Hillsborough River State Park Overview
Hillsborough River State Park Campground has 112 campsites which can accommodate tents, trailers, and RVs . Most of the campsites have electric hookups and all of them have water, a table, fire ring and grate. Each campground loop has a laundry facility, restrooms with flush toilets and hot shower. The campground also has a dump station. Primitive and youth/group tent camping is also available.
The Park also has a camp store, picnic area, group pavilions, several playgrounds, a half-acre swimming pool, a cafe and gift shop and over 7 miles of hiking trails. Canoe, kayak and bike rentals are available at the camp store.
Hillsborough River State Park Area Recreation
Outdoor recreation in the area includes boating, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, swimming, picnicking and wildlife viewing. Hiking is also popular along the Rapids Trail, Baynard Trail, Florida Trail and the Wetlands Restoration trail.
Lithia Springs Regional Park is another option you may want to consider. The campground has 44 campsites and is about 23 miles south of Hillsborough River State Park. You may also like Silver Lake Withlacoochee campground up north.
The Swimming Pool At Hillsborough River State Park
Swimming pool at Hillsborough River State Park
Swimming is not permitted in the river, but the park has a fabulous swimming pool for day visitors and campers.
An impressive half-acre in size, the swimming pool is surrounded by a spacious deck near a picnic area that includes open tables and picnic pavilions available for group rentals.
The entry fee for the pool is $4 plus tax per person, per day, for visitors ages 6 and up children ages 5 and under are free. The pool fee is in addition to the $6 per vehicle park admission. Pool hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily, but lifeguards are only on duty from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The rest of the year, the pool may or may not be open, depending on weather or major maintenance.
The is next to the concession building in the main day-use area of the park.
For updated information, or information about renting the picnic pavilions, call the Ranger Station at 987-6771, Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
On a historic note, the picnic pavilions were built in the 1930s by the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, which was created to give people jobs to maintain historic sites and build infrastructure at many of Floridas state parks, including Hillsborough River State Park.
A note from the editor:
The information in this article was accurate when published but can change without notice. Please confirm details when planning your trip by following the links in this article.
Welcome To Hillsborough River State Park
Just minutes from downtown Tampa, this diverse park offers a refuge from city life with seven miles of nature trails and wonderful wildlife viewing.
Come visit a breathtaking oasis of natural and historical significance. Stroll along the river rapids, enjoy camping, explore historic structures, share a picnic or view scenic landscapes.
Hillsborough River State Park provides many opportunities for outdoor recreation. From fishing in the Hillsborough River to hiking or biking on the trails or picnicking under pavilions built in the 1930s, there is something for everyone here.
Besides enjoying a living history lesson, visitors can kayak or canoe class II river rapids, which are rare in Florida, and hike seven miles of nature trails.
Camping is another popular activity at Hillsborough River State Park, just a short distance from the bustling city of Tampa.
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Below The 17 Runs At Hillsborough River State Park
As mentioned. your paddle downstream within Hillsborough River State Park will come to an abrupt halt when you encounter the obstructed 17 Runs section of the river. Even experienced paddlers will be challenged by the downed trees, portages and shallow passages.
Best bet: Turn around and go back to the park take-out and pack up your boat for John B. Sergeant Park.
Sergeant Park is about 7 miles south of the entrance to Hillsborough River State Park, and its the best place to continue your paddle downriver. You can rent kayaks and canoes from Canoe Escape, the park concession, or arrange a livery service to pick you up at one of three locations downstream and shuttle you back for Sergeant Park for $29 per boat. Theres also a $2 parking fee at the park whether you rent a boat or bring your own.
This next stretch of the river is also wild and well-protected from development as a source of drinking water for the city of Tampa.
Canoe Escape offers both guided and self-guided tours and sponsors special events.
Not My Cup Of Tea But Might Be Yours
First, I want to say that I have visited HRSP several times, but this was my first time camping overnight. Previously, some light hiking and biking brought me here, but I never really paid that much attention to the camping area but should have.
To be fair, while this park was not for me, many may feel right at home. Personally, I don’t want to feel like I am camping in the middle of an apartment complex’s courtyard! I prefer not to see or hear people, much less talk to them through their window. My ideal area is boondocking in the mountains somewhere where people are scarce or non-existent! Now, I know HRSP is right smack dab in the middle of Tampa, so I’ll base my opinions on that.
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Camping In Hillsborough County
You don’t have to go far to sleep under the stars. Hillsborough County has numerous camping opportunities, ranging from RV and tent camping with amenities, to youth group camping. Want to really get away? Primitive, remote camping sites are available at select sites. Find your camping style and enjoy!
Hillsborough River State Park
The pool is closed for maintenance with an anticipated reopening date in the summer of 2023. We apologize for any inconvenience.
Know Before You Go
Effective Dec 2, 2021: The ranger station at Hillsborough River State Park is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Exact change is necessary when paying with cash when the ranger station is closed. The café and the pool are closed. Tours of Fort Foster and kayak rentals are unavailable.
