Looking for something different to change up your usual weekend plans of happy hour and brunch? Head to Hillsborough River State Park. It is a hidden gem located approximately 25 minutes from downtown Tampa.
Hillsborough River State Park – The Basics
Hillsborough River State Park is approximately 3,380 acres and includes approximately 7 miles of hiking trails and a portion of the 60-mile Hillsborough River.
Getting there: Address: 15402 US 301 N Thonotosassa, FL 33592
- Driving distance from select popular destinations
- Tampa: ~25 minutes
- St. Petersburg: ~50 minutes
- Orlando: ~1.5 hours
- Ocala: ~1.5 hours
- Gainesville: ~2 hours
- Hours: 8 AM to sundown, 365 days a year
- Fees: $6 per vehicle
- Activities: Hiking, biking, camping, canoeing/kayaking, fishing, and more
- Currently no canoe, kayak, or bike rentals available
- Pet Friendly: Pets must be kept on a 6-foot leash at all times
Bring cash for the visitation fee to place at the drop box or pay online ahead of time. Additionally, annual Florida State Park passes are available for purchase if you frequent the parks.
What are the highlights at Hillsborough River State Park?
- Hillsborough River featuring class II rapids
- Suspension bridge
- Stationary bridge – currently closed
- Hiking trails
- Fort Forster Historic Site – currently closed
How many hiking trails are there?
There are five main hiking trails with approximate distances listed below. Many of these trails connect allowing you to plan a hike for a longer duration if desired.
- River Rapids Trail (1.2-mile loop)
- Baynard Trail (1.1-mile loop)
- Seminole Trail (3.2-mile loop)
- Wetlands Restoration Trail (1.6 miles one way)
- Fort King Trail (6.7 miles one way)
How do I see the suspension bridge?
I knew I wanted to see the suspension bridge so we planned our hiking route around that. We parked in parking lot #2 and headed out on the River Rapids Trail. This was a leisurely hike that took us directly to the suspension bridge. The Rapid Trail was my favorite because you were able to walk along the river.
We walked across the suspension bridge which connects to the Baynard Trail. If you are looking for a further hike, I’d recommend connecting to the Seminole Trail for an additional 3.2 mile loop.
Off the Seminole Trail you are also able to connect to the primitive campground, but we opted to head back over the suspension bridge and continue along the River Rapids Trail.
How do I see the stationary bridge?
Following the River Rapid trail along the river you will also come to the stationary bridge. This bridge has been closed since 2017 when Hurricane Irma caused significant damage making it no longer safe to cross. Hopefully one day it will be restored to create another access point to the Seminole Trail.
What else is there to do at Hillsborough River State Park?
If you walk a little further past the stationary bridge you will find a playground, pool, canoe and bike rentals, recreational hall, and some picnic pavilions. Unfortunately, a lot of this area was still closed due to the COVID19 pandemic when I visited. These facilities can be more easily accessed from parking lot #4.
Swimming is available seasonally in a man-made pool. The swimming area is currently closed with plans to reopen in summer 2023 according to the Florida State Park website. There is no swimming in the Hillsborough River, but you are able to enjoy the waters if you bring your own canoe or kayak. There are two canoe/kayak launch areas near parking lot #4. Additionally, biking is available on the Wetlands Restoration Nature Trail.
Final Thoughts on Hillsborough River State Park
The River Rapids Trail and suspension bridge were the highlights of my first visit to Hillsborough River State Park. We went to the park mid-day in January and did not see a lot of wildlife, but thoroughly enjoyed the visit. Next time I go back I might take the Wetlands Trail to access Fort King Trail for some additional mileage and to see a separate area of the park. If you’re ever in Tampa I definitely recommend adding Hillsborough River State Park to your “must see” list.
Information above was accurate at the time of publishing to best of the author’s knowledge. If you are planning to visit Hillsborough River State Park, I recommend utilizing the Florida State Park website to verify information in this post to help you plan your trip.
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