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Tampa is an amazing city known for the Bucaneers and its many white sand beaches. Admittedly, people don’t really associate Tampa with hiking or outdoor activities. However, during the cooler months of the year, there are some really special and beautiful places to go hiking in Tampa to learn more about local wildlife and ecosystems. Additionally, many trails in Tampa are exceptionally beautiful, with swamp or seaside terrain and lush vegetation. We created this guide to 15 wonderful hikes in Tampa so you can plan your next outdoor adventure!

Looking for the perfect gift for your favorite hiker? Here’s a comprehensive list of our
35 favorite (practical) gifts for hikers, updated for 2020!

Photo Credit: PilotGirl (Flickr CC)

Easy Hikes in Tampa

Lettuce Lake Park Loop

For a short, easy hike close to home, the Lettuce Lake Park Loop is one of the best hikes in Tampa. Not only is the hike convenient to get to, but it’s also quite scenic, with well-maintained wooden boardwalks and mossy trees scattered throughout the trail. It’s also home to many unique bird species, including herons, egrets, ibis, and spoonbills. You can also catch a glimpse of several other species, including alligators and armadillo. For a quintessential Flordia hike without having to stray too far, Lettuce Lake is a perfect choice.

Little Manatee Short Loop

  • Trail Length: 3 miles
  • Location: Little Manatee River State Park

Little Manatee River is one of the many rivers in the Tampa area, and it’s a beautiful spot to go hiking in Tampa. True to its name, if you get lucky, you might even catch a manatee swimming in the quiet, clear waters of the river! Known for being a prime spot for wildlife watching, there are also many reptile and bird species that live in the area. Because of the swampy environment, be sure to bring bug spray and use it liberally – they can get quite vicious here.

Photo Credit: Kim Seng (Flickr CC)

Banyard and Seminole Trails

  • Trail Length: 5.5 miles
  • Location: Hillsborough River State Park

From rivers to forests, Hillsborough River State Park has it all, and the Banyard and Seminole Trails are no exception! These two trails form a nice, easy 5.5-mile loop around the park, with beautiful dirt paths and wooden bridges passing through lush, mossy biospheres. Along the way, you’ll find swamps (with plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities), quiet rivers, and unique, eerie trees.

Honeymoon Island and Caladesi State Parks

  • Trail Length: 2.5+ miles (depends on trails chosen)
  • Location: Dunedin, FL

Located off the coast of the Tampa area, Honeymoon Island and Caladesi State Parks provide a beautiful, white sand outdoor getaway that you’ll be sure to remember. These parks occupy two separate islands; you can get to Honeymoon Island by car, but need to take a ferry to continue on to Caladesi. Here, you’ll find lots of palm trees, white sand beaches, and sparkling blue waters. Additionally, these are both fantastic places for seafowl watching, especially during the off-peak hours.

On Honeymoon Island, hikers generally enjoy the Osprey and Pelican trails. Caladesi offers a nice 2.8-mile loop trail as well. Regardless of which trail(s) you choose, bring LOTS of bug spray – there are lots of mosquitos in the area that can be vicious without protection.

Photo Credit: City of St. Pete (Flickr CC)

Boyd Hill Main and Lakeside Trail Loop

  • Trail Length: 3.3 miles
  • Location: Boyd Hill Nature Preserve

If you want to explore a swampy area on wooden boardwalk trails, Boyd Hill Nature Preserve is one of the few hikes in Tampa and the surrounding areas to do so. While this park is quite scenic, surrounded by mossy vegetation and shady trees, is its abundance of wildlife (in particular, alligators and armadillos).

As referenced by the large armadillo statue along the trail, many species of wildlife – including reptiles, mammals, and birds – call Boyd Hill home. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the park hours are extended, making it easier to view wildlife in the morning or early evening.

