number of well-maintained stacked trails, including part of the Florida Trail.
There are lovely old trees and many flowers and quite a few remnants of the Civilian Conservation Corps as this park was one of ten Florida Parks built by the CCC.
The trail here follows the river so has some awesome views. Three stacked trails, including the nature trail, the Barnyard Trail and the Seminole Trail allowed for a seven-mile goal on my visit to the park (could have gone ten). It was slightly hilly.