My family loves being outside! Living in the Tampa Bay Area, we have an embarrassing abundance of riches when it comes to outdoor experiencing. We playground it up on the daily, have water adventures on our sailboat, kayak, and SUP, and take hikes and walks together whenever possible. Now you may be thinking, Florida is flat. How can hiking be a thing – don’t you need mountains or at least hills to hike? Definitely not. Just because we live at sea level doesn’t mean we have nothing to see when hiking. We get to explore lakes, swamps, beaches, and prairies when we hike, and migrating birds make our hiking trails a magnet for bird watchers. Families with kids of any age can discover the wonders of natural Florida on a hike; here are several of my family’s favorites!
Stroller Friendly Hikes
- Lake Seminole Park. 10015 Park Blvd, Seminole, FL 33777. This is the park my family frequents the most, because it’s the closest to our house and it has a fantastic, paved 2-mile trail through pine flatwoods. A 1-mile option provides a less strenuous possibility, and if you want to travel off the paved trail there is a more rugged path nearby. We’ve seen squirrels, snakes, alligators, birds, and turtles, and my 4-year-old enjoys walking across fallen trees like balance beams.
- Lettuce Lake Park. 6920 E Fletcher Ave, Tampa, FL 33637. Fee: $2/vehicle. Despite being in the middle of a Tampa, you won’t even notice the sounds of the city here. Hiking through hardwood swamp forest, hardwood hammocks, and pine flatwoods in the Hillsborough River’s natural floodplain, you can see animals, climb an observation tower, or tour the interpretive center.
- Moccasin Lake Environmental Education Center. 2750 Park Trail Ln, Clearwater, FL 33759. Its 1.25-mile boardwalk and natural trails head through mature oaks and across ponds and creeks. Live wildlife exhibits include birds of prey, a butterfly garden, aquatic animals, reptiles, and amphibians. The nature interpretive center hosts daytime and nighttime guided hikes and educational classes.
- Sawgrass Lake Park. 7400 25th St N, St. Petersburg, FL 33702. This 1-mile boardwalk stroll along the lake provides so many opportunities for bird watching. The Great Florida Birding Trail and National Audubon Society laud it for the thousands of migrating birds each fall and spring.
- Brooker Creek Preserve. 3940 Keystone Rd, Tarpon Springs, FL 34688. Covering 8,700 acres of forested wetlands and pine flatwoods, the largest natural area in Pinellas County is not one to miss. Multiple trails (of varying degrees of difficulty) allow kids to see prescribed burn areas, wildlife, and system restoration.
- Fort De Soto Park. 3500 Pinellas Bayway S, Tierra Verde, FL 33715. Fee: $5/vehicle plus tolls to access the park. Most people think of glorious, white sand beaches when Fort de Soto is mentioned, but it also has a wonderful 7-mile paved trail connecting the beaches, boat ramp, and campground. Two short nature trails provide a glimpse of flora and fauna in the region.
- Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park. 10500 Wilderness Park Blvd, New Port Richey, FL 34655. A paved 7.3-mile multi-purpose trail connects to the Suncoast Trail. My boys enjoy the planet markers along the trail that begin with the Sun and proceed out, distance-wise, from there. Thirteen miles of unpaved trails traverse the park, some designed by the Audubon Society where 177 species of birds have been spotted.
- Hillsborough River State Park. 15402 US 301 N, Thonotosassa, FL 33592. Fee: $6/vehicle, $2/pedestrian. Four trails across wetlands, hydric hammock forest, and pine flatwoods actually feature changing elevations, alligators and other animals, and Fort Foster, the only replica of a Second Seminole War Fort in the United States.
- Honeymoon Island State Park. #1 Causeway Blvd, Dunedin, FL 34698. Fee: $8/vehicle; $2/pedestrian. The Osprey Trail provides viewing access to nesting ospreys along its 2.5-mile path through virgin slash pine strands. Other birds, gopher tortoises, and armadillos live along the nature trail, and an observation deck at the Rotary Centennial Nature Center allows for more wildlife viewing and pretty vistas.