Featured trails highlight the variety of Hiking Spree options

Not all trails are created equal - and that's a good thing. From the couch potato to the avid outdoorsy, the Hillsborough County Hiking Spree has trails to fit all abilities. Whether you're taking the first step into hiking, or you've climbed the highest peaks, here are a few featured trails to get you on your way.

Neighborhood Parks and Recreation Center Trails

These are generally short, paved trails with water and facilities, unless otherwise noted.

Vita Hiking Trail at J.C. Handly Park and Sports Complex
Discover the Vita Trail, a short and easy loop great for beginner hikers looking to get off paved trails. The trail winds through pines and saw palmettos forest and around the perimeter of the soccer fields, providing both nature and urban views. Hikers can build endurance with three workout stations strategically located along the trail. Begin your journey by parking in the Field 3 parking lot, entering the gate, and following the signage for the Vita Trail.

All People's Fitness Trail at Miller Park & Life Center
This well-shaded, all-user accessible trail is a short trek of 0.42 miles and offers some glimpses of the Oak Bluff Hiking Trail, an unpaved trail that loops through oak trees. The paved All People's Fitness Trail is wide and accommodates all accessible hikers. Hikers are encouraged to begin their hike at the trailhead, near the playground entrance.

Conservation Park Trails

These trails provide more of a nature experience than your typical Neighborhood Park trail. Though some trails are paved, most are primitive trails that take you through a variety of natural habitats ranging from upland pine flatwoods to wetland swamps to bottomland forests. Most Conservation Parks have amenities such as running water, restrooms, playgrounds, and manicured pathways.

Picnic Trail at Alderman's Ford
This 1.9-mile, paved trail is a loop that crosses the Alafia River at three sites and lets hikers enjoy shaded woods of gigantic cypress and oak trees. The Picnic Trail also gives hikers the chance to add an additional .4 miles by taking the Rivers Edge Extension, a boardwalk loop between the North and South prongs of the Alafia, for a chance to view beautiful wildlife.
Big Loop in the Woods at Flatwoods
Despite its name, this trail is no joke. While enjoyed by cyclists who branch out from the loop into their own off-road trails, this 7-mile paved loop is a great way to get some serious miles in while not getting stuck in the weeds. Stay hydrated as you watch for deer, quail, and gopher tortoises on this sunny walk.

Nature Preserve Trails

These trails take the nature experience up several notches. When hiking nature preserves, you will be leaving civilization behind. On a nature preserve, development is kept to a minimum to protect natural areas and wildlife. Nature preserve trailheads have small, unpaved parking lots, a fence with a walk-through entrance, and a small kiosk with trail information. Nature preserves have no restrooms or running water, and the trails are unpaved, longer with fewer trail markers, and have rougher terrain.

Headwaters Heritage Trail at Brooker Creek Headwaters Nature Preserve
Traverse this 4.5-mile trail through an eclectic mix of habitats, from pine flatwoods and xeric (dry) oak hammocks to mixed hardwoods and pine prairies. Originally timberland and pasture in the 1930s, the area, which is home to wetlands vital to the Brooker Creek Headwaters, was slated for development by the 1990s. This 1,111-acre haven was saved in 1993 by the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) and Hillsborough County's Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program (ELAPP.) Be sure to wear appropriate footwear in the wetter months, as trails can get quite wet during the rainy season. Parking for the trail is at the Upper Tampa Bay trail entrance, 7020 W. Lutz Lake Fern Rd., Odessa, FL 33556.

Savannah Trail at Blackwater Creek Nature Preserve
This lovely trail winds through some of the finest remaining pine savannah habitat in the county. You'll hike past palmetto, meadow beauty flowers, and towering pine trees, under majestic oaks, and down to beautiful Blackwater Creek. Look for deer, hawks, fox squirrels, and otters as you hike! This sunny, 6.4-mile trail should be enjoyed by experienced hikers who are ready to take on one of the Spree's longest adventures.

The Hillsborough Hiking Spree gives you a reason to get outdoors and explore the County's conservation parks, nature preserves, and recreation center and neighborhood park trails while exercising and seeing the wonders of nature up close. It provides trails for varying abilities and skill levels. Hiking Spree is free, so it's easy to join in the adventure.

If you haven't registered for the 2024 Hiking Spree, here's how it works:

Between Nov. 1, 2023, and March 31, 2024, register and begin hiking.

Hike a total of eight trails from the list provided. One can be of your choice

Complete and return the form, and you'll receive a commemorative medallion, patch, or sticker.

Hiking Spree works strictly on an honor system. Nobody monitors your progress. Each of the designated trails is rated easy, moderate, or strenuous, and classified all-purpose, basic, or primitive. Several are accessible.

Anyone may participate. There are no age or physical restrictions, and you don't have to be a Hillsborough County resident. Visitors are welcome to participate, too. Happy hiking!

Visit HCFLGov.net/HikingSpree for details.

Photo Information: Trails for all abilities are offered on the Hiking Spree trail list.