Hiking – it’s a great way to enjoy the great outdoors

Has anyone ever told you to take a hike?

Well, that’s not a bad idea, and this time of year is the perfect time to do it, especially since the sixth annual Hillsborough County Walk has begun.

Included in the 2022 Hillsborough County Hike is Lettuce Lake Conservation Park. It is one of 22 places people are encouraged to visit throughout fall and winter. Within the park is a 1.25 mile paved exercise trail and 3,500 foot boardwalk with a lookout tower that offers panoramic views of the Hillsborough River and an opportunity to see all manner of wildlife, from wading birds and songbirds, to even alligators. (File)

This annual event offers residents an adventure challenge to explore different types of trails in local parks and reserves.

This year’s hike features 26 trails at 22 locations throughout the county, encompassing neighborhood parks and recreation centers, conservation parks, nature preserves and state parks.

Here’s how it works: Complete at least eight runs between November and the end of March, and you’ll earn a crest, cane tag, or pet bandana.

Participants can choose a hike that is not in the places indicated.

Participants can hike solo or with friends and family. Hikers can also bring dogs, provided the canines are kept on a leash.

Hikers can repeat any trail twice for credit, as long as the hikes are on different dates.

The hike is designed to offer something for everyone, from beginner hikers to seasoned outdoor enthusiasts.

The trails are rated from easy to moderate to strenuous.

Lengths range from under a mile to over 5 miles, such as the 5.36-mile Snaggy Run trail at Bell Creek Nature Preserve in Riverview.

Five of the parks and reserves in Hiking Spree 2022 fall within The Laker/Lutz News coverage area. They are: Northdale Park, Ed Radice Sports Complex, Lettuce Lake Conservation Park, Lake Conservation Park, Lake Frances Nature Preserve, respectively.

While many parks, preserves and trails are rotated in and out of Hike every year, a few places are constant because they have so much to offer.

This includes Lettuce Lake, one of the county’s most popular parks, at 6920 East Fletcher Ave., Tampa.

More than half of the park property is within the natural floodplain of the Hillsborough River, which is a deciduous swamp forest. The rest of the park consists of hardwood hammocks and flat pine plant communities.

The 2022 Hillsborough County Hike encourages people to exercise, explore the outdoors and experience nature through numerous parks and preserves. If you hike eight or more trails in designated parks and preserves between November and March 31, you’ll receive a patch, cane tag, or dog bandana.

Another favorite is the 1.25-mile Singing Bluffs Trail at Edward Medard Conservation Park, 6140 Turkey Creek Road, Plant City.

The trail is revered for its unique elevation changes due to some old phosphate mines, as well as plenty of wildlife to admire from afar.

For the first time this year, the Tidal Walk preserves the Manatee Viewing Center at Apollo Beach.

The Hillsborough County Extravagant Hike – which attracts thousands of participants each year – began in 2016 to encourage people to exercise, explore the outdoors and experience nature through numerous parks and preserves.

It was modeled after successful programs elsewhere, including Summit Metro Parks’ community hiking event in Akron, Ohio.

More than 5,500 people signed up for last year’s ride, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The five-month fulfillment window spanning fall and winter is timed to take advantage of cooler, drier weather and to coincide with birding hours.

Park officials recommend that novices first gain experience at a neighborhood park and then progress to conservation parks and nature preserves.

Neighborhood parks and recreation centers are generally short paved trails with water and facilities unless otherwise noted. Also, most neighborhood park trails are ADA accessible.

Conservation park trails offer more nature experience than your typical neighborhood park trail. Although some are paved, most are primitive trails that traverse a variety of natural habitats ranging from flat upland pine woods to wetland swamps and lowland forests. Most conservation parks have amenities such as running water, restrooms, playgrounds, and well-maintained trails.

The nature reserve trails, on the other hand, kick the nature experience up a notch – almost as if you were briefly leaving civilization behind for a hike. On a nature reserve, development is kept to a minimum to protect natural areas and wildlife.

The trailheads in the nature reserve have small unpaved parking lots, a fence with a pedestrian entrance, and a small kiosk with trail information. They have no toilets or running water. Also, the trails are unpaved, longer with fewer markers, and more rugged terrain.

Participants are encouraged to post photos of their hikes using the hashtag #TakeAHikeHC.

For more information and to register, visit HCFLGov.net/HikingSpree.

Here is the list of parks and trails for the 2022 hiking trip:

Neighborhood parks – short paved trails with water features

  • Stephen J. Wortham Park, Riverview: Bluestem Trail: 1.4 miles
  • Northdale Park, Tampa: Owl fitness trail: 800 meters
  • Ed Radice Sports Complex, Odessa: Radice Fitness Park: 2 km
  • All People’s Life Center, Tampa: All People’s Fitness Trail: 0.45 miles
  • Rodney Colson Park, Seffner: Cougar fitness trail: 800 meters
  • Boyette Springs Park, Riverview: Blackbird Fitness Trail: 1.2 km
  • Bertha and Tony Saladino Park, Brandon: Sandhill Fitness Trail: 0.5 mile

Conservation Parks – well-maintained mid-range trails and trails

  • Lettuce Lake Conservation Park, Tampa: Hammock Run: 2 km; Walk: 0.75 miles
  • Edward Medard Conservation Park, Plant City: Singing Bluffs: 2 km; Seawall Trail: 2.6 miles
  • Lake Conservation Park, Lutz: Lake Vista Trail: 2.4 km
  • Alderman’s Ford Conservation Park, Plant City: Picnic Trail: 3 km
  • Upper Tampa Bay Conservation Park, Tampa: Bobcat Trail: 0.4 mile, Otter Trail: 0.6 mile, Eagle Trail: 0.25 mile

Nature reserves – no facilities, subject to daily conditions

  • Lower Green Swamp Nature Reserve, Plant City: Longleaf Loop: 5 miles
  • Alafia River Corridor South Preserve, Lithia: Horseshoe Trail: 3 miles
  • Bell Creek Nature Reserve, Riverview: Snaggy Run: 5.36 miles
  • Bahia Beach Nature Reserve, Ruskin: Wetland Walk: 2.2 km
  • Lake Frances Nature Reserve, Odessa: pasture pass: 7 km
  • Blackwater Creek Nature Preserve, Plant City: Creekview Trail: 4.36 miles

Florida State Parks

  • Alafia River State Park, Lithia: Old Agrico Trailhead: 1 mile
  • Little Manatee River State Park, Wimauma: North Trailhead: 2.9 miles
  • Manatee Viewing Center, Apollo Beach: 2.5 miles
  • Hillsborough River State Park, Thonotosassa: Wetland Trail: 3.5 miles

Get ready and pace yourself

During your hikes, remember to bring these items:

  • Correct trail map for your destination
  • A compass or GPS
  • Plenty of drinking water
  • Appropriate footwear
  • sunscreen

Posted on November 10, 2021

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