Alafia River State Park has some of the most radical elevation changes in the state of Florida. Phosphate mining in the area formed steep ridges and pits. Over time the reclaimed land became forested and the pits filled with water, forming dozens of small lakes around the park. Because of the terrain, this park is a favorite for fun and challenging mountain biking.
The park is home to approximately 25 miles of bike trails ranging from beginner to advanced. Some trails even include ramps for more challenging rides. Please note all riders must wear helmets at all times inside Alafia River State Park (Florida law only requires riders 16 and under to wear a helmet.)
Bikes are available for rent through University Bicycle Center located inside the park. However the shop is only open Friday – Sunday.
Mountain biking is definitely the main draw of this park. On a weekend, you’ll see lots of serious bikers riding the advanced trails. Out of all the visitors we saw there, only a handful were not biking.
Many of the hiking trails at Alafia River State Park are shared with horseback riders. The Old Agrico Trail is the only trail that hikers don’t have to share. This is a 1-mile loop that winds up and around hills and valleys, and right next to lakes. The majority of the trail is through forested terrain.
While a mile doesn’t seem like a very long hike, the hills do make it a little more challenging and there are lots of places to stop and take pictures and admire the scenery. We spent over an hour on this trail.
This little lush creek was one of my favorite parts of the park, and it wasn’t even part of the main trail. If you see a worn-in path off the main trail, it probably leads somewhere worth checking out!
Additionally, there are nearly 30 miles of trails that hikers can share with horseback riders and/or mountain bikers. Make sure to pay attention to the maps and signs, as many of the bike trails do not allow foot traffic.
While we didn’t see any horseback riders, the trails looked like a lot of fun to ride. We were also surprised to find that there are facilities for equestrian camping. The park has a 12-stall horse barn for campers to use at no additional charge.
Fishing and Boating
Fishing and boating are both permitted in the park. However, boats are limited to small boats, canoes and kayaks. Gas-powered motors are not allowed. A small tributary, the south prong of the Alafia River, flows through the park. In addition, a few of the 30 lakes on the property have boating access. Alafia River State Park does not offer any boat rentals at this time.
Honestly, the lakes at this park did not look too appealing. They were mostly all covered in algae. We didn’t get to see much of the Alafia River itself, so the boating there may be better. For kayaking or canoeing you may be better off heading to a different park, like Hillsborough River State Park.
Hours and Park Info
Hours: 8am to sundown, 365 days per year
Address: 14326 S CR 39
Lithia, FL 33547
Cost: $5 per vehicle
Information courtesy of floridastateparks.org