15 more Tampa Bay-area trails to hike, bike, explore

·10 min read

Falling a bit behind on your New Year’s resolution to get out and explore Tampa Bay? We’re here to help, and the solution may be within walking distance.

Last summer, native Floridian Mari Faiello and a few fellow Tampa Bay Times staffers hiked some of the area’s best trails. And we quickly learned a second installment would be necessary. This time Mari struck out on her own (unless you count her 3-year-old German Shepherd, Thor).

There likely will be even more trails to tackle. In the meantime, enjoy some of these gems we discovered.

East Tampa

Alafia Scrub Nature Preserve

This preserve offers a nice, shady spot behind a populated area of Riverview. Get your exercise in without getting sunburned or breaking too much of a sweat. Be careful not to slip on the foliage or trip over tree roots. Around the halfway point of the loop, take the steps out to the mini pier to see some of the Alafia River. With all of the dirt and foliage, this trail might not fare well after a rainy day/afternoon, so it’s best to hit it up on a sunnier day.

Address: 10243 Elbow Bend Rd., Riverview, Florida, 33578

Distance: River Bend Trail Loop is 1.5 miles; River Bend Trail Short Loop is 1.1 miles

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Amenities: Dog friendly, no restrooms/water

Trail mix: There’s no water onsite to cool down, so don’t miss the nearby Dairy Queen.

Fish Hawk Creek Preserve North Loop

This unpaved loop is well-shaded and provides nice views of the water. Follow the white arrows and numbered posts (one through eight) to stay on the right path. There may be standing water spots, but not large enough to cause any panic. Just wet socks.

Address: 3931 Lithia Springs Rd., Lithia, Florida, 33547

Distance: Trail is a 3.1-mile loop

Hours: 8 a.m.-7 p.m. during the spring/summer; 8 a.m.-6 p.m. in the fall/winter

Amenities: $2 per vehicle, dog friendly, picnic area closed, restrooms available

Trail mix: When Lithia Springs re-open (closed temporarily during the pandemic), they’re good for a dip and a day trip.

Golden Aster Scrub Nature Preserve Trail

Break out the sunblock and a good hat. The trail is sandy, so prepare accordingly. There are a couple of nice water views about 0.5 miles in and an even better one about 1.5 miles in. With the palm fronds and scarce shade, this low-traffic trail reminded me a lot of Chito Branch Reserve in Lithia.

Address: 12181 East Bay Rd., Gibsonton, Florida, 33534

Distance: Trail is 2.6 miles

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Amenities: Dog friendly, no water, portable restroom (sans toilet paper)

Trail mix: If you go in the morning, stop in at Keke’s Breakfast Cafe on US-301.

Triple Creek Nature Preserve

The secluded dirt/sand/mud trail may push novice hikers a bit out of their comfort zone. If you opt to wear tennis shoes, bring plastic bags because you’ll definitely run into unavoidable water spots. If you opt for sandals, be careful of the debris and tons of sand at the start and end of your trek. Thor still hates water, but he navigated through the wet spots — and over the creek. Something to keep in mind if you bring the pooch. Keep an eye out for snakes in muddy areas, and pay attention to the red spots on posts and trees to stay on the “path.”

Address: 13305 Balm Boyette Rd. Riverview, Florida, 33579

Distance: Trail is 2.6 miles

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Amenities: No restrooms or water, dog friendly

Trail Mix: Stop by the Publix on Fishhawk Boulevard for a Pub Sub after your walk.


Lake Rogers Park Trail

If I lived closer to Odessa, I’d be at this park at least once a week. The swinging bench that overlooks the lake is the perfect place to relax with a book. The natural vegetation can obscure the view a bit in spots. Take the red trail to stay closer to the water. It’s also not a bad idea to wear a hat, though there is a nice breeze off the water. And it’s prepped for pets (there’s a doggy bowl by the water cooler station). A canoe launch at the start of the loop adds an extra way to explore.

Address: 9010 North Mobley Rd. Odessa, Florida, 33556

Distance: Trail is a 2.4-mile loop

Hours: 7 a.m.-6 p.m.

Amenities: $2 per vehicle (cash or card), dog friendly, portable restrooms, picnic tables, park benches

Trail mix: Swing by the nearby Dunkin’ Donuts to relax with a Coolatta.

Violet Cury Nature Preserve Loop

If you’re looking for another water spot, try Violet Cury. Be careful not to slip on leaves and bring a walking stick to help avoid stepping on a snake. Look out for trail posts (white diamonds) and yellow paint on the trees to stay on the right path. This might not be the best option after a rainy day.

Address: 1802 Sinclair Hills Rd. Lutz, Florida, 33549

Distance: Trail is 2.2 miles

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Amenities: Dog friendly, bike rack available, no restrooms/water

Trail mix: Can’t beat a custard from the nearby Culver’s.

Palm Harbor/Dunedin

John Chesnut Park Loop

If you’re not looking to wander too far off the beaten path, opt for this paved trail. There’s no sign that says where to start or end, but it wraps around the outskirts of the park. There’s plenty of shade and a dog park, too. Stay to the left when entering the park, and take in the view of Lake Tarpon from the observation tower.

Address: 2200 East Lake Rd., Palm Harbor, Florida, 34685

Distance: Trail is a 2.7-mile loop

Hours: Daily, 7 a.m. to sunset

Amenities: Observation tower, restrooms (on weekends), picnic tables, dogs on leashes

Trail mix: Sip on a Strawberry Açai Refresher, with lemonade, from Starbucks.

Pinellas Trail at Wall Springs Park

Wall Springs Park is another gem with a water view. It’s an easy, paved loop with great amenities to spend the day. The best part is the lookout toward the back of the loop (and Boggy Bayou is just a great name). Bring snacks or lunch; plenty of picnic tables around.

