Cypress Creek Nature Preserve protects more than 2,500 acres in the Hillsborough River watershed.
It connects to a conservation corridor stretching into neighboring Pasco and Polk Counties, enabling wildlife to roam.
From this launch point in New Tampa, a trail network of two small loops and a linear trail winds along the edges of cypress domes and across grassy meadows.
Resources for exploring the area
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Location: New Tampa
Length: 4.3 mile loop
Trailhead: 28.14195, -82.38385
Address: 108000 Lizards Tail Road
Land manager: Hillsborough County
Open sunrise to sunset. Dogs are allowed on a leash.
From Interstate 75, head west on Bruce B Downs Blvd for a quarter mile, and turn right onto Tampa Palms Blvd W. In .2 miles, turn right onto Commerce Park Blvd. Continue for 1.4 miles, where the road becomes New Tampa Blvd. After a quarter mile, turn left onto Lizards Tail Rd. The trailhead is located to the left at the end of the road.
Starting at the parking area, walk south on Lizards Tail Road to the sidewalk alongside New Tampa Blvd. The preserve can be seen to the right.
Fence posts are painted red to indicate the direction of the trail.
When you reach the sidewalk, follow it along the fence to the trail entrance on the right.
Passing through the fence, turn left and follow red blazes as the Red Trail sweeps around to an elevated boardwalk.
The boardwalk is particularly scenic, closely flanked by pines and cabbage palms.
As you cross over the walkway, a stand of cypress looms overhead to the left. Thin cypress saplings sprout from lush green grasses bordering the swamp.
Where the trail returns to solid ground, vibrant blooms of narrowleaf sunflower and goldenrod shoot out from scrubby palmettos and grasses.
Follow a mowed pathway carved through the prairie for a tenth of a mile, then turn right at the first trail intersection for the Red Trail.
The path continues across a field, then through a small tunnel of oaks to reveal a pine flatwoods landscape on the other side.
Longleaf pine saplings and short cabbage palms cluster close to the edges of the trail.
Regularly spaced red blazes are painted on the trees to mark the trail. Follow the blazes for a little over a half mile as it circles around the loop.
Turn right at the intersection of the Yellow Trail. A yellow-topped post adorned with a plate sporting the number four marks the next intersection.
Turn right to start a counterclockwise loop on the Yellow Trail. The landscape changes, with larger oaks and sweetgum becoming more prominent.
Follow the Yellow Trail for about a quarter mile, where it converges with the Blue Trail at 1.8 miles.
A 0.7 mile round-trip spur off the loop of the preserve, the Blue Trail dead ends in the Cypress Creek floodplain. It’s scenic, so it’s worth the hike.
It can be skipped by turning left and remaining on the yellow-blazed loop. To explore the Blue Trail, continue forward and the blazes will turn from yellow to blue.
The Blue Trail descends slightly on the approach to Cypress Creek. While it does not reach the creek, the vegetation changes as the landscape transitions into swamp.
A little loop at the end is surrounded by a thick canopy with stands of cabbage palms reaching up for patches of sunlight.
Follow the Blue Trail back to the Yellow Trail intersection and turn right. The palms soon become dense along both the sides of the path.
A wall of large fronds line a clear route through the middle.
Emerging from this jungle, the Yellow Trail opens into a pine flatwoods prairie, bordered by waving grasses.
Turn right at the next intersection, 3.4 miles into your hike, where the Yellow Trail completes a loop. This last segment of the Yellow Trail leads back to the Red Trail.
A keen eye might spot small creatures – like a green tree frog or praying mantis – clinging to the grasses as they sway in the breeze.
At the intersection of the Red Trail, turn right and follow the blazes to a second intersection with the Red Trail, completing its loop at 3.8 miles.
Continue straight ahead on the Red Trail to cross the boardwalk, then make a sharp right onto a short jog back to the entrance gate.
Exit the gate and follow the sidewalk north along New Tampa Blvd back to the parking lot at Lizards Tail Rd, wrapping a 4.3 mile hike.
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
In addition to the 6.9 mile paved bike path loop at its core, Flatwoods Park at Lower Hillsborough Wilderness provides many different routes for outdoor exploration
A mosaic of cypress swamps, pine flatwoods, and sandhills, the Oak Ridge Tract of Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve offers an immersive day hike destination with many hiking options
A forested escape north of Tampa, Lake Conservation Park features a network of trails where you can loop nearly four miles around a series of small lakes.