Hillsborough County Hiking Spree 2021-2022 Recap

The Hillsborough County Hiking Spree is an annual event from November 1st through March 31st. It is one of several hiking events that were taking place in the Tampa Bay area over the last several months which I previously wrote a post on which can be found here. With the Hillsborough County Hiking Spree wrapping up I wanted to post a recap of my experiences this year.  

Hillsborough County Hiking Spree sign
Hiking Spree Sign at Northdale Park

What is the Hillsborough County Hiking Spree? 

The Hillsborough County Hiking Spree is an annual event to encourage people to take advantage of the cooler weather and explore outdoors. The goal is to complete at least 8 of the 22 designated hikes. This challenge is designed to ensure anyone can complete it with a range of distances and difficulty of trails included.  

Registration was free and you could also register your dog to complete the hiking spree. See my tips for taking your dog hiking here. Once you have completed the challenge you can fill out a form including which trails you completed and pick a small prize which will be mailed to you.  

My dog looking back at the camera smiling at Alderman's Ford Park
Alderman’s Ford Conservation Park

What parks are included in the Hillsborough County Hiking Spree? 

The trails vary every year but there are several different types of parks included in the Hillsborough County Hiking Spree each year. These include neighborhood parks, conservation parks, nature preserves, and state parks. The trail distance ranged from~0.5 mile to 5.5 miles with many of the trails between 1 to 3 miles.  

Hillsborough County Hiking spree green designated trail sign
Bertha & Tony Saladino Park

Hillsborough County Hiking Spree Parks 2021-2022

  • All People’s Life Center 
  • Bertha and Tony Saladino Park 
  • Boyette Springs Park 
  • Ed Radice Sports Complex 
  • Northdale Park 
  • Rodney Colson Park 
  • Stephen J. Wortham Park 
  • Alderman’s Ford Conservation Park 
  • Edward Medard Conservation Park 
  • Lake Conservation Park 
  • Lettuce Lake Conservation Park 
  • Upper Tampa Bay Conservation Park 
  • Alafia River Corridor South Preserve 
  • Bahia Beach Nature Preserve 
  • Bell Creek Nature Preserve 
  • Blackwater Creek Nature Preserve 
  • Lake Frances Nature Preserve 
  • Lower Green Swamp Nature Preserve 
  • Alafia River State Park 
  • Hillsborough River State Park 
  • Little Manatee River State Park 
  • Manatee Viewing Center 
Trees and water at Lake Park
Lake Conservation Park

What trails did I complete for the Hillsborough County Hiking Spree?   

I completed most of the hike’s solo or with my dog. Therefore, I picked a lot of the parks that I knew were well maintained and less remote. Additionally, since most of the parks were 30 minutes or more from my house, I chose to pair a couple of the shorter neighborhood parks with another nearby park to ensure I completed the hiking spree!  

Designated Trails I completed

  • Bertha and Tony Saladino Park Sandhill Fitness Trail 
  • Northdale Park Owl Fitness Trail 
  • Alderman’s Ford Conservation Park Picnic Trail 
  • Edward Medard Conservation Park Singing Bluffs 
  • Lake Conservation Park Lake Vista Trail 
  • Upper Tampa Bay Conservation Park Bobcat Trail, Otter Trail, and Eagle Trail 
  • Manatee Viewing Center Tidal Walk 
  • Little Manatee River State Park North Hiking Trail   
Boardwalk with railing at Little Mantee River State park
Little Manatee River State Park

Prior to the hiking spree I had previously hiked a couple of the other trails that were included. 

  • Alafia River State Park Old Agrico Hiking Trail 
  • Lettuce Lake Conservation Park Hammock Run and Lettuce Lake Boardwalk  
Tree that splits into too branches making a "Y" at Lettuce Lake Park
Lettuce Lake Park

The Old Agrico Hiking Trail at Alafia River State Park is one of my favorite trails I’ve hiked in Florida! The elevation changes are a fun change of pace, however the only downside to this trail is it’s very short at ~0.8 miles.  

Old Agrico Hiking Trail sign at Alafia River State Park
Alafia River State Park

Additionally, I previously hiked at one of the parks included in the hiking spree, but I did not hike the specific trail that was included.  

  • Hillsborough River State Park Wetlands Trail  

Hillsborough River State Park is one of my favorite state parks in the county for hiking. Check out this post if you want to read my entire park recap.  

Hillsborough River
Hillsborough River State Park

Which Hillsborough County Hiking Spree trail was my favorite? 

