Once a large agricultural area known as the Cone Ranch, Lower Green Swamp Nature Preserve spans over 12,000 acres of the Hillsborough River watershed.
Although various methods of development were proposed, the county designated the property as protected land in 2010.
Of the five well-maintained loop trails on the property, the red and orange- blazed trails are the most accessible for a scenic day hike.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 5.9 mile loop
Trailhead: 28.080929, -82.076409
Address: 3540 East Knights Griffin Road, Plant City
Restrooms: Portable toilet next to ranger’s office
Land manager: Hillsborough County
Open Sunrise – Sunset. Dogs are allowed on a leash.
From Interstate 4, head northwest on Kathleen Rd for 0.6 mile, then turn left onto Knights Station Rd. In 3.8 miles, continue straight as the road becomes Knights Griffin Rd. The trailhead is located on the right side of the road in 1.2 miles.
Staring at the parking area, be sure to stop at the trailhead kiosk for information and a map of the preserve.
Pass through a latched gate onto a wide, mowed path bordered by tall golden grasses and slash pines.
Follow red blazes northward for 0.4 mile, then turn right onto the orange blazed Central Loop.
The trail swoops to the left while passing the ranger’s office, before crossing Itchepackesassa Creek on a sturdy wooden bridge.
On the opposite side of the creek, the pathway opens to an expansive former agricultural pasture that is undergoing a restoration effort.
Where cattle had grazed for dozens of years, a pine savanna is slowly reclaiming the land.
Turn right in a half mile, follow the orange blazes as the trail skirts along the edge of a large wet prairie.
In a few hundred feet, a covered picnic bench sits atop an earthen mound, offering a spot to rest while providing panoramic views of this spectacular landscape.
Strands of Spanish moss-covered cypress trees line the edge of the prairie in the distance as numerous waterfowl chirp and call, hidden within the tall grasses.
Continue following the orange trail as it passes an intersection with the white trail, then southward towards the main loop.
At the two-mile mark, turn right, passing the edge of one of several cypress swamps on the west side of the property.
Reaching an intersection with the blue trail in 0.6 mile, be sure to stay on the east side of the fence, following the orange blazes.
While tracing along an edge of a wetland that surrounds Itchepackesassa Creek, the terrain becomes muddier.
Stands of sweetgum trees border the trail, alongside cypress trees surrounded by countless knees protruding from the dark soils.
The pathway leads southward, alongside a dense hammock of oaks bordering a channelized waterway.
In a half mile, the trail takes a sharp left, following the creek towards the beginning of the loop.
Cross the bridge and continue following orange blazes for 0.3 mile before reaching the red-blazed Southeast Loop.
Turning left at this intersection leads back to the trailhead in 0.4 mile. Turn right to add more distance to the hike.
To do so, follow the red loop along a wide pathway popular with equestrians before reaching the trailhead after another 1.2 miles.
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
A pair of loop trails provide access to wide-open pine flatwoods interspersed with a mosaic of prairie, cypress domes, oak hammocks, and a quiet spot alongside the namesake creek.
Camping beneath the twinkling stars at Colt Creek State Park, enjoy a getaway from the busy bustle of the Interstate 4 corridor between Lakeland and Tampa
A linear trail, the Upper Hillsborough River Hiking Trail meanders through pine flatwoods, oak hammocks, and floodplain forests along the edge of the Hillsborough River basin.