Escape the blazing beach sun and sweltering city: take a break in the shady forest of the Hillsborough River State Park. Enjoy the view from the river on a kayak. Yes, there are gators – and even Class II rapids (but upstream).
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Hillsborough River State Park Overview
Hillsborough River State Park is about 20 miles north-east of Tampa along US 301. It’s about a 30-min drive from downtown Tampa, 45 minutes from St. Petersburg, and about an hour from Clearwater. The park opened in 1938 and is one of the eight original Florida State Parks.
Naturally, the Hillsborough River State Park is known for its river, which invites visitors to fish, canoe, kayak, and observe alligators, birds and other wildlife. Oh yeah, and then there are those Class II rapids!
But the park offers even more than just the river and kayaking fun. There are 7 miles of trails along the river and through the woods, a sizable camp ground, and a picturesque bridge. Unfortunately, the large outdoor pool is closed for maintenance until summer 2023.
In theory, you can rent kayaks and canoes to paddle the river – and bikes to tool around on. However, concessions may be closed. Check via the contact number below first if rentals are available on the day. Ideally: bring your own kayak, canoe or bike to the Hillsborough State Park.
And yes, there are alligators in the Hillsborough River. So while pets are allowed on the trails in the Florida state park, don’t let them swim in the river.
A man-made attraction of the park is the replica of Fort Foster from the era of the 2nd Seminole War. The fort is currently closed. A good time to remember that Hillsborough State Park, as well as all of Tampa Bay, is on land once inhabited by the Tocobaga Indians.
If you want to know which native tribes are historically and spiritually tied to other locations (maybe where you live), check out the very handy map and info website: https://native-land.ca/
Hillsborough River State Park Map
Hours, Fees, Location, Contact and other FAQs
Hillsborough River State Park is open 365 days a year – from 8am until sunset.
$4 for single-occupant vehicle
$6 per vehicle with 2 – 8 people
$2 for pedestrians, cyclists, additional passengers etc.
$24 per night for camping on main campground.
Location, Contact, Website
15402 U.S. 301 North – Thonotosassa, FL 33592
813-987-6771 or 813-326-5867
Official park website
The main campground has 112 campsites; most offer electric for RV and tent camping. Across the river, there is also a primitive campground, which is closed as of this writing (July 2021). Pets are allowed as long as they’re leashed or under their human’s physical control. Make camp site reservations via the Florida States Park camping reservation website.
Additional Visitor Information
Pets are allowed in most areas of the park, but should be kept on a 6-foot leash.
You can fish in the Hillsborough River State Park. Most fish seen (and maybe caught) are bass, bream and catfish. Find out about obtaining a Florida fishing license.
Last but not least, there are several pavilions you can rent for an outdoor gathering of the kinds of people who make you happier. Prices vary, starting at $60.
Please check ahead of time if kayak, canoe, or bike rentals are available – since they’re not always guaranteed.
There are several restrooms available throughout the park.
More Photos from Hillsborough River State Park
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All photos in this post were taken by Luci Westphal.
Let’s Inspire Each Other
Have you been to Hillsborough River State Park – or other cool nature spots around the Tampa Bay Area? Want to share stories or tips? Do you have other shady “escape the heat” places to recommend?
Please leave a comment below – inspired by these questions or whatever you’d like to share…