I was in Palm Harbor this weekend, so I used the opportunity to go explore this park. I had seen a lot of pictures here at Florida Hikes, and I wasn’t disappointed at all. This is a really nice area to visit.
There are two trail loops at this park; I started with the southern loop which is about 2.5 miles long. The trails starts right next to the parking area with an information kiosk at the beginning. A crushed shell path leads to a boardwalk that goes through the marshy areas and right up to Lake Tarpon. Even though part of the trails in this park go through swampy marshes and up against a lake, there were almost no mosquitoes to deal with.
A little ways down the boardwalk, I came on a spot where the park rangers had put up some extra fence on one side. At first glance all that I saw behind it was a pile of mulch and some water from the lake; it was very puzzling until I sat there looking for something more. Sure enough – the fence was there for a reason. You’ll have to click on the picture to see more detail, and even then you will have to look pretty hard to see it. There is a mother alligator with her head barely sticking out of the water as she keeps a close eye on her nest!
The next point of interest was a lookout / watch tower. This is a pretty tall one with a beautiful view that is just above the tree line. From here you can see all up and down the coast line, and on a nice day like today the blue sky and clouds reflected nicely off the water.
All along the way up to this point there were little “docks” that extended from the boardwalk out to covered picnic tables overlooking the lake. From here though, more picnic tables extended into the forest / swamp for folks who might prefer the shade. The next point of interest though was a boat launch. The sheriff’s office had a spot here for people to borrow kid-sized life vests. Such a simple thing to do, and an inexpensive way to keep kids safe on the water.
Beyond the boat launch, the trail meanders its way to a river that feeds into Lake Tarpon. There are several benches along the way here if anyone wants to just sit and enjoy the view. I liked the look of this old cypress tree.
There is a lot of wildlife back here. This was the first time I’ve captured a picture of a deer in the wild. Of course it was too far away for a good shot, but if you zoom in on the picture called “deer’s butt”, you’ll see just how well they are camouflaged. Without the camera, it was a lot easier to see. Just after I took the picture he ran off and I also heard another jumping away at the same time. Oh well, maybe I’ll have better luck with the camera next time.
The second loop of the trail was much shorter at only about a mile. This loop started out with a bridged over another creek that feeds the lake. Like the first, this loop also has several board walks. These boardwalks have been around for a long time – long enough that several cypress tree are growing around the wood of the handrail.
On this loop, I decided to do some geocaching. This one wasn’t too difficult to find, but it was fun. It was put there by a group of scouts, just off the edge of the path. This one was called “Scout it out” – if you’re in the area, see if you can find it too!
After a couple more board walks, this loop of the trail also comes back to Lake Tarpon. From here the last loop of the trail goes around a pond in the park. There are a few really nice picnic spots and some swinging benches overlooking the pond. Next time I’m in town, this is going to be on my list of spots to visit again – this will be a great spot to bring the family for an afternoon picnic, some exploring, and searching for more wildlife.