Little Manatee River State Park

Little Manatee River State Park is home to one of Florida’s blackwater rivers and centrally located to many areas of Tampa Bay. There are many miles of hiking, including some trails that run along the Little Manatee River.  

Little Manatee River State Park entrance sign

Little Manatee River State Park – The Basics 

  • Address: 215 Lightfoot Road Wimauma, Florida 33598 (Main entrance) 
  • Driving distance from select Florida cities: 
    • Tampa/St. Petersburg: ~45 minutes 
    • Orlando: ~2 hours 
    • Fort Myers: ~2 hours 
    • Jacksonville ~3.75 hours 
    • Miami: ~4 hours 
  • Hours: 8 AM until sunset, daily 
  • Entrance fee: $5 per vehicle; $4 single occupant vehicle 
  • Activities: Bicycling, camping, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and paddling 
  • Pet Friendly: Pets must remain on a 6-foot leash at all times. Pets are not allowed in primitive campsites.  
    • Fun fact: This was the first state park we brought our dog to, and she absolutely loved it! Check out this post for tips for hiking with your dog. 
A dog next to a lake in Little Manatee River State Park

Things to Know Before You Go

There are two entrances to the park located 5-10 minutes from each other. The main entrance is at 215 Lightfoot Road. The north entrance is located at 17837 US-301 which provides access to the north loop hiking trail. 

TIP: If you plan to park at the north entrance pre-pay online for park entrance fee or bring cash. A collection box is located at the trailhead to pay the entrance fee. At the main entrance the ranger station is open from 8 AM to 5 PM. 

The pay station for the north entrance at Little Manatee River State Park

Bicycling at Little Manatee River State Park

There are approximately 6 miles of bicycling trails available within the park. There are two areas where bicycling is permitted within the park. The first is the Sand Pine Trail which is 3 miles. The second is the paved park road which is also 3-miles. No bicycle rentals are available in the park.  

Hiking at Little Manatee River State Park

The north entrance provides access to a 6.2-mile stacked loop hiking trail. The stacked loop provides the option to complete a 3-mile loop if preferred. This trail provides views of Little Manatee River and has uneven terrain. We completed the 3-mile loop as part of the Hillsborough Hiking Spree, and it is my favorite trail I have hiked in the park.   

A boardwalk on the north trail in Little Manatee River State Park

Oxbow Nature Trail is a 0.8-mile trail accessible from the main entrance. This is a short trail that travels through sand pine scrub and is great for all skill levels. The Sandpine Trail is also accessible from the main entrance and is a 2-mile stacked loop trail.  

My dog looking happy standing in front of the Oxbow Nature Trail Sign

Additional hiking opportunities include the equestrian trails. There are several trails to choose from but be prepared to hike in loose sand on these trails. Don’t forget to pack your snacks, because there is no food available for purchase within the park.

Camping at Little Manatee River State Park 

Little Manatee River State Park is a great park to plan a weekend camping. They have different camping options available including tent, RV, equestrian, and primitive camping. Reservations for camping can be made 11 months in advance.

TIP: Primitive campers must check in with the rangers station at least two hours before sunset and must arrive before 5 PM before the ranger station closes.  

Horseback riding at Little Manatee River State Park 

There are over 15 miles of equestrian trails for horseback riding within the park. There are four primary trails to choose from and the lengths vary. 

  • Dude Lake Trail 
  • Mustang Trail 
  • Blue Trail 
  • Yellow Trail  

Paddling at Little Manatee River State Park 

Enjoy over six miles of paddling on the Little Manatee River from a kayak or canoe. You can extend your trip into Cockroach Bay and the Gulf of Mexico if you are looking for a longer paddle. More information on the paddling trail can be found here.

A view of Little Manatee River with surrounding trees and plants

Currently, no kayak or canoe rentals are available in the park and there is no shuttle service once you have reached your destination. Plan to paddle both ways or have a car parked at more than one location. Additionally, the canoe launch at the River Steps is currently closed. There is an available canoe launch at Pavilion 1 in the main picnic area.  

The Little Manatee River

Final Thoughts on Little Manatee River State Park 

If you are in the Tampa Bay area Little Manatee River State Park can’t be missed. I recommend hiking the north loop and the Oxbow Nature Trail while you are there. The north loop hiking trail was one of the trails for the Hillsborough County Hiking Spree which is an annual event from November to March each year. Check out this post to learn more about the hiking spree.  

A narrow section of the trail surrounded by palms

Looking for other parks to visit near Tampa?

Manatee Viewing Center 
Honeymoon Island State Park 
Hillsborough River State Park 
Myakka River State Park  

The information above was accurate at the time of publishing to the best of the author’s knowledge. If you are planning to visit Little Manatee River State Park, I recommend verifying information with the Florida State Park website. 

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