Robinson Preserve

  • Trail Length: 7.5 miles
  • Location: Bradenton, FL

For even more wildlife and a longer (but still accessible) trail, the Robinson Preserve Trail is a fantastic option for hiking near Tampa. This beautiful recreational area offers opportunities for hiking, biking, and paddling to see some of the unique bird species and mangrove areas that are indigenous to this part of Florida. Locals who frequent this trail love how secluded it is, citing it as a great way to escape the city and feel totally immersed in nature.

Photo Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife (Flickr CC)

Rainbow Springs Falls

  • Trail Length: 2.1 miles
  • Location: Rainbow Springs State Park

As the only waterfall hike on our list, Rainbow Springs Falls is one of the more unique hikes in Tampa and the surrounding areas. Instead of swamps and wildlife, this park features a large spring area and a quaint waterfall that sits beautifully in a tropical-looking backdrop. The hike itself is only 2.1 miles, perfect for those not wanting to spend too long on the trails. Afterward, you can take a dip in the Rainbow Springs swimming area to get some cold relief from the Florida heat.

Weedon Island Preserve

  • Trail Length: 4.3 miles
  • Location: Weedon Island Preserve

Mangroves, mossy trees, and wooded boardwalks make the Weedon Island Preserve trail a local favorite. The boardwalks here extend around a massive mangrove forest, which is perfect for wildlife viewing and enjoying the eerie scenery, with tree roots and wide canopies galore. There’s also a lookout tower on the trail to get some bird’s eye views of the park. You can also opt to canoe or kayak here to explore the mangroves even further – just be sure to bring a LOT of strong bug spray.

Photo Credit: Diana Robinson (Flickr CC)

Fort De Soto Park

  • Trail Length: 1.5 to 4+ miles
  • Location: Fort De Soto Park

A largely oceanside trail, the Fort De Soto Park trail is a lovely, short, easy hike along the shoreline in a very scenic island near St. Petersburg. As one of the quieter hikes in Tampa, the Fort De Soto Park area is known for incredible bird watching opportunities. While the trail is short, it provides a great place to learn about nature and soak in ocean views. It’s a little wilder and more overgrown than some of the other places on our list, so if you’re seeking a more rugged trail, this is a cool option.

Terra Ceia and South Restoration Loop

  • Trail Length: 2.1 miles
  • Location: Emerson Point Preserve

Quiet, gravel paths wind through the lush forests of Emerson Point Preserve, and the Terra Ceia and South Restoration Loop is a fantastic way to enjoy the beautiful nature here. There’s also a lovely tower you can climb to capture views of the park and the nearby bridge. You can also catch a wide variety of wildlife here, from bird species to dolphins and manatees to turtles and snakes. There’s something for everyone on this easy, accessible spot for hiking near Tampa.

Photo Credit: Steven Martin (Flickr CC)

Moderate & Hard Hikes in Tampa

Weeki Wachee River

  • Trail Length: 5.5 miles
  • Location: Spring Hill, Florida

The Weeki Wachee River is well-known for some of its more famous aspects, like a large waterpark and kayak and canoe tours, but it’s less well-known for its hiking. However, hiking here can be a real gem, and the trail from Weeki Wachee Spring to Gardens is a must-do if you want to experience this area in a quieter, more contemplative way.

Located in a state park of the same name, the trail follows the river, which boasts crystal clear water that’s sightly tinted light blue. Plus, while walking or paddling in the area, you have the chance to see manatees! (Reason enough to go, right?!)

Photo Credit: Allen Forrest (Flickr CC)

Big Shoals Trail

  • Trail Length: 2.4 miles
  • Location: Big Shoals State Park

The Big Shoals Trail in Big Shoals State Park is a beautiful, slightly more challenging hike that’s suitable for hikers of all levels. Here, the trail brings you past a river to eerie, cool swampy areas that feature trees with protruding roots and local wildlife. Nearby, there are river rapids you can admire, a rarity in the mostly swampy waters of central Florida. Additionally, vibrant plant life surrounds the trail, providing shade from the sunlight and some beautiful spots for photography.

