Aptly named Lake Conservation Park is a Hillsborough County Park, a family-friendly destination where the Tampa metro reaches Lutz.
The park provides a variety of opportunities for outdoor recreation. Multiple well-shaded trails crisscross around and between the five lakes in the park.
Much of the trail network is shaded by a canopy of hardwood hammocks. You can shorten the length of this hike by using the cross trails.
The park also offers kayak launches into the lakes, a BMX track, horse arenas, an archery range, and a group camping area. Picnic areas mean you can plan a family getaway.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 3.9 mile loop
Trailhead: 28.11891, -82.50300
Address: 17302 N Dale Mabry Hwy, Lutz
Fees: $2 per vehicle
Restroom: One by the one by the gazebo, and another by the horse arena
Land manager: Hillsborough County
Open 8 AM to 7 PM spring and summer, 8 AM to 6 PM fall and winter.
Leashed dogs welcome.
From Interstate 275, head west on E. Bearss Ave for 3 miles, then take a right onto SR 597. Head north for 2.4 miles, and the entrance will be located on the left.
Begin this loop hike near the boat launch at Lake Starvation. Take note of a kiosk at the trailhead displaying information and a map of the park.
Some sections of the trail are a bit ambiguous, so a map allows for easier navigation.
Head down a crushed shell path that gently weaves through an open grassy area dotted with oaks and pines.
Traveling north, the trail passes a dozen young longleaf pines planted alongside the sandy road.
This part of the trail is geared towards fitness, and several exercise stations border the path.
Convenient water stations are dispersed along way as the trail takes a slight turn to the west, under an archway of oaks.
At 0.8 mile, turn right onto a narrower grassy trail heading west. A variety of native vegetation covers the ground as the path leads into an area of pine flatwoods.
Several spots show potential for seasonal flooding, but the network of trails makes it easy to backtrack and reroute if needed.
The markers along the trail ascend in number but seemed to be a bit sporadic and challenging to follow.
As the trail approaches the northwest corner of the park, a map is helpful to stay on track.
A few sharp turns in the path traverse a somewhat swampy area that emerges onto a grassy service road.
Crossing under a powerline right-of-way, take a left turn and head south.
Follow the road along the west side of the property for half a mile. The surrounding land gradually becomes drier, and a sign for the youth camp can be seen to the left.
Shortly after the trail crosses a road on the western entrance to the park, turn left onto a sandy path heading towards the powerlines.
Clumps of palmettos gradually give way to hardwoods covered in Spanish moss. The trail is well traveled and easy to follow in this section.
Ferns and patches of caesarweed lay in the shade under oak branches that stretch up and over the wide path.
Green arrows on posts begin to mark the trail, as it makes a few turns towards a gate with a sign indicating a nearby archery range.
It is important to take heed of these signs and be sure to remain on the green trail, which is well marked in this section.
Saw palmettos are the predominant feature as the packed sand pathway winds through an area thick with green vegetation.
Emerging onto a path carpeted with grass and bordered by beautyberries and low-lying wet areas, the trail continues for a bit before reaching a wooden gate at the end of a dirt park road.
Head down the road until it turns left, becoming paved for a short section near the entrance of the park.
In a quarter mile, the trail ends back at the parking area, completing the loop around Lake Conservation Park.
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
At the north edge of Tampa, Lettuce Lake Park protects 240 acres along the Hillsborough River, with a loop trail and boardwalk that shows off cypress swamps and uplands.
Three short nature trails – the Eagle Trail, the Otter Trail, and the Bobcat Trail – explore different aspects of this conservation park’s ecosystems, including the mangrove-lined estuary
Water in motion: the Hillsborough rapids foam and froth over limestone boulders beneath grand cypress trees in Class II rapids. One of Florida’s oldest state parks, Hillsborough River State Park showcases this masterpiece of nature from an overlook and trail system built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.