10 Scenic Nature Parks for Hiking in Tampa Bay

Hillsborough River State Park / Photo Credit: Lauren R. Gay

If you’re a Tampa resident in need of a nature reset, there are many scenic nature trails that are fantastic for hiking in Tampa Bay.

Bay area hiking trails offer paths near the water, trails that are mostly shaded, urban trails, and pretty much every kind of nature trail for every kind of hiker. With great weather and mostly flat land, most nature trails near Tampa are great for beginners and the difficulty level will lie in the distance you choose to hike since there aren’t significant elevation changes.

There is also an abundance of outdoor activities in Tampa to enjoy, especially if you’re looking for things to do during Superbowl LV in Tampa in 2021.

I will help you hit the trails with these top 10 nature trails for hiking in Tampa Bay.

1.Hillsborough River State Park

hiking in tampa bay
Rapids at Hillsborough River State Park/ Photo Credit: Lauren R. Gay

Where: Hillsborough River State Park is located in Thonotassasa in the eastern part of the county. This park has some of the best Florida hiking trails for beginners.

What’s to love: This state park has a trail that takes you to the scenic overlook of the only Class II rapids in the state of Florida. There are also a number of suspension footbridges. The paths are dirt or boardwalk on the rapids trail. This park is also popular for fishing and canoeing.


2. Eureka Springs

hiking in tampa bay

Where: Eureka Springs is a county park near the Tampa Executive Airport in East Tampa.

What’s to love: This park is actually a botanical garden year-round! The flowers are gorgeous and worth the trip. The trail is paved in parts through the garden and a boardwalk for the nature trail. Don’t miss seeing the bat flower and the orchid greenhouse. There’s also a covered bridge!

Bat Flower / Photo Credit: Lauren R. Gay

3. Lettuce Lake Park

hiking trails in tampa lettuce lake park

Where: Lettuce Lake Park is a nature park great for hiking in Tampa located in Temple Terrace just down the street from the University of South Florida.

What’s to love: The trails are boardwalks through Florida swamp surrounded by towering cypress trees and serene views of the lake. This park is a prime location to see turtles and alligators during your hike. There is also a place to rent and launch kayaks.


4. Alderman’s Ford Conservation Park

nature trails in tampa

Where: Venture to to the Eastern most part of the county to Plant City to experience one of my favorite nature trails in Tampa Bay.

What’s to love: Alderman’s Ford Conservation is a mix of paved paths and boardwalks and meanders along the Alafia River. There are beautiful shaded portions of the trail and foot bridges. There are also other hiking trails that will take you into the forest.

Click here for a special rate on renting kayaks and SUPs.


5. Alafia River State Park

hiking in tampa
Photo Credit: Florida State Parks

Where: Head to Lithia in the southeast part of the county to explore this Tampa nature park.

What’s to love: What I loved about Alafia was the natural beauty and serenity. The trails take you past meadows and and into shaded pine forests. Be advised that especially on weekends this park sees heave usage from mountain bike riders. The park is very popular for it’s mountain bike trails.


6. Upper Tampa Bay Park

florida nature trails

Where: To experience this Tampa hiking trail, head to the western most part of the county to Oldsmar.

What’s to love: Upper Tampa Bay is a regional park located on the bay with multiple trails, a boardwalk on the water, and a kayak launch where you can paddle a mangrove trail. The hiking trails are well maintained dirt trails providing peaceful ambience to really be one with nature.

Don’t skip the eagle trail. It’s an easy in and out trail that will reward you with an amazing surprise view at the end.


7. Upper Tampa Bay Trail

florida nature trails

Where: The Upper Tampa Bay Trail is located in residential northwest Hillsborough County. Currently, the trail runs along the west shore of Channel A from a trailhead off Memorial Highway/Montague Street, past Waters Avenue, Linebaugh, and then due north to Gunn Highway, Ehrlich Road and ending at Peterson Road Park.

The trail continues north from Van Dyke Road north and then east to the trailhead on Lutz Lake Fern Road, connecting to the Suncoast Trail at the Veterans Expressway.

What’s to love: The paved trail makes it great for bike riding and the residential proximity makes it very accessible and easy to get to from multiple trailhead entries.


Check out my favorite things to do on the Tampa Riverwalk!


8. Trout Creek Park

Where: New Tampa/ Thonotosassa just east of I-75 and down the road from USF on Morris Bridge

What’s to love: Trout Creek Park is a hidden gem. There is a boardwalk trail with relaxing views of the Hillsborough River. There are also shaded nature trails that will really have you feeling like you have escaped the city life.


9. Edward Medard

florida nature trails

Where: Regional park in Plant City

What’s to love: Edward Medard has nature trails, a boardwalk, and a lake perfect for alligator spotting. There’s also a natural jungle gym made of exposed tree roots.


10. Little Manatee River State Park

florida hiking trails
Photo Credit: Florida State Parks

Where: Southern most part of Hillsborough county and equal distance from Tampa and St. Petersburg

What’s to love: Little Manatee River State Park is unique because it offers equestrian trails and equestrian camping. There are also shaded hiking trails along the river and kayaking and canoeing on little manatee river.


Tampa is known for many great things to do like the Tampa Riverwalk and Hyde Park, but if you want to get away from the noise and take in the quiet and serenity of nature, these Florida hiking trails in the Tampa Bay area will give you the outdoor fix you crave.

Research each of these specific parks for current guidelines, limitations, and/or closures and fees.

Get prepared for your day hike with these essential day hike tips!

LOVE IT? PIN IT!

hiking in tampa

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    LainieD
    November 21, 2020 at 11:56 am

    This is a great list! I’m working my way through. So far I have done 4. It would be helpful to provide a goodie map link or GPS. A couple were tricky to track down.

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