Balm Boyette Nature Preserve is a well-known destination among cyclists in the Tampa area.
The eastern portion of the preserve has trails that are multi-use, though none are designated specifically for hiking.
In November 2022, the county opened a piece of the park dedicated to hikers, allowing nature enthusiasts to explore Florida scrub habitats in a quiet setting.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 2-mile loop
Trailhead: 27.779944, -82.248405
Address: 13998 Balm Boyette Road, Lithia
Restrooms: Composting toilet at the trailhead
Land manager: Hillsborough County
Open sunrise to sunset, leashed pets allowed.
From the interchange for Interstate 75 and Big Bend Rd in Gibsonton, head east on Big Bend Rd for 0.4 mile, then turn right onto Simmons Loop. In 1.5 miles, turn right at US 301 S. Turn left onto Balm Rd in 0.7 mile. Continue straight for 5.3 miles, before turning left onto Balm Boyette Rd. The trailhead parking area will be on the right in 1.2 miles
Starting at the parking area, head eastward past the information kiosk, and take an immediate left onto a sandy service road.
Evidence of a scrub habitat is immediately apparent from the desert-like soil, sand pines, and dense shrubby oaks.
A variety of endemic species line the wide pathway as it parallels an edge of the property under sparse tree cover.
In late fall and early winter, palaflox sports unique flowers alongside blossoms of showy garberia.
Following red-blazed trees, the trail winds to the east, bordered by dense stands of sand pine.
As the pines transition to clusters of saw palmettos, the terrain becomes rough for a quarter mile before emerging at the edge of a large field.
A stark white sand road leads along the perimeter between open pasture and woods for 0.3 mile before the trail tapers and enters the thicket.
Diversity increases as the pathway meanders through thick brush interspersed with palmettos and golden grasses.
Taller trees begin to line the trail, casting dappled patches of shade on the narrow corridor.
Red-bellied woodpeckers chirp loudly overhead before swooping down onto snags in search of food.
As a fire dependent habitat, the scrub features a mosaic of landscapes where flame has carved out open spaces among taller vegetation.
A few charred oaks flourish in open spaces created by this natural phenomenon.
The trail snakes through tunnels of sand pines draped with Spanish moss, among a low-lying cover of scrub and myrtle oaks, then opens to a grassy access road in a half mile.
This tree-lined road slowly sweeps northward, reaching the trailhead after another quarter mile.
A virtual walk in the woods at Balm Boyette Nature Preserve West
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
An island of high ground in the Alafia River basin, Rhodine Scrub Nature Preserve protects more than 400 acres of Florida scrub habitat south of Riverview
Hike rolling sandhills and rugged terrain sloping towards scenic views of the Alafia River and Little Fishhawk Creek near Lithia Springs.
Looping through a former phosphate mine north of the Alafia River, this hike showcases the resilience of nature as the forest reclaims the land.