Hillsborough River State Park is just a few minutes outside of Tampa and offers a unique feature: the only Class II rapids in the state. The park has over seven miles of trails through oak hammocks and pine flatwoods, most with great views of the Hillsborough River. We love the solitude this park offers — we only ran into a few other hikers on a weekend afternoon.
One of the coolest things to check out is the suspension bridge which allows you to cross the Hillsborough River. And you can see plenty of wildlife at the park. We’ve seen deer, alligators, turtles and plenty of birds including woodpeckers and owls.
Park Entry and Info
- Entry Fee:
- $6 per vehicle up to 8 people
- $4 for single occupant vehicle
- $2 per pedestrian/cyclist
- Hours: 8am to sundown, 365 days per year.
- Address: 15402 US 301 N.
Thonotosassa FL 33592
- Phone Number: 813-987-6771
- Pets are welcome in all outdoor areas of the park, but must be kept on a 6 foot leash at all times.
- Paper maps available at Ranger Station.
- Pool Side Cafe: bicycle/boat rentals, concessions, camping supplies, souvenirs. Hours 8am-5pm.
Fort Foster State Historic Site
Built in 1836 during the Seminole Wars, Fort Foster defended the bridge crossing at the Hillsborough River. Although it is part of Hillsborough State Park, it is a separate site with a separate entry. Each year, the site offers two living history reenactments: Fort Foster Rendezvous in January, and the Candlelight Experience at Fort Foster in December. Even though the fort is only a reproduction, it is still very fragile and can be hazardous. Because of this, the only way to see Fort Foster is through a guided tour:
November – April: Thursdays of each week, at 10:30am
Summer months: every 3rd Saturday, at 11am
The fort tour is $2 per person in addition to the entry fee. You must purchase tickets at the Ranger’s Station prior to taking the tour. In addition, you can visit the Interpretive Center, which is accessible from Parking Lot 1. Here you will find artifacts and exhibits about Fort Foster. The center is open daily from 8am to 5pm.
Note: Call ahead before planning to attend a tour, because they are often cancelled during the rainy summer months due to flooding at the fort.
Activities at the Park
Biking is permitted on the 1.6 mile Wetlands Restoration Trail and the 2.2 mile paved Park Loop. Bring your own or rent from the park concessions, found at Parking Lot 4. Fees, per hour, are $15 for a mountain bike, $10 for a cruiser, $10 for a child’s bike. Note – return rentals before concession close at 5pm.
Hillsborough River State Park has 112 campsites for RV and tent camping, plus primitive camping sites. Reservations at least a month in advance are strongly recommended. Cost is $24 per night plus a non-refundable $6.70 reservation fee. We’ve heard the campsites tend to get a little crowded and may not be very private, so you may want to check them out before reserving one. Primitive camping is $5 per person per night.
Visitors can bring their own boat or rent canoes or kayaks at the park. Rates are $25 per boat for 2 hours. If you head downstream from the canoe launch you will avoid paddling on the rapids. Note – return rentals before concession close at 5pm.
This is a popular section of the Hillsborough River for fishing. We saw lots of people fishing from the concrete pier (near Parking Lot 4) and along the trails. Check in with a ranger for more details.
With over seven miles of gorgeous Florida trails, this park is a great choice for a hike. The Park Loop Trail is approximately 2.2 miles of paved trail that takes you around the whole park, but be aware, you’ll be sharing the trail with cars. The most popular trail is the Rapids Nature Trail which is 1.2 miles and will lead you to the Class II rapids as well as the suspension bridge (start at Parking Lot 2). If you’d like less walking, the rapids are a short walk from Parking Lot 2, and the suspension bridge is a short walk from Parking Lot 3. The trails are well-maintained and fairly easy to hike.
This park has a few picnic shelters built by the Civilian Conservation Corp. (CCC) in the 1930’s and many picnic tables. There are a total of seven pavilions available for rental. Fee is $60 or $90 per day depending on size. Find some great spots at Parking Lot 4 by the canoe launch or the Poolside Cafe.
Another unique feature of Hillsborough River State Park is the massive 1/2 acre swimming pool (located at Parking Lot 4). The cost is $4 per person per day (on top of the park entry fee). There is lots of deck space to relax, plus a Pool Side Cafe. Lounge chairs and umbrellas are available for rent. But they are limited, so you may want to bring your own. The pool may be closed due to capacity or inclement weather, so call ahead during the rainy summer months. No swimming is allowed in the river due to safety.
The park features two children’s playgrounds. One is located near the swimming pool at Parking Lot 4, and the other is near the campgrounds.
Information courtesy of www.floridastateparks.org
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