The 2024 Hiking Spree has trails for novice and repeat trekkers. Get up, get out, and get on a (different) trail

The annual Hillsborough County Hiking Spree has a unique lineup of trails. People with varying abilities and skills may choose among paths ranging from wide, paved walkways to rugged trails through dense woods.

Participants may hike on their own, with a group, and even with their pets. Hike at least eight of the designated trails before March 31, and when you're done, complete the online hiking completion form. Bring your confirmation email to a designated location and pick up your official Hiking Spree medallion, patch, or dog bandana. One hike may be anywhere of your choosing.

There is a hiking spree experience for everyone. Here are some recommendations.

Neighborhood parks

FishHawk Sports Complex - Pandion Fitness Trail

16000 FishHawk Blvd., Lithia, FL 33547

A lengthy, meandering, all-user-accessible, 2-mile hike has plenty to offer at this park. Hikers are encouraged to enhance their hike throughout this trail, with multiple workout stations and equipment along the trail. This trail is quite sunny, so pack appropriately. Hikers should begin their hike at the trailhead, on the eastern edge of the park, near the softball fields.

Stephen J. Wortham Park - Bluestem Hiking Trail

12108 Rhodine Rd., Riverview, FL 33547

The challenging, aptly named Bluestem Trail, follows a path through a preserved Florida sand pine scrub ecosystem. Starting at the kiosk trail trailhead, the path contains a mix of paved, compacted soil and loose sand portions. A map is recommended to aid hikers as they follow the green-blazed trail posts with directional arrows. The main park itself is mostly shaded, with benches, a fishing lake, playground, and picnic tables. 

Conservation parks

Northwest Equestrian Park 

10711 South Mobley Rd., Odessa, FL 33556

New to the Hiking Spree, the Triple Crown Trail weaves together the five trails that make up Northwest Equestrian Park to give experienced hikers a chance to see a variety of habitats and wildlife in this former orange grove. You'll find yourself weaving through the forest, along the banks of creeks and near ponds, and almost entirely in the shade. Because of the looping nature of the park's trails remember to bring your map on this 4.5-mile hike.  

Lettuce Lake Conservation Park

6920 Fletcher Ave., Tampa, FL 33637

The fan favorite is back again, Lettuce Lake's Hammock Run and Boardwalk Trail is a long loop of the park's best features. Enjoy walking this two-mile trail through oak hammocks, pines, along the boardwalk stealing glimpses of birds and basking alligators through the cypress trees. The boardwalk also features an observation tower for a beautiful view.   

Lake Park lake and pines

Nature preserves

Upper Little Manatee River Corridor Nature Preserve - 579 Trailhead 

2608 S. County Road 579, Wimauma, FL 33598

Hike through beautiful pine flatwoods populated with longleaf pine, palmettos, and wiregrass. Both Pennyroyal Trail (Red Trail 1.5 miles) and the Twin Pine Trail (Blue Trail 3.5 miles) pass through ecosystems that are burned on a two-to-three-year prescribed fire cycle. Due to the frequent fire cycles, plant diversity is high, and quails and turkeys are common. Hikers can also observe several species of woodpeckers utilizing the dead trees, called snags. Soon after a burn, hikers might encounter large orange Catesby Lilies or daintier grasspinks - Calopogon orchids - growing under the pine overstory. 
Bell Creek Nature Preserve

10940 McMullen Rd., Riverview, FL 33569

Traverse through endangered Florida scrub habitat on a trail like no other. Before this land was a nature preserve, it was undergoing development for a subdivision. Fortunately, the land was acquired through the Jan K. Platt Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program, and the site was given a second chance. Follow this 4-mile trail down a paved road, past remnants of driveways, and witness nature reclaiming the land. Don't forget to look for gopher tortoises and skinks along the way! Be sure to bring a map and be prepared for sunny scrub sections.  

State parks & other trails

Hillsborough River State Park - Baynard Trail 15402 U.S. 301 N. Thonotosassa, FL 33592

A short and swampy jaunt, hikers are encouraged to wear waterproof footwear and pack bug spray on this often wet and mucky trail. The mostly flat path meanders through thick shady forest scenery and turns back to run parallel to the Hillsborough River. Hikers can take in a great and relaxing view of the Hillsborough River, from the popular suspension bridge, near the River Rapids Trail intersection. Wildlife viewing opportunities for birds and alligators are often abundant on this trail.

Photo Information: Enjoy the beautiful nature that Hillsborough County has to offer by participating in the 2024 Hiking Spree. Photo taken at Lettuce Lake Conservation Park.
Image Caption: A couple looks out over the river at Lettuce Lake Conservation Park
Posted: 1/23/2024, 5:51:04 PM