Alderman’s Ford Conservation Park is named after James Alderman, who created a ford to cross the Alafia River in the 1840s.
This popular family-friendly park offers a multitude of outdoor opportunities including camping, paths for hiking and bicycling, a canoe launch, and pavilions available to rent.
The trail system immerses visitors within a rich riverine woodland teeming with a variety of unique flora and fauna.
It can be accessed from either of two main parking areas: the primary park entrance off CR 39 where the nature center is located, or this lesser-used entrance for the canoe launch.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 4 miles
Trailhead: 27.865837, -82.146532
Address: 9625 Canoe Launch Loop, Lithia, FL 33547
Fees: $2 per vehicle
Restrooms: Yes, at trailhead.
Land manager: Hillsborough County
Open 8-7 in the spring and summer, 8-6 in the fall and winter. Dogs are allowed on a leash.
From Interstate 4, head south on N Alexander St for 3.4 miles, staying to the left as the road becomes W Alexander St. In 0.4 mile, turn right onto SR 39, continuing straight for 3.5 miles, until the road becomes S CR 39. In 5.5 miles, turn right onto Thompson road, then an immediate right onto Canoe Launch Rd which leads into the entrance for the park.
From the electronic pay station adjacent to the bathrooms, head towards the paved main trail and turn left.
Within a hundred feet, the pathway crosses a canoe launch ramp on a sturdy bridge.
A popular multiuse pathway winds northward, bordered by cabbage palms and oaks.
In 0.2 mile, continue onto a boardwalk that transitions to a large wooden bridge crossing over the Alafia River.
Large palm fronds hang overhead as the trail turns towards the south, winding through a thick subtropical jungle.
In 0.2 mile, pass under CR 39, keeping an eye out for the red trail to the right in 300 feet.
Leaving the paved path, follow red blazes while descending towards the Alafia River.
The habitat quickly changes, becoming noticeably muddier along the banks of the river. Cypress knees jut out of dark soils along the trail as it leads eastward.
Tracing a bank of the swift-moving river for a quarter mile, continue along the red-blazed path as it slowly climbs out of the floodplain.
The ascent is noticeable as sandy, leaf-strewn path weaves northward, returning to the paved trail at 1.3 miles.
Returning to the main loop, head southward under tall canopy of magnolia, ash, sweetgum, and water oaks strewn with Spanish moss.
An impressive boardwalk begins in 0.2 mile, crossing the Alafia North Prong before providing an option for a short loop through the floodplain forest.
Turn right at the boardwalk sign, following the tall walkway as it leads though a dense swamp at the confluence of the North and South Prongs of the Alafia River.
Multiple benches are situated along the boardwalk, offering places to rest and exceptional views of the rivers.
Completing the loop, turn right to pass over the Alafia South Prong, and back onto the paved path.
In 0.4 mile, a blue-blazed trail leads southward, providing access to the primitive campsites.
Blue markers lead the way through a maze of crisscrossing trails near the campsites. Each site has a short trail leading to a small clearing with a picnic bench and fire ring.
The Blue Trail continues as a 0.9-mile loop on the south end of the property, passing an adjacent strawberry farm.
Back at the main paved loop, turn left to head towards the trailhead. The path crosses a few bridges before passing under County Road 39 again.
Well-placed benches offer resting spots alongside the river as the trail continues northward, completing the loop at four miles.
Learn more about Alderman’s Ford Conservation Park
Alderman’s Ford Conservation Park
Straddling the confluence of the North and South Prong of the Alafia River, Alderman’s Ford Conservation Park provides immersion into lush riverine forests.
A virtual walk in the woods at Alderman’s Ford Conservation Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
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.
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.
Fishhawk Creek Preserve North
Hike rolling sandhills and rugged terrain sloping towards scenic views of the Alafia River and Little Fishhawk Creek near Lithia Springs.
Edward Medard Conservation Park
Meandering over hilly terrain past numerous scenic overlooks, the Singing Bluffs Trail at Edward Medard Conservation Park provides great birding among documented nesting bird colonies.