Hillsborough River State Park, located in Hillsborough County, near Tampa, is one of the eight original Florida State Parks that was established in 1935 and opened in 1938. It is one of the more popular parks due to its closeness to Tampa and because it is fun.
Location: 15402 U.S. 301 North, Thonotosassa, FL 33592
Hours: 8:00am – sundown, 365 days a year
Admission: $6 per vehicle, 2-8 persons │ $4 per vehicle, 1 person │ $2 for pedestrian │ $24 for camping
- This park has several great hiking trails, so don’t forget your hiking shoes.
- For more information about Tampa Bay hiking, check out the book Best Easy Day Hikes by Johnny Molloy.
- If you want to identity the many birds you will see during your visit, I highly recommend Birds of Florida Field Guide by Stan Tekiela as it is the field guide I personally use. There’s even an awesome checklist in the back of the book to keep track of everything you have seen.
The Hillsborough River flows through the middle of the park, with bridges allowing visitors to visit both sides. The most popular being the suspension bridge, which gives an overview of the small rapids, a rarity for Florida Rivers.
A large swimming pool is available seasonally, usually during the summer. There are two playgrounds, several miles of hiking trails (my favorite being the 3 mile loop Florida Trail, not to be confused with the Florida Trail), picnic pavilions, grills, canoe and kayak launch, and campgrounds.
Hillsborough River State Park is the home to the original location of Fort Foster, an Army fort built during the Second Seminole War. Fort Foster was eventually destroyed, but a replica, which still stands today, was erected at the same spot. It was a site of a battle in 1837, in which U.S. forces repelled a Seminole attack. Battle reenactments are performed every February and December.
Hillsborough River State Park is the state park that I probably visit most, due to its proximity to my apartment; since I’m from the Tampa area. I’ve tent camped there several times and believe it is one of the better places in Central Florida to pitch a tent. I’ve found that the campgrounds are filled with friendly and interesting characters, and offers plenty of activities to fill a weekend. If you ever find yourself in the Tampa area, definitely check out the Hillsborough River State Park.
In particular, I’d recommend taking the Florida Trail Hike and doing the Riverwalk. Bring some charcoal for a cookout. And, if your budget allows it, rent a canoe and take a couple hours to paddle the river.