Nestled among the Alafia River and lovely lakes of southeastern Hillsborough County is a beautiful Florida retreat. Alafia State Park is conveniently located only about 30 miles southeast of the city of Tampa. Its pine forests and grassy hills are the perfect atmosphere to relax or enjoy the many recreational opportunities it has to offer for nature lovers, outdoor sports enthusiasts, and families alike.
The park was acquired by the state of Florida in 1996. Prior to this time the property was owned by Cytec Industries and was the location of Lonesome Mine. This phosphate mine took its name from the town of Lonesome Fort, a former frontier outpost of the U.S. military.
Alafia River State Park is best known for its many well maintained, off-road biking trails. There are bike loops for both beginning and advanced bicyclists that take riders through challenging terrain. The Southwest Association of Mountain Bike Pedalers conducts guided rides through the trails once a month, and bike races are also periodically held at the park.
If you prefer walking to biking, you can enjoy the park’s 20 miles of diverse hiking trails. Binoculars are essential because you are bound to see an abundance of wildlife along the way. There are opportunities to see the Sherman fox squirrel, river otters, white tail dear and alligators. Birds that inhabit the park include herons, storks, ospreys turkey vultures, and wood peckers.
Biking and hiking are not the only activities that are popular here. Because of its close proximity to the river and several lakes, the park is ideal for canoeing and kayaking. There are also numerous opportunities for fishing bass, bluegill, and catfish among several others.
Do you have a horse? The park has miles of equestrian trails that wind through scenic forests, grasslands, and lakes. Rangers even offer a guided riding tour once a month for those who have their own horses.
Additional recreational facilities include a playground with swing sets and slides, a volleyball court, a horseshoe pit, and picnic pavilions.
In addition to the regular activities available throughout the year there are a number or special events that take place at Alafia State Park. In November you can join the Mountain Bike Pedalers for an off-road biking advenure, or run the X-Country marathon, half marathon, & 5K. Two other running races take place in January and March. The Carriage Mobstacle in January is a special horse and carriage event where riders navigate their animals through an obstacle course.
Overnight visitors can stay in the park’s full-facility campground with 30 campsites, including some that are equestrian friendly. Campers are provided with clean restrooms, solar showers, picnic area, and a dump station. There are also electric and water hookups at each site. Leashed pets are welcome in the campground, but reservations are suggested for this popular site.
Park entrance fees are $5.00 per vehicle with a 2-8 person limit per vehicle. Single occupant vehicles can enter for $4.00. For pedestrians, bicyclists, and holders of an annual pass the fee is only $2.00. The equestrian fees are $7.00 per day per horse or $15.00 per tow trailer. Camping costs $22.00 per night and includes both water and electricity. Taxes apply to both equestrian and camping fees.
Whether you enjoy biking, hiking, boating, camping, birding, or just relaxing in a natural setting with a picnic basket and blanket, there is something for everyone at Alafia State Park.