Hillsborough River State Park
My friend Steve is an avid off-roader and introduced me to the wonderful trails around Hillsborough River State Park and Flatwoods Park in northeast Hillsborough County. These trails are good for beginners - not too rugged - and take you through some beautiful terrain. We traveled along the river, through pine forests, wetlands, uplands, you name it. If you have ever considered trying off-road, I highly recommend these trails. In the thick of summer, be sure to douse yourself in bug repellent before you take off and bring water.
For more information on this wonderful park, where you can also canoe, camp and hike, go to www.floridastateparks.org/hillsboroughriver
I've been riding the lovely Upper Tampa Bay Trail since it opened about 5 years ago in northwest Hillsborough County. This wide, paved trail winds for 7 miles through greenways, along a canal and eventually follows an old railway track. It's superbly maintained by the county, with lots of water stops, picnic tables and benches along the way.
There are currently three trailheads with parking lots, but I like to start at the southernmost one near Hillsborough Avenue and do the entire roundtrip of roughly 14 miles.
Be sure to read the many signs posted along the way describing the trailside geography. Hard to believe the large green hill you pass at one point is a reclaimed landfill!
This trail is a favorite of rollerbladers and dogwalkers, along with bikers. You can stop at Bally hoo's Restaurant right on the trail at Ehrlich Road for a bite to eat or a drink. I recently joined a fun group from St. Petersburg called the Sunday Bladers as they did a morning run on the Upper Tampa Bay Trail.
To learn more about the Upper Tampa Bay Trail, go to tinyurl.com/yen3zvz