On our first few visits to Morris Bridge Park, the boardwalk was why you stopped, unless the plan was to put in and paddle up or down the river.
A small picnic area at this wayside in Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve, a place to drop a line off a pier, and an easy-to-reach river bank for birding: that seemed like plenty to do.
But as off-road cycling took off in the region, a network of rugged trails grew between Flatwoods Park and Wilderness Park.
Morris Bridge Park now serves as a mid-point to join that twisting singletrack in either direction, since cyclists must use the road bridge to cross the Hillsborough River.
The hike description below outlines the Morris Bridge Boardwalk, an easy walk for all ages and abilities. Once we ride the off-road trails, they’ll be added separately.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 0.4 mile loop
Trailhead: 28.098967, -82.312367
Address: 13630 Morris Bridge Rd, Thonotosassa
Fees: $2 per vehicle
Restroom: At the trailhead
Land manager: Hillsborough County
Phone: 813-987-6240 (call 813-426-5583 for ranger assistance)
Trails open dawn to dusk. Neither dogs or bikes are not permitted on the boardwalk. Drones and other remote controlled vehicles are not permitted in the preserve.
Cyclists: some trails in the preserve have a one-way directional flow and should be followed as shown on signage at entrances and junctions.
From Interstate 75 exit 266, follow Morris Bridge Rd (CR 579) north 3.5 miles to the park entrance on the left, just before the bridge.
Walk to the far edge of the parking area and you’ll see a path leading down to the left. It makes its way to the observation deck and fishing platform.
Overlooking the sluggish Hillsborough River flow, it’s the first place that birders can scan the edges of the water for activity, or sit on a bench and enjoy the view.
Follow the path back out and around to the bridge with the “Morris Bridge Boardwalk” sign in front of it, along with a hand-routed wooden map.
Cross the bridge and turn left to follow the loop around the island clockwise. The entire loop, a little over a quarter mile long, is a boardwalk.
Skimming close to the river on the left as you walk beneath the shade of tall cabbage palms and ancient cypress, watch for birds on the water’s edge.
There are spots where breaks in the understory let you clearly look out across the river’s flow. After the boardwalk curves left, it faces tangled swamps.
The river becomes visible again after a couple of sharp turns in the boardwalk. Once it’s up higher than water level, the views down and across the river open up.
All too soon, you finish the loop. Exit over the bridge out to the parking area. If you’re birding, it’s worth a walk up the waterway to the canoe launch for another open spot.
Learn more about Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve
See our photos from Morris Bridge 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.
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.