Overall, I enjoyed all the trails I completed as part of the Hillsborough County Hiking Spree. It is hard to pick just one, but I have narrowed it down to my top three trails.  

  • Little Manatee River State Park North Hiking Trail 
  • Edward Medard Conservation Park Singing Bluffs 
  • Manatee Viewing Center Tidal Walk 
Lake surrounded by trees and grass at Edward Medard Park
Edward Medard Conservation Park

Little Manatee River State Park North Hiking Trail

This trail earned a spot in my top three trails for a couple of different reasons. 

  1. It was one of the longer trails that I completed at 3-miles with the option for a 6.2-mile loop 
  2. The terrain was uneven with roots and dirt, so you needed to watch your step which made for a more challenging hike 
  3. Sections of short boardwalk and sections along the river which made great scenic views  

In addition to the North Hiking Trail there are several other things to do in the park. See my full post on Little Manatee River State Park if you plan to visit!  

The north loop hiking trail
Little Manatee River State Park

Edward Medard Conservation Park Singing Bluffs Trail

This is a great conservation park to visit and is included in my top three trails for a few different reasons. 

  1. There were some sections of the trail with some small elevation changes as well as exposed roots and rocks making the hike a little more challenging. Anytime I can get some elevation changes in Florida I love to take advantage of it!  
  2. The trail had a lot of shaded areas and views of the lake  
  3. While this wasn’t specific to the hiking spree trail, Edward Medard Conservation Park is home to Sacred Hill. This area was an old phosphate mine and there are exposed tree roots and hills to climb which make for a great added adventure!  
Tree with a lot of exposed roots at Edward Medard Parkl on Sacred Hill
Sacrad Hill at Edward Medard Conservation Park

TIP: To get to Sacred Hill drive along the main park road until you see a sign for Sacred Hill Road and make a left turn onto the road. There is a large parking lot to park in and you can see trees up on a hill to the left of the parking lot. Walk up the hill and start exploring! We visited on a weekend and there were a lot of kids exploring Sacred Hill and climbing on the many exposed tree roots. It’s worth a stop if you are at the park!  

Manatee Viewing Center 

The Tidal Walk also claims a spot in my top three trails because there is truly so much to see here! The trail does have limited shade so be sure to pack plenty of water. Some of the highlights of this trail are included below. 

  1. The Tidal Walk is ~2.5 miles and is a combination of paved, unpaved, and boardwalk paths 
  2. The trail leads you to an observation tower where you can take in the views of Tampa Bay from all directions.  
  3. Best of all if it’s a cool day you can head to the manatee viewing platform to catch site of some manatees  

I’ve already written an entire post on visiting the Manatee Viewing Center which you can read here.

Tidal Walk Trail lined with two palm trees at the Manateee Viewing Center
Tidal Walk at Manatee Viewing Center

Tips for Completing the Hillsborough County Hiking Spree 

While the hiking spree is wrapping up for this year if this post has inspired you to sign up next year, I have a few tips to help you complete the hiking spree!  

  1. Group more than one park together – This works well especially if the trails are short and helps decrease the driving distance for parks further away from you. I printed out a map of Hillsborough County and marked where each park was so I could easily see which parks were near each other. 
  1. Plan ahead – Consider your schedule and how often you usually have time to go hiking. I knew I needed to average 2 parks a month to ensure I didn’t get to March 1st only to realize I hadn’t completed any of the designated trails.
  1. Sign up with a friend – Even if you can’t go on all the hikes together it is still fun to have a friend to check in with each time you complete a hike and to help keep you accountable.  
  1. Stay organized – There is a printable version of the designated trails, I printed this out and put it on my refrigerator, each time I completed a hike I would check it off, write the date completed, and who I hiked with  
  1. Have fun –The most important part of this challenge is to make sure you are having fun while doing it! If more remote trails with no facilities aren’t your thing stick with the neighborhood and conservation parks or if you don’t enjoy paved paths head to the nature preserves and state park trails.  

There really is no right or wrong way to go about completing the Hillsborough County Hiking Spree. The most important thing is that you get outside, enjoy nature, and hopefully get to explore somewhere new!  

Upper Tampa Bay Park trail with trees lining the trail
Upper Tampa Bay Park

Hillsborough County Hiking Spree – Final Thoughts 

Overall, I had a great time participating in the Hillsborough County Hiking Spree for the 2021-2022 year. This was my first time participating, but I am already looking forward to participating in this annual event again next year!  

If you want to participate next year too be sure to keep a lookout for next years trail list starting in November 2022!

Looking to get started hiking? Check these posts: 

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