Florida may be famous for its beaches, but the beaches are just a small part of what makes Florida so beautiful. You need to go hiking if you want to fully appreciate all that Florida’s wilderness has to offer. Central Florida is home to some wonderful hiking trails that showcase Florida’s diverse flora and fauna. Here are a few of my favorites.
Colt Creek State Park:
Colt Creek State Park is located 16 miles north of Lakeland, in the Green Swamp Wilderness Area. This park has more than 12 miles of trails. The main hiking trail is the Orange Trail. This trail meanders around three lakes and through pine flatwoods, cypress domes, and open meadows. It is not uncommon to see bald eagles, white-tailed deer, and wild turkey. If you are really lucky, you might even see a bobcat or river otter.
The park entrance is off of SR 471. There is a fee of $4.00 per vehicle to enter the park, and you will need exact change.
SWFWMD Upper Hillsborough Tract:
The Southwest Florida Water Management District’s (SWFWMD) Upper Hillsborough Tract is located east of Zephyrhills, Florida, on Chancey Road. The park is free to enter, but there is a guest book to sign at the entrance. The park contains over 12 miles of trails that wind through pine flatwoods. Most of the trails are flat and well maintained, although some of them can be flooded during the rainy season. I love this park because it is a great place to see swallow-tailed kites, red-tailed hawks, wild hogs, and even endangered gopher tortoises. There is also a picnic table at the entrance, so you can pack a lunch and watch skydivers land at nearby Skydive City while you eat.
The park is closed for a few weekends during hunting season, so it is a good idea to check the schedule posted at the entrance. The parking lot is small, so it can fill up quickly on the weekends.
Hillsborough River State Park:
Hillsborough River State Park is located on Highway 301, just north of Tampa, FL. The park has more than seven miles of hiking trails. My personal favorite is the River Rapids Nature Trail. This trail is just over a mile long, so it is perfect if you are looking for a shorter hike. I love this trail because it provides views of the Hillsborough River. You can see alligators, turtles, and even a section of Class II whitewater.
The park also has a concession stand and picnic area. The park is open from 8am until sunset, year round. There is a fee of $6.00 per vehicle to enter, and there is plenty of parking available.
Colt Creek State Park – Florida State Parks
SWFWMD Upper Hillsborough Tract – Southwest Florida Water Management District
Hillsborough River State Park – Florida State Parks