A word of warning: In July, the mosquitoes are FEROCIOUS and will SWARM you even with insect repellent (I used a biorganic repellent, I think it worked well for the concentration of mosquitoes. Pure DEET may be better). We also had a few biting flies. Again, the mosquitoes are so thick you run into them while walking, several will light on you hand while taking pictures, and you feel like you cannot stop walking or you will be devoured. Take this into consideration if bringing younger children who are used to breaks.
This hike included two separate trails in the park, both of which are on the north side of the river. The first trail was the Maynard trail, which is listed as 1.1 miles long. The trail is broken up into 4 sections by 4 numbered posts with emergency information on them. I have included waypoints for all 4 posts along the trail. I hiked the trail backwards starting from Parking Lot #3. This trail really begins at the south end to the suspension bridge, but you walk through the extensive picnicking area (which includes a playground, volleyball courts and many covered pavilions) before reaching the bridge. The trail then runs briefly along the river, where we saw a camouflaged gator hiding in an obstruction in the river (see pic). The trail soon turns and heads back along the northern border of the park. The back part of the trail has some wet, marshy areas that require elevated platforms. Unfortunately, in July there are very wet areas of the trail that have a few inches of standing water and cannot be navigated around without wet shoes. Waterproof boots are recommended. The trail ends at the stationary bridge, which is about 0.2 river miles west of the suspension bridge. To close the loop for the Maynard Trail you can make your way along well worn paths on either the north or south side of the river back to the suspension bridge, but I did not chart these paths. The elapsed time from the trailhead to the south end of the stationary bridge was 41 min with no significant elevation changes.
The second trail in this trip is the longest in the park. It is called the Florida Trail because it was created and maintained with the help of the Suncoast Chapter of the Florida Trail Association. This trail is accessed from Parking Lot #4, near the Spirit of the Woods Poolside Cafe. To access the trail, make your way through the picnic area to the south end of the stationary bridge. Across the bridge and up the path less than 100 yards is a trailhead map for the
We did see quite a bit of wildlife in the park. We saw 2 gators (1 approx. 4ft and 1 approx. 7ft), one of whom was swimming. We got a great view of a deer looking at us out of the woods, an encounter that lasted over a minute before he walked off into the woods. We also saw a lot of Golden Orb spiders, many squirrels and some cool trees. Just before driving out the entrance we also saw a 4ft corn snake, which allowed us to come within a few ft of him.
Despite the mosquitoes and mud bogging, the trail is quite enjoyable and very beautiful. My 10 year old son especially liked the wading through the muck, probably because his boots kept out the water. The whole trip around both trails took less than 3 hrs and was an easy hike that was well tolerated by all hikers. The River Rapids Nature Trail, which is listed as 1.2 miles, can be added on to these for approximately 30 as it covers the area near the parking and provides view of the rapids, which are not much, but worth seeing.
river, Hiking, Florida, canoe, camping, State Park, Hillsborough River, Hillsborough River State Park