Across Florida there are a number of state parks, which are large unspoiled open spaces making for a fun and cheap day out. For just an average price of $5, a car with 4 passengers can visit for the day; take a picnic and enjoy nature and the fresh air! I have visited a number of state parks in Florida and each one is unique with something special to offer.
One of the best state parks I have visited is Hillsborough River State Park. It is a popular recreational spot, especially at the weekends and it is easy to see why. The park offers trails, nature, canoe/kayak rentals, bike rentals, camping and a swimming pool.
The park is located in Hillsborough county which is approximately 20 miles to the north east of Tampa.
On arrival at the rangers station, you will pay your entrance fee and receive a map.
There are five main parking lots, which circle around the park in a one way direction and each of them is worth stopping at to see what the park has to offer.
The River Rapids Trail
My favourite stop is Parking Lot 2.
From here there is a three quarters of a mile nature trail called the River Rapids trail. This poem is found at the entrance to the trail.
Pick up this useful leaflet to take you along the trail. There are lots of cool things to see as you amble along the path.
The trail takes you on a lovely walk through the hardwood hammock and takes around an hour. Along the trail there are numbered markers which can be cross referenced with the above leaflet, to give you lots of interesting things to learn along the way.
Eventually the path opens up to a clearing which takes you to the Hillsborough River rapids. There are seats here and its nice to just sit and listen to the sound of the river.
Of course on a warm day it is always tempting to want to jump into the water and cool off, but this sign is just a reminder of some of the potential dangers that can be found in Florida.
Along the river bank
The path then continues along the bank of the river, which makes a lovely stroll, has great views and if you are lucky, you may get to do some wildlife spotting too.
A leisurely paddle along the river.
This bridge is the start of the Baynard trail which is a moderate ability 1 mile hike.
This little fella was lurking in the water.
and we also spotted these little blue herons.
A very old tree
This is the of the largest and oldest trees in the park. It is a Cypress tree which has a hollow base but it still continues to live. This photo doesn’t do the size justice but two people crouched down, can fit inside the hollow.
Other areas of interest
Stop off at parking lot 3 to visit the playground and large picnic pavilions. Each are kitted out with a grill if you prefer to BBQ.
Parking lot 4 is for the swimming pool, restrooms and the cafe. Bike, canoe and kayak rentals are also available here.