Address: 3725 Desoto Blvd., Palm Harbor, Florida, 34683

Distance: Trail is a 1.1-mile loop

Hours: Daily, 7 a.m. to sunset

Amenities: Observation tower, dog friendly (except on piers and docks), wheelchair accessible, restrooms and picnic tables

Trail mix: Grain and Berry is a nice brunch spot (opt for the Caprese Deliciousness Avocado Toast).


Boca Ciega Millennium Park Boardwalk & Recreation Trail

The park offers visitors a nice recreation trail with an oversized sidewalk to allow walkers, runners, roller-bladers and bikers to share the area comfortably. There’s a playground toward the back of the park, too. Take the boardwalk to the observation tower, which overlooks Pineapple Island.

Address: 12410 74th Ave. North (Old Oakhurst Rd.), Seminole, Florida, 33772

Distance: Boardwalk Trail is .7 miles; Recreation Trail is 1.1 miles

Hours: Daily, 7 a.m. to sunset

Amenities: Restrooms, pavilions, picnic tables, benches, water fountains, dog friendly (except on boardwalk, but there is a dog park), playground, wheelchair accessible, observation tower

Trail mix: If you have kids who enjoy playgrounds, swing by Seminole’s City Park off of Ridge Road.

Lake Seminole Park Trail

This is another trail I’d hit up twice a week with Thor if it was closer. The park is well-kept and free. The oversized paved loop allows walkers, runners, roller-bladers and bikers to choose between 1 or 2 miles. If you’re lucky (possibly unlucky?), you’ll see an alligator in the nearby pond. And a baseball/softball park is across the parking lot from the trail next to the restrooms.

Address: 10015 Park Blvd. North, Seminole, Florida, 33777

Distance: Trail is a paved 1- or 2-mile loop

Hours: Daily, 7 a.m. to sunset

Amenities: Restrooms, pavilions, picnic tables, benches, water fountains, dog friendly, playgrounds, canoe launch, wheelchair accessible

Trail mix: Bring your kids — and kayaks — to the Seminole Waterfront Park nearby.

North Tampa/Zephyrhills

Hillsborough River State Park River Rapids Nature Trail

The River Rapids Trail is one of four located within the park. The shade extends deep into the canopy in spots, but it doesn’t feel like you’re wandering aimlessly. The path is unpaved, but distinguishable from the surrounding trees and plants. There are some lovely views of the river from the lookout, boardwalks and suspension bridge. If Thor hadn’t been with me, I would have brought a book and listened to the rapids at the lookout while sitting on one of the many benches in that area.

Address: 15402 U.S. 301 North Thonotosassa, Florida, 33592

Distance: Trail is a 1.4-mile loop

Hours: Daily, 8 a.m. to sundown

Amenities: $4-$6 per vehicle, dog friendly, pavilions, picnic tables, restrooms

Trail mix: Stop at the IHOP off of Morris Bridge Road for a short stack.

Morris Bridge Conservation Park

Perfect for a short journey. It’s also good for fishing off the nearby piers and kayaking/canoeing. The wooden boardwalk loops around part of the park and offers views of the Hillsborough River while introducing you to the swampier parts of Florida nature under plenty of shade.

Address: 13630 Morris Bridge Rd. Thonotosassa, Florida, 33592

Distance: Trails include a 0.3-mile boardwalk loop, a 14.4-mile unpaved loop and others

Hours: Fall/winter, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Spring/summer, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Amenities: $2 per vehicle, restrooms, piers, boardwalk, dog friendly

Trail mix: If you’re into biking, swing by Flatwoods Park, which features a 7-mile paved loop.


Colt Creek State Park Loop

Horseback riding is an option in this park. This grass trail is well-maintained and takes you deep into the pine tree forest on the preserve, and another goes around Mac Lake. If you’re up for a challenge, bring your mountain bike out on the loop.

Address: 16000 State Rd. 471 Lakeland, Florida, 33809

Distance: Trail is a 7.3-mile loop

Hours: Daily, 8 a.m. to sundown

Amenities: $3-$4 per car, dog friendly, picnic pavilion and benches, restrooms

Trail mix: Lakeland Ice Cream Company is known for it Cotton Candy Burrito.

Lakeland Highlands Scrub

I’m still not a fan of trails that aren’t marked well, but if you’re the adventurous type, explore away. The 551-acre area includes a 2.8-mile loop and a short .6-mile trail (Shady Oak), among other options.

Address: 6998 Lakeland Highlands Rd. Lakeland, Florida, 33813

Distance: Trails range from 0.6 miles to 2.8 miles.

Hours: 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Daylight savings: 5:30 a.m.-8 p.m.

Amenities: No water, dog friendly, portable restrooms available, picnic areas open

Trail mix: Stop at HTeaO for a delicious coconut tea.


Robinson Preserve

It doesn’t take long to figure out why this preserve is a popular choice among locals and tourists. Cross over the boardwalks and find open spots in the mangroves to look out to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Bring along a kayak or paddleboard and use the launch toward the south entrance. Pack your beach gear, too, since you’re only a 20-minute drive from Anna Maria Island.

Address: 1704 99th St NW, Bradenton, Florida, 34209 (North Entrance)

Distance: Various, but includes a 7.5-mile loop and a 2.5-mile paved path

Hours: Daily, sunrise to sunset

Amenities: Dog friendly, picnic areas, restrooms, water fountains, kayak launch, observation tower, bike friendly, wheelchair accessible trail available

Trail mix: Hit up the Sage Biscuit Cafe off of Cortez West Road.

Have a favorite trail we should add to our explorations? Have an outdoor adventure we should try? Curious about the ins and outs of fishing seasons in Florida? Know a cool business or owner to profile? Contact outdoors reporter Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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