Trail Running in Florida: Hillsborough River State Park

While in Florida last week for training at Southeastern University I had Monday morning free so I decided to spend it the best way I knew how–trail running! It is always fun to explore new places so after thumbing through a Florida trails book I decided on Hillsborough River State Park and I was not disappointed. My goal was to have a nice run, enjoy the scenery, hopefully see an alligator (from a safe distance) and not see any banana spiders—I HATE spiders! Here is a short post of my Monday morning adventure.

The Hillsborough River is one of the few rivers in Florida with any type of rapids. I parked my car near a trailhead which led directly to some class 2 rapids and began my 6 mile jaunt from there. It was beautiful! The trail followed along the side of the river…

…and at times cut in under the tree canopy where it was well-maintained.  It was in these heavily forested sections where I kept my eyes out for banana spiders which, from what I saw on a video, are huge.


To help ensure people do not get lost, the trail was marked with orange blazes painted