Tampa Bay has become notorious for out-of-control urban sprawl, but there are plenty of places within easy reach on both sides of Tampa Bay that offer hikers a chance to escape the urban rat race and get fresh air, sunshine and exercise. There is even an opportunity for a hiking experience right in the very heart of downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg. Break out the sunscreen and lace up your hiking boots, and get ready to enjoy some outdoor fun and sun on these great trails.
13330 Morris Bridge Road
Thonotosassa, FL 33592
Price: $2 admission
With entrances on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and Morris Bridge Road, Flatwoods Park is a great destination for outdoor lovers in New Tampa and Thonotosassa. Flatwoods features miles of paved trails suitable for hiking, jogging or biking. The pavement combined with mostly flat terrain makes Flatwoods perfect for anyone looking for a chance to experience Florida's woodlands environment while taking advantage of a paved trail for lighter hiking.
Brooker Creek Preserve
3940 Keystone Road
Tarpon Springs, FL 34688
Located on Keystone Road a bit further off of the beaten path in the Tarpon Spring area of northern Pinellas County, Brooker Creek offers five miles of trails that pose more of a challenge for advanced hikers. Its trails are not paved, making hiking boots at the very least a good idea. Portions of the trails do feature boardwalks in areas that might otherwise be impassable on foot. The boardwalks allow hikers to get a close up look at wetlands wildlife such as wading birds, deer and gopher tortoises.
Arguably Tampa's signature landmark due it's hosting of the annual Gasparilla invasion, Bayshore Boulevard offers 4.5 miles of paved pathways suitable for hiking, biking or jogging. While the word "hiking" is more often associated with rural areas, Bayshore offers a spectacular view of Tampa Bay and the Tampa Skyline. There's even wildflife in the form birds, jumping mullet and even wild dolphins. Drinking fountains and exercise stations can provide a welcome change of pace for those who need to to take a break or who need a physical challenge. South Tampa residents may pick up Bayshore at Gandy Boulevard. Further north, Platt Street offers easy access.
Caladesi State Park
1 Causeway Blvd.
Dunedin, FL 34698
Located off of the Pinellas County coastline, Caladesi is one of the Tampa Bay area's unspoiled jewels. Accessible only by boat, Caladesi is most famous for its pristine beaches, but adventurous hikers may reap their own rewards by making the trip. There is a three-mile hiking trail that winds through the interior of the island, perfect for ambitious explorers. Caladesi does have a snack bar and sheltered picnic tables available to take a little bit of the edge off the wilderness experience.
Boyd Hill Nature Preserve Trails
1101 Country Club Way South
St. Petersburg, FL 33712
Price $3 adults/$1.50 children ages 3 to 16
Located on Lake Maggiore in the very heart of St. Petersburg, Boyd Hill Nature Preserve is a welcome oasis for nature lovers. Three miles of nature trails are a living history exhibit called the Pioneer Village, which recreates the lifestyle of Florida's hardy 19th century residents. Enjoy 245 acres, five ecosystems, part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, an aviary full of birds of prey, and if you fall in love with the locale, an annual butterfly count that'll only amplify the romance.
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