Old Welcome Trails Loop

  • Trail Length: 7.9 miles
  • Location: Lithia, Florida

Whether you’re looking for prairie, swamp areas, or mossy forests, the Old Welcome Trails Loop has it all. This area is actually separated into several shorter trails, but the 7.9-mile loop trail will take you past all the highlights. There have been many reports of wildlife spottings, like deer and birds, and visitors will certainly enjoy the solitude and escape from the city that this peaceful, serene environment provides.

Photo Credit: Michel Curi (Flickr CC)

Alafia River State Park

  • Trail Length: Up to 6.4 miles
  • Location: Alafia River State Park

Our absolute favorite park for hiking near Tampa is Alafia River State Park, which is home to some of the most quintessential Florida landscapes in the area. The many trails here cut through thick, mossy vegetation and pass by tranquil swamp areas, and you’ll have the chance to view many species of wildlife here! For an extra challenge, the terrain here changes from dirt paths to san to boardwalks, providing a lot of variety and diversity along the way.

Additional Resources for Hiking in Tampa

What to Pack

  • Hiking boots – You can’t hike without appropriate footwear, period. For most trails, we recommend an all-purpose waterproof boot with ankle support. We recommend Salomon hiking boots or Keen hiking boots for a comfortable hike.
  • Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to stay cool in a sweat-wicking shirt/tank top and breathable pants, like these PrAna hiking pants for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers, an insulated puffer jacket, and a waterproof outer shell. And don’t forget a pair of the best hiking socks in the world!
  • Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we recommend throwing them in your car anyway just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond foldable trekking poles, which are lightweight and easy to transport.
  • Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To spare disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask bottles because they keep water cold for hours, but a good old Nalgene works very well too.
  • Sunscreen and bug spray – This should be self-explanatory, but sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects.
  • A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or cap for day hikes in the sunshine.
  • Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
  • Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend Osprey day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes.

Wondering what exactly you should pack for your next hike? Visit our Complete Day Hiking Packing List for our full list and our top gear recommendations.

Related Links

Despite what you may know about the city, Miami isn’t just high-rises and wetlands. This coastal city has hundreds of miles of hiking trails, and the best part is you don’t have to go far to get to them. We’ve compiled a list of 10 of the best places to go hiking near Miami, ranging from small city parks, to secluded treks along the 1,000 mile Florida trail. Read on to see our favorite hikes near Miami!

Looking for the perfect gift for your favorite hiker? Here’s a comprehensive list of our
35 favorite (practical) gifts for hikers, updated for 2020!

Shark Valley Trail

  • Trail Distance: 15.8 mile loop
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Location: Everglades National Park

An all-year round easy trail, the Shark Valley Trail will take you deep into the Everglades for a stunning escape into the natural wildlife of southern Florida. It’s entirely paved, making this trek accessible for everyone. Be mindful that bikers will share the road with you. There is a ton of wildlife here. Visitors frequently see dozens of alligators alone. Turtles, lizards, blue herons, and other tropical birds live in the area, making this prime wildlife territory. This is one of the best opportunities for long distance hiking near Miami.

At the halfway point of the trail is an observation tower that offers panoramic views. We recommend turning back after this point as the trail can get quite hot and there’s almost no shade past the tower. Those looking to get their miles in can continue for even more wildlife viewing. Visitors are also able to take airboat tours and see the trail from a different perspective.

Anhinga Trail

  • Trail Distance: 1.5 mile loop
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Location: Everglades National Park, four miles west of the main entrance

Named after the bird native to the region, Anhinga trail is the easiest and quickest way to immerse yourself inside the everglades. The hike is a short and easy trek that will expose you to all the wildlife and scenery the national park has to offer. You are practically guaranteed to see alligators along this trail. The wildlife is this area is used to human presence and will generally be easily photographed without the chance of you disturbing its natural habitat. Keep an eye out for the giant lizards and turtles as well!

