Renowned for some of the best mountain bike trails in the state, Alafia River State Park also provides a bicycle-free zone for equestrians and hikers.
This trail system is accessible from a parking area north of the main entrance, where admission is free.
A network of trails crisscrosses the property, allowing multiple opportunities for exploration. The loop described visits many of the interesting features in this trail system.
The trail system is an interconnected system of paths with intersections marked by numbered posts.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 5.8 miles or more.
Trailhead: 27.800862, -82.145053
Address: 13016 S County Rd 39, Lithia
Restrooms: Yes, portable toilet
Land managers: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM to sunset. Leashed dogs permitted. Trail maps are available at the ranger station near the main entrance and are highly recommended.
From Interstate 75 in Gibsonton, head east on Gibsonton Dr for one mile, then turn right onto US 301 S. In six miles, turn left onto Balm Rd, continuing straight for 11.8 miles before turning left at S CR 39. The parking area will be on the right in 2.6 miles, shortly after passing the main entrance to Alafia River State Park.
From the north end of the large parking area, head through the gate next to an informational kiosk and a short cabbage palm.
In a tenth of a mile, the trail curves to the right after passing a post marked with a red arrow and the number 1.
Following blue blazes and posts with arrows, a grass-covered pathway leads alongside an elongated pond created by previous phosphate mining activity.
In a half mile, turn left at the post marked 2 as the trail ascends into a forest of live oaks draped with Spanish moss.
In a quarter mile, the trail makes a ninety-degree turn, continuing for another half mile through shaded oaks, passing Markers 3 and 4 before turning right at Marker 5.
Frogs chirp in the distance while weaving southward along a raised berm, as gaps in tree cover alongside the trail reveal a large pond to the west.
Reaching 1.8 miles, the trail climbs a grassy hill dotted with cabbage palms. Hawks and vultures soar high above the rolling landscape.
Swifts dart overhead, deftly catching insects with mid-air maneuvers.
Continuing across the open pasture, the trail winds westward before entering a mixed pine and oak forest and passing marker number 7.
Slowly circling around a large pond, the path crosses a seasonally wet section where water drains from the pond into the Alafia River South Prong.
Turn to the right at marker number 8, following green blazes over a deep ditch, then entering a stand of pines.
Many trail intersections are clustered nearby, making a trail map very helpful while navigating to a post marked with the number 26.
From Marker 26, follow white blazes northward for 0.4 mile to the green trail at Marker 24, then make a left.
Green blazes lead westward for 0.8 mile, alternating between open pasture, clusters of oak, and stands of pine.
At marker number twenty, turn right to follow yellow blazes along a skinny peninsula jutting out into the phosphate mine ponds.
It is intriguing to see how much nature has reclaimed the landscape after the aggressive strip-mining operations ceased.
A picnic bench situated next to the pond offers a quiet resting spot. At the end of the yellow loop, follow green blazes westward to the trailhead in a quarter mile.
Learn more about Alafia River State Park
Alafia River State Park
Alafia River State Park lets you launch on a Florida downhill while mountain biking the rugged terrain of a reforested open pit mine.
Hiking the Alafia River State Park North Trails
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Alafia River Corridor South
With a vast network of trails to choose from, the southern side of the Alafia River Corridor provides multiple routes for hiking and horseback riding.
Alafia River Corridor North
Looping through a former phosphate mine north of the Alafia River, this hike showcases the resilience of nature as the forest reclaims the land.
Fishhawk Creek Preserve South
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.
Alderman’s Ford Trails
Weaving though a lush floodplain forest in the Alafia River floodplain, a paved loop provides access to a network of natural pathways, boardwalks, and primitive campsites.