Encompassing over 4,070 acres of protected land in the Alafia River watershed, the Alafia River Corridor Nature Preserve is divided into two sections.
Although much of the land was used commercially in the past, the south side of the river is less disturbed, having been historically used for agriculture.
The north side hosted phosphate mines. Along the entire corridor, the land is slowly being reclaimed by nature, viewable to the public along an expansive trail system.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 5.5 mile loop
Trailhead: 27.821145, -82.145210
Address: 12098 S. County Road 39, Lithia, FL 33547
Land manager: Hillsborough County
Open sunrise to sunset. Dogs are allowed on a leash.
From Interstate 75, head east on Gibsonton Dr for one mile, continuing straight onto Boyette Rd. In 3.6 miles, continue straight onto Fishhawk Blvd. Turn right onto Lithia Pinecrest Blvd in 4.6 miles. In 3.6 miles, turn right onto CR 39 South. The parking area will be on the left side of the road in two miles.
Heading east from the trailhead, follow the yellow blazes down an access road, passing a shelter with picnic tables to the left.
To the right, oddly straight rows of closely packed trees stand perpendicular to the trail, remnants of an old laurel oak farm.
Turn left in 0.4 mile to begin a clockwise trek around the yellow loop.
A wide, mowed path cuts through seas of tall golden grasses bordered by clusters of pines, palms, and oaks.
Yellow blazes lead the way as the trail winds northward through pockets of live oak hammock and pasture.
Spanish moss sways in the breeze, suspended by tall branches overhead and beautyberry bushes in the understory.
An old tractor rusts away on the edge of a field at the one-mile mark, another relic of past agricultural use.
The trail loops around to the south for a quarter mile, before turning eastward into a dense palm and oak hammock.
Branches of live and laurel oaks stretch overhead, forming huge archways as the trail tunnels through the forest.
Red bellied woodpeckers dart from tree to tree, chirping loudly as they search for food in the canopy.
At 1.7 miles, an intersection of the red and yellow trails presents a choice. Turning right onto the yellow trail will lead back to the parking area.
To explore more of the property, continue straight, following the red blazes.
Following red-topped posts through grassy fields, the environment slowly transitions to hardwood hammock as it approaches Chito Branch, a tributary of the Alafia River.
Although the stream is small and typically easy to cross, the trail may be flooded depending on the season and recent rains.
Reaching a junction with the blue trail at 2.5 miles, turn right to head towards a network of blue trail loops at the south end of the property.
Turn right at the next three intersections for the most direct route back to the trailhead.
At 3.7 miles, the trail skirts along a border with a few private properties before heading towards Chito Branch once more.
A wide pathway of alternating sand, grass, and pine straw leads through a variety of habitats before reaching the Yellow Trail at 4.6 miles.
Turning left at the yellow trail, continue for another 0.4 mile, then turn left again for a short walk through the laurel oak farm.
The final half mile of trail weaves through the odd maze of orderly trees, with yellow blazes clearly marking the path.
Upon exiting this forest of sorts, a short walk down the main service road ends at the trailhead.
A virtual walk in the woods at Alafia River Corridor South
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Straddling the confluence of the North and South Prong of the Alafia River, Alderman’s Ford Conservation Park provides immersion into lush riverine forests.
Looping through a former phosphate mine north of the Alafia River, this hike showcases the resilience of nature as the forest reclaims the land.
An easy-going 2.8-mile loop trail explores the south tract of Fishhawk Creek Preserve providing a glimpse of a few natural and endangered Florida habitats.