The trail is one of the better maintained hikes near Miami and you’ll find yourself walking on a raised, boarded trail the entire length. The trek goes directly over the wetlands. Make sure to bring bug spray. We recommend going near the end of the day or early in the morning to get the best temperatures.

Photo credit: Siddarth Machado (Flickr CC)

Metheson Hammock Park Trail

  • Trail Distance: 1.4 miles out and back
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Location: Metheson Hammock Park, located near Coral Gables

In case you didn’t know, a Hammock in Florida refers to an island made up of hardwood trees. The short trail at Metheson Hammock Park allows you see the remnants of an old hammock that sat near modern day Miami. This trail is rarely crowded and will let you get deep into a tropical rainforest. You’ll see caves, sinkholes, and old limestone buildings along this hike. The trails aren’t well marked so take care to avoid getting lost. In general, the deeper into the forest you go, the more rugged the terrain will get. This hike near Miami is perfect for those wanting to completely escape the city and take in nature completely.

Hugh Birch State Park Loop Trail

  • Trail Distance: 1.9 mile loop
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Location: Hugh Birch State Park near Fort Lauderdale

Tropical woods, butterflies, and tiny lizards inhabit this cute little park located near Fort Lauderdale. Like many of the other state park trails on this list, this hike can be extended by taking some of the offshoot paths away from the main trail. Dogs are allowed here, so take your furry friends along with you!

The trail is a relatively easy trek. Visitors can stick to the main paved loop bath around the outside of the park or venture in deeper among the trees through dirt paths. It may feel easy to get lost in these trails given the dense concentration of trees and vegetation here, so be sure to pick up the trail maps at the park entrance. One of the most gorgeous parts of this trail is the natural archway created by the vegetation surrounding you as you walk along the main path, making this one of the most beautiful options for hiking near Miami.

Oleta River State Park

  • Trail Distance: 1.9 mile loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Location: Oleta River State Park located North of Miami

Primarily used by mountain bikers, the trails at Oleta River State Park offer a moderate challenge for hikers looking to escape from the city. Although the official trail is measured at just shy of 2 miles, it’s possible to extend this by taking one of the various offshoot paths along the main trail. You’ll hike along a narrow dirt path surrounded by trees and cross over several bridges and boulders. It’s easy to forget you’re in the city when you’re here.

This trek does offer its share of challenges. The trail is shared by mountain bikers, meaning you’ll have to be alert at all times. Additionally, trail finding can be difficult if you veer off the main path, but the natural beauty of the place is worth it. This is one of the best places to get lost while hiking near Miami.

Photo credit: Jimmy Baikovicius (Flickr CC)

Black Creek Canal Trail

  • Trail Distance: 1.7 miles out and back
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Location: Biscayne National Park

An underrated and often overlooked trail, the BlacK Creek Canal trail takes you along the shore of Biscayne National Park. The trek stretches out to the Colonial Bird Protection Area, offering an excellent location to see wildlife and bird watch. You’ll start along a paved trail that will quickly transition into dirt and sand. Learn about the surrounding area through the many information panels along the hike.

Come here for an early sunrise hike to see the sun come out over the water. Make sure to bring bug spray as the mosquitos can get quite hungry during the cooler temperatures. Even though it’s located within a national park, Biscayne is completely free and open to the public! 95% of the park is actually underwater. The part that is above sea level is a mesmerizing mangrove forest. This makes this trail one of the most unique options for hiking near Miami.

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park Lighthouse Trail

  • Trail Distance: 3 mile loop
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Location: Take the Rickenbacker Causeway to Key Biscayne. Continue onto Crandon Blvd all the way to the end. The trailhead starts here.

Take a stroll along the coastline of the beautiful Key Biscayne. This trail will take you through a secluded park not far from the city where you can see mangroves, sea grapes, and wildflowers. The hike is 3 miles and takes you around a loop, but it can be extended for up to 4 miles if you go down each branching path.