Stationary Bridge Closure
The stationary bridge is closed for repairs. Please check back for status updates.
8 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year
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Eg Simmons County Park
E.G. Simmons County Parks visitors become enamored with the parks over 400 acres.
Located in Hillsborough County and just eighteen miles from Tampa, it provides peace, serene respite from city life. E.G. Simmons Park has two campgrounds with 103 sites.
The sites include a fire ring, a picnic table, water and electric hookups, and dump stations nearby. All but twelve sites are waterfront and they are spacious, though they offer little privacy. Namely, there is no vegetation between sites, so you will get no shade or privacy. Small boats can be launched from the campsite.
The park offers paddle trails for canoeing or kayaking through the quiet bays and mangrove islands out into the open waters of Tampa. You may also fish or go to the swimming beach. Additionally, there is a boat launch and a paved road that is ideal for bike riding.
You should note that campground reservations are not accepted, and the camps site are assigned first come, first served.
When you secure a campsite, you can stay up twenty-eight days at a time or 180 days per year.
Honeymoon Island State Park
If you are looking for a quiet day outside of the city, Honeymoon Island State Park is just a short drive from Tampa.
There are more than four miles of beaches to explore, some with beautiful white sand and others with fascinating fossilized coral.
Take a stroll through one of the last virgin slash pine forests on a three mile path, or learn more about the parks history at the Rotary Centennial Nature Center. Youll even see tons of wildlife such as eagles, great horned owls, and gopher tortoises.
The park has 385 acres of land area, so there are plenty of things to do such as swimming, biking, and picnicking. As the most visited state park in Florida, expect it to be busy. However, there is plenty of parking and tons of space.
The entrance fee to the island is $8 per vehicle, and leashed dogs are allowed on the dog-friendly beach and nature trails. If you get hungry, there are plenty of concession areas as well.
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Hillsborough River State Park A Campground Close To Tampa
Are you looking for a campground close to Tampa? One that has hiking, biking, kayaking, and plenty of shade. Look no further than Hillsborough River State Park.
Hillsborough River State Park is on Highway 301, a short distance from I-4. Tampa is a short drive away. Depending on the day and time of day, the drive into Tampa can be easy or a pain. When we visited on a Saturday morning the traffic was manageable. It took us about 30 minutes to get to the Lowry Park Zoo from the park.
The Second Seminole War
Also located on park land is a replica of Fort Foster, which was originally built in 1836 during the Second Seminole War. Tours of the fort are given on weekends, which is the only way to view the fort. On special occasions, reenactments happen at the fort, where visitors can interact with “soldiers” in replica uniforms to learn about their duties at the fort. The Interpretive Center, which is located near the original entrance to the park, showcases many artifacts from the war. Both sides of the conflict are represented in the center, with a collection of more than 100 objects on display.
Paddling on the Hillsborough River
Alligator on the river
Walkway by the Hillsborough River
|Climate data for Hillsborough River State Park|
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Camping Hillsborough River State Park In West Florida
Camping Hillsborough River State Park in West Florida
Camping in Hillsborough River State Park is offered though full facility camping, primitive camping, and youth camping for their guests. Primitive camping is for guests who enjoy being out in natural and the full facility camping is for individuals who want to go camping, but still want electricity, water, bathrooms, and a bed to sleep in.
The park features hiking trails, bicycle trails, nature trails, restroom facilities, showers, playgrounds, and picnic areas. The park is even pet friendly, so individuals can bring their dogs camping with them.
Things to do
There are so many activities to take part in at Hillsborough River State Park it would be very hard to get bored. Some of these activities include bicycling, hiking, wildlife viewing, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, and camping.
Hillsborough River State Park
Little Manatee River State Park
The Little Manatee River has a long history that has shaped the park and surrounding communities. In fact, the Uzita were the first native people to settle on the river over 10,000 years ago.
Then, early settlers sought the wilderness and solitude the Little Manatee River offered, to help them escape. Deserters of the Second Seminole War, outcasts, outlaws used it to escape the growth of the cities.
To this day, the river remains one of the most pristine blackwater rivers in southwest Florida.
Some amenities the park offers is bicycling and equestrian camping. Namely, there are more than fifteen miles of equestrian trails and a campsite that offers a picnic table, a fire ring, a water hook-up, and an electrical hook-up. This site has a horse stable behind it and a restroom facility with hot water .
Additionally, a thirty-site campground is available for tents and RVs. Each comes with the amenities offered by the equestrian camp but with a coin-operated laundry facility. Sites 2, 3, and 5 are wheel-chair accessible and vegetation between sites offer privacy.
Campers also have the option of choosing primitive camping with no amenities, except for the picnic table and fire ring.
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Hillsborough River State Park Campground
The Hillsborough River State Park Campground offers 112 sites, each with its own water supply, picnic table, and fire ring. Bring RVs up to 50 feet. Theres a dump station nearby as well as hot showers, bathrooms, and a laundry room. Feel free to bring your four-legged friends as long as theyre on a leash or in the RV the entire time. This is an extremely popular campground, so its a good idea to make reservations as far in advance as possible. Expect to pay a reservation fee on top of the per-night charge of $24 per site.
Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve
The Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve contains one of the largest premier contiguous recreation areas in Hillsborough County. Within the LHWP are park sites managed by the Hillsborough County Conservation and Environmental Lands Management Department: Dead River Park, Flatwoods Park, John B. Sargeant Park, Morris Bridge Park, Trout Creek Park and Wilderness Park Off Road Loop Trail System. The District manages the following recreation sites in the LHWP that have minimal recreational facilities: Jefferson Equestrian Area and Oak Ridge Equestrian Area
The multiple purposes of the LHWP are easily overlooked while enjoying the natural beauty of this suburban woodland. Here one can paddle waters of the Hillsborough River amongst wading birds, turtles, alligators, lilies and cypress swamps explore over 60 miles of forest trails fish from riverside boardwalks or enjoy a relaxing picnic or cookout.
Adjoining the LHWP is the 3,000-acre Hillsborough River State Park, which contains an area of beauty and tranquility known as the Seventeen Runs of the Hillsborough River. Access to this broad hardwood swamp is very difficult whether by foot or boat. A primitive canoe trail has been marked, but obstacles may be frequent.
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Hiking And Bicycling At Hillsborough River State Park
There are multiple opportunities for hiking, including a 3.2-mile segment of the Florida Scenic Trail, which is considered a moderate hike through the park. Both the Florida Trail and the scenic 1.1-mile Baynard Trail are accessible from the stationary bridge near the park playground. Weve hiked portions of both trails and experienced multiple eco-systems that represent the park as a whole.
The 1.2-mile River Rapids Trail is a loop that takes you to the rivers rapids and follows the course of the river for several hundred yards, offering some great views of the rapids and river, as well as the natural beauty of the park. The nature trail segment is just three-quarters of a mile and an easy hike from Parking Lot #2 on the main park road.
Youll experience a mixed hardwood hammocks and riverine eco-system with varying elevations. Signs along the trail note the various species of plant life and a self-guided tour map can be obtained in the office that will point you to wildlife and bird nests, such as the red-shouldered hawk. Early hikers may even experience a river otter sighting.
The Wetlands Restoration Trail, which is shared with bicyclists, is an easy 1.6-mile hike that intersects with the more strenuous 6.7-mile Fort King Trail, which is also accessible from a trailhead off U.S. 301 N. There are several branch trails, marked and unmarked, that invite you deeper into the parks interior.
Caladesi Island State Park Best For Beach Lovers
Caladesi Island is an untouched island on the west coast that is only accessible by boat. Originally part of a larger barrier islands, the islands of Caladesi and Honeymoon was created in 1921 when a hurricane divided the island into two parts.
Caladesi Island State Park has a marina with floating docks for camping in your boat. They come with thirty amps of electric service and water hookups and other amenities are a covered pavilion for picnicking, a snack bar, and a gift shop. A few sites are ADA accessible.
Guests may also choose to enjoy boating, fishing , hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and swimming.
Additionally, this is a great place to host a wedding with its pristine beach. In fact, it won an award in 2008 and was named Americas Best Beach. So if you want to see one the best Floridas beaches, head to Caladesi.
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Alafia River State Park
While central Florida is relatively flat, Alafia a reclaimed phosphate mine is anything but. In fact, its hilly landscape makes it the perfect place to mountain bike. With the most challenging off-road bike trails in the state, it is one of the best mountain-bike destinations in the state.
Full of hills and valleys, off-road cyclists thought it a great place to build trails they use often. Despite being a mine at one point, it is sprinkled with beautiful, mature trees.
The campground on a flat corner of the park is around a lake. While there are trees and shade, the open setting offers little privacy between camping sites of which there are thirty. Each offers electric, water, a picnic table, and a fire ring.
Also, there is a hilly one-mile loop that is a trail specifically for hikers.
The Alafia River does not flow through the main section of the park, but you can access off State Road 39 and go for a paddle.
Colt Creek State Park
Colt Creek State Park is situated on 5,000 acres of native Florida land that allows you the opportunity to explore the nature and wildlife that make the park unique.
Visitors can enjoy more than fifteen miles of multi-use trails that can be utilized for biking, hiking, and horseback riding.
The trails meander through pine flatwoods, creeks, and wetlands. You may also catch a glimpse of wading birds and alligators. If you wish to fish, you can cast a line out at the lakes edge or from the seventy-five-foot dock. Canoes and kayaks are also available to rent.
There are a few camping options that include primitive and equestrian. There are twenty-seven full-facility sites with thirty-amp and fifty-amp hook-ups. Some can accommodate RVs. Restrooms are available. The equestrian campground has ten sites with a port-o-let being the only amenity while there are two primitive camps without so much as a restroom.
Pavilions are available and can be reserved for special events. There is access to restrooms, lakes, and trails nearby.
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