Bell Creek Nature Preserve protects over 470 acres of land that nearly became a neighborhood. Construction had progressed enough to start a road at the south end before the project was halted.
A well-maintained trail system allows public access to the property, which is home to a multitude of native wildlife.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 4.2 mile loop
Trailhead: 27.840748, -82.301452
Address: 10940 McMullen Road, Riverview, FL 33569
Land manager: Hillsborough County
Open sunrise to sunset. Dogs are allowed on a leash.
From Interstate 75, head east on Gibsonton Dr for 1.1 miles, continuing straight onto Boyette Rd. In 1.6 miles, turn right onto McMullen Rd. In 0.9 mile, the trailhead will be located on the left side of the road.
Starting at the parking area, head east through a gap in the trees toward a large kiosk displaying maps and information about the preserve.
Turn right to begin the hike, following a wide, sandy pathway around a bend in the trail.
Scrub oaks and sand pines border the pathway as it winds through a dry landscape accented with wispy gold and sage tinted grasses.
Bright green sand pine saplings sprout alongside scattered prickly pear cactus and small saw palmettos.
Red blazes lead the way as a small pond becomes visible on the right in a quarter mile. An inviting picnic bench is situated trailside, offering an excellent view of the tranquil waters.
Longleaf and slash pines begin to dot the landscape, towering over vibrant Florida paintbrush and goldenrod wildflowers.
At 0.7 mile, the trail reaches an abandoned paved road that seems completely out of place. Sand encroaches along the edges of deteriorating asphalt as it cuts through an otherwise healthy scrub habitat.
Today, this juxtaposition serves as a stark example of what the area resembled before housing development radically changed the landscape.
The trail follows this road for a quarter mile before heading northward and transitioning to a wetter habitat bordered by live and laurel oaks.
In 0.2 mile, the red trail meets a blue blazed side trail. Turn left to continue on the red trail as it leads into a wide field.
Following a mowed pathway through the grassy pasture, the trail heads directly north for 0.2 miles before making a sharp left turn.
Near the middle of this open space, short wooden perches have been placed alongside the trail next to signs indicating borrowing owl nesting sites.
Reaching the opposite side of the clearing, the trail returns to the woods, tracing the edge of a prairie pond.
Depending on the season and recent rains, the path may be under shallow water in spots where it is near the naturally fluctuating body of water
Continue to follow the red blazes to the beginning of a small loop at 1.8 miles. At the north end of the property, a half mile loop meanders through a mix of mesic and xeric oak habitats.
It is interspersed with a variety of pine trees. Upon completing the loop, retrace steps on the red trail, returning to the trailhead in 1.8 miles.
A virtual walk in the woods at Bell Creek Nature Preserve
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Discover a new perspective on the Alafia River basin on this easy loop through riverside uplands with a scenic overlook at its center.
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.
Tying together adjacent Triple Creek and Balm Boyette Scrub Preserve, this nearly 5-mile hike loops through restored upland habitats.