The trail itself is fairly easy with virtually no elevation change and is mostly dirt. You’ll see tranquil, clear, blue waters throughout most of the hike. At the northern most point of the trail, you’ll come across a lone, white lighthouse that has been standing for almost 200 years. Visitors can enter the lighthouse for free and experience panoramic views of Miami beach and the Atlantic Ocean.

Locals recommend doing this hike before noon to take advantage of the shade. We also recommend bug spray if the weather is cooler. During the Fall and Spring, you can see thousands of migrating birds from this trail. As with any trail in South Florida, watch out for snakes and other wildlife. Since the trail is located inside a state park, there is an entrance fee, but it is relatively cheap and annual passes to all the state parks are available to purchase here.

FIU Nature Preserve

  • Trail Distance: 0.6 mile loop
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Location: Located inside Florida International University’s campus just north of the football stadium.

Located in the heart of the FIU campus in Miami, this 14 acre nature preserve is a perfect hidden recluse. It was originally established in the ’70s as an outdoor teaching lab for the biology department. It now hosts several endangered species of fauna inside its central pine rockland area. There’s a dirt jogging path along the outer perimeter of the preserve, but you can venture deep inside the park through the dirt nature trails. Although it’s a relatively small trail, you will see an incredible diversity of plants and animals here – over 450 in total!

Bear Cut Preserve Nature Trail

  • Trail Distance: 2.2 mile loop
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Location: Take the Rickenbacker Causeway to Key Biscayne. The trailhead is near the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center.

Head out to Key Biscayne for an easy trek along the natural bay-front. A short hike in length, this trial will take you to the shoreline under the shade of tropical trees. You’ll be able to hear the waves of the ocean hitting the sandy beach nearby. This calming walk lets you cross through several beaches and see sandy dunes. The northern most point of the trail is a viewpoint of the fossilized reef, a collection of 6,000 year old mangrove tree fossils that have since formed a coral reef. We recommend this as one of the best closest options for hiking near Miami.

Photo credit: Giuseppe Milo (Flickr CC)

Florida Trail, at Big Cypress

  • Trail Distance: 29.5 miles, one-way
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Location: Big Cypress

The Florida trail is a 1,000 mile trek that starts in Big Cypress National Preserve at the southern tip of Florida and extends all the way up to Pensacola Beach. Most of the trail is undeveloped and unpaved. This is a must for serious backpackers and hikers. If you are looking for a little taste of the longer trail, start at the Tamiami Trail rest stop and head about 30 miles north to I-75.

This trail will take you through some truly secluded wilderness. Although most websites rate it as moderate in difficulty, we recommend that only experienced backpackers attempt overnight trips. Depending on the time of year, the trail can either be extremely hot and dry, or wet and muddy. Make sure you have proper gear including water proof boots. The trail will take you through untouched wetlands. Beware of poison ivy and snakes. This is your best option for long distance hiking near Miami.

Additional Resources for Hiking Near Miami

What to Bring Hiking in Miami

  • Hiking boots – You can’t hike without appropriate footwear, period. For most trails, we recommend an all-purpose waterproof boot with ankle support. We recommend Salomon hiking boots or Keen hiking boots for a comfortable hike.
  • Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to stay cool in a sweat-wicking shirt/tank top and breathable pants, like these PrAna hiking pants for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers, an insulated puffer jacket, and a waterproof outer shell. And don’t forget a pair of the best hiking socks in the world!
  • Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we recommend throwing them in your car anyway just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond foldable trekking poles, which are lightweight and easy to transport.
  • Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To spare disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask bottles because they keep water cold for hours, but a good old Nalgene works very well too.
  • Sunscreen and bug spray – This should be self-explanatory, but sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects.
  • A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or cap for day hikes in the sunshine.
  • Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
  • Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend Osprey day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes.

Wondering what exactly you should pack for your next hike? Visit our Complete Day Hiking Packing List for our full list and our top gear recommendations.

Related Links