After being alerted to the existence of Holloway Park & Nature Preserve in 2014 by its managers, we had the opportunity to visit it ourselves.
It’s a private park open for public use, held in trust by a nonprofit foundation that oversees management and restoration of the land.
One of the region’s many phosphate mines, it was tapped out before 1950. Mary Ann and Ed Holloway, owners of the Sanlan RV & Golf Resort to the south of the park, bought the land in the 1970s.
In 2010, efforts began to transform the 362-acre property and its rugged terrain into a park, specifically to attract cross-country races. There are marked courses for 1,2,3,5,8, and 10 km.
Because of the hills and valleys created by the old mine, there is a “Spectactor’s Ridge” where visitors and family can watch races in progress.
The park has a separate network of hiking trails as well, which we sampled and were astounded at the elevation changes.
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Length: 2.6 miles in two loops
Trailhead: 28.0078, -81.9119
Address: 2402 Holloway Park Drive
Fees: Free. Donations appreciated.
Restroom: None unless portalets brought in for event
Land manager: Holloway Park Foundation
Open Tue-Sun, closed Mondays. Hours vary by season but are generally sunrise to sunset. They are posted at the trailhead gate.
Bikes are not permitted. Leashed dogs welcome. Please pick up after your pet and deposit in the trash cans provided throughout the park.
From downtown Lakeland, follow US 98 south towards Bartow. The turnoff onto Holloway Park Dr on the right is after 3 miles. From the Polk Parkway, go north on US 98 for 0.7 mile to the turn lane on the left leading into Holloway Park.
After you drive into the park, look for the fence line on the left under the tree canopy, where a prominent map marks the start of the trail system. Park along the fence.
Hiking trails in the nature preserve portion of the park are accessed through the trailhead at the fence line under the oaks.
A kiosk adjoining the gap in the fence has a map of the trails. Take a picture of it to refer to, as it is color-coded just like the signage you’ll encounter on the trail system.
The connector trail leads a quarter mile along a waterway edged by a swamp forest to get to where the loop trails start.
At that junction is a water structure to allow water to flow down into the ravine. Alligators may sun on the sloped grassy bank.
Turn right, crossing the culverts at the sign that indicates the hiking trails are in the opposite direction.
Then take the immediate first left, the red triangle marker being your blaze for the Main Trail.
This mowed path clings close to the edge of the ravine, which is jam-packed with vegetation. It’s broad and easy to follow.
By 0.9 mile, you reach a trail junction where you can take either the outer South Loop or stick with the Main Trail. The South Loop is closer to the Polk Parkway and extends the overall distance by 0.1 mile.
After the South Loop rejoins, there is an option to peel off on the East Trail. You can also tackle that blue-blazed trail as a separate hike.
We didn’t try to follow the Primitive Trail, which drops into natural habitats at the southeast corner of the park.
While blissfully green and the mowed trails easy to follow, the surroundings were a little distracting to those of us who treasure native plants.
Much work remains to remove invasive species, which dominate the former mine.
The eastern side of the property, where the Primitive Trail and additional as-yet unmarked trails wander, has more in the way of natural habitats along the edge of the old mining area.
We followed an unmarked trail off the East Trail to discover a ravine filled with hardwood hammock, the understory lush with ferns.
On the return along the Connecting Trail, pine flatwoods were in evidence in a break in the forest off to the right.
We returned to the trailhead after accomplishing 2 miles of loops using the Main Trail, East Trail, and an unmarked trail. Depending on your route, you can add more.
Returning to the oak hammock with the parking area, you can see Lake Ann and another pond out in the open portion of the park.
If you’re looking for more miles or are interested in birding, looping Lake Ann nets you another 0.6 mile of hiking, for 2.6 miles total.
See our photos of Holloway Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Fort Fraser Trail
Paralleling US 98 between Bartow and Lakeland, the Fort Fraser Trail is along an urban greenway with connectivity to Circle B Bar Reserve
Circle B Bar Reserve
For fabulous birding and more alligators than you can count, roam the marshy edge of Lake Hancock on miles of causeways through Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland
Marshall Hampton Reserve
Sample a colorful corner of more than 1,100 acres of conservation land along the eastern shore of Lake Hancock on a hike combining oak hammocks and wetlands for birding
Lakeland Highlands Scrub
On more than 3 miles of trails, Lakeland Highlands Scrub offers a close-up look at the Lakeland Ridge, an ancient island when Florida was beneath the seas: parts of this 551-acre preserve are at 230 feet elevation.