The Tampa Bay area is one of Florida’s most intensely developed areas, however for those who know where to look, there are still plenty of green spaces where hikers can experience Florida in its most natural state. Tampa residents have a hiking trail of their very own in the heart of the city. When it comes to getting exercise and enjoying the great outdoors all at once, there’s nothing better than taking a hike. So lace up your hiking shoes or boots and enjoy some of the best hiking areas in Tampa Bay.
Bayshore Boulevard Linear Park
312 Bayshore Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33629
The word “hiking” may conjure up images of unspoiled wilderness, but if you think of hiking as a long leisurely walk with beautiful scenery and abundant wildlife, there’s a great hiking trail right in the heart of Tampa. Bayshore Boulevard is Tampa’s signature byway. It’s a curving 4.5-mile path that offers a chance to enjoy the beautiful waters of Tampa Bay, birds, an occasional dolphin sighting and the city’s ever-growing skyline. From Gandy Boulevard at the south end to Platt Street at the north end, Bayshore Boulevard is an urban hiker’s dream.
14302 Morris Bridge Road
Thonotosassa, FL 33592
With entrances on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard on the New Tampa side and Morris Bridge Road on the Thonotosassa side, Flatwoods Park is an oasis amid the urban sprawl that’s become the trademark of so much of Tampa Bay. Flatwoods offers paved trails ideal for biking that also double as great footpaths. Flatwoods is ideal for combining a taste of Florida’s woodland environment without requiring much more than sturdy shoes and sunscreen. Admission is $2.
Related: Best Running Clubs In Tampa Bay
Circle B Bar Reserve
4399 Winter Lake Road
Lakeland, FL 33803
The Circle B Bar Reserve was a joint purchase by Polk County and the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The main reason for buying up the property was to protect the area’s floodplain and help restore Banana Creek’s marsh system. As a bonus, with relatively easy access off State Road 570 and Winter Lake Road, Circle B Bar offers hikers a chance to see a wide variety of wading birds, owls and even majestic bald eagles. There is also an educational center that offers a chance to learn more about the role wetlands play in Florida’s environment. As with many hiking areas that include wetlands, hikers are strongly discouraged from bringing dogs. Even large dogs can be mistaken for a free lunch by hungry alligators.
Honeymoon Island State Park
1 Causeway Blvd.
Dunedin, FL 34698
This beautiful little barrier island off the coast of Pinellas County was named “Hog Island” by Florida’s pioneers, but that unappealing handle only lasted until 1939 when a New York developer built dozens of bungalows with thatched roofs to attract honeymooners, thus the new name of “Honeymoon Island.” For hikers who want to combine their walking with shell collecting, there are plenty of chances to do that along the beautiful beach along the Gulf of Mexico. Inland, hikers can enjoy one of Florida’s few remaining virgin slash pine forests along with plenty of wildlife to spy on and a wide variety of birds. To get there, take Curlew Road west until you come to the Causeway.
Upper Tampa Bay Regional Park
8001 Double Branch Road
Tampa, FL 33615
With nearly 600 acres of unspoiled mangrove wetlands along Tampa Bay’s shoreline near the Town N’ Country area, Upper Tampa Bay County Park offers a taste of what Florida was like when the first Spanish explorers began to survey the region. Along with the unspoiled areas, there are modern amenities to help enjoy the park, such as a massive boardwalk that keeps feet dry and puts a little bit of distance between hikers and the native wildlife. Hiking trails are available for a closer look at the flora and fauna that make up the incredibly diverse ecosystem of one of Florida’s great estuaries.
Mike Hennessy is a veteran news man who has won Florida AP awards for feature reporting and covered almost every kind of story imaginable from on-the-scene coverage of Hurricane Andrew, to some of the highest profile murder and corruption trials in Florida history. Mike is versatile and has the curiosity it takes to get to the bottom line of any story. His work can be found at Examiner.com.