(14326 S County Road 39, Lithia, FL 33547)
Located about 28 miles of Tampa, in the southeastern Hillsborough County, the Alafia River State Park consists of more than 6,000 acres, acquired by Florida authorities back in 1996. Property’s previous owner was Cytec Industries as the location of a phosphate mine. At the Alafia Park, year round visitors can enjoy various recreational activities such as biking, camping, picnicking, canoeing, kayaking and bird-watching. The park offers different opportunities to sleep under the stars: a family camp, an equestrian camp and a primitive group camp. Hiking and horseback riding is part of the fun, in a network of more than 40 miles of trails. If you go hiking, don’t forget your binoculars, they are essential to enjoy a closer view of the abundant wildlife along the way, like Sherman fox squirrel, alligators, white tail dear, and birds including wood peckers, herons, storks and many others. Canoeing and fishing opportunities are generous in the south prong of the Alafia River: bluegill, catfish and bass are numerous, among others.
Some of the most exigent Mountain Bike trails in Florida are found in the park. They were designed in a site formerly used for phosphate mining activities which makes its topography unique, for instance, some of the most drastic changes in elevation of the state are found in the park. The bike trails consist of 17 miles of routes that crosses hardwood forests and pine flatwoods where abundant wildlife will delight the riders. Volunteers of the SWAMP mountain bike club maintain as well as continue to build more trails. The association also conducts guided rides once a month, and also bike races, which are periodically held. For entrance, use the main one up to the picnic area where bathrooms, bikes wash and picnic pavilions are available. Helmets are required for all cyclists since for Florida law is a requirement. Entrance fee is $5.00 per vehicle, $2.00 bicyclists or pedestrians. Camping fee per night, including water and electricity, is $22.00. The park opens from 8:00 a.m. to sunset, 365 days a year.
Riverloop to Rockgarden to Sand Pine is the easiest loop that you can ride. You will find a number of “Easy Loop” signs, so follow them on a one way eight miles adventure with minimum changes in elevation and a very simple access from the parking area. Roots and turns are the technical sections that challenge the bikers. In these three trails children in small bikes are allowed. You can also ride your city bike in this area of the park without hesitation. If you feel you are more to the novice side, better stay away from the expert trails, and enjoy the easy loop.
The small to medium size hills in trails like Bridges, North Creek and Rollercoaster are the intermediate section of the trails. Most of them are real short, steep, solid, fast and flowy. Sudden drops, climbs and abrupt twists are the most challenging parts of these trails. Take your knee pads with you to jump safely.
One way Moonscape, Gatorback, Rollercoaster and Rabbit Ears trails include sections of steep rollercoaster dips, and very technical rocky climbs and drops. The loop length is about 4 miles. Some parts are very difficult quick descends instantly followed by a steep climb, not always straight lined. This makes a sort of roller coaster sensation, since transitions from dive to climb are very sudden. The rider will need expertise in controlling velocity according to the challenges of the trail.
This is a category that came up from the designers when setting up a real difficult trail. This section is an amazing experience, but for expert riders only. You will see the trail marked on the maps with a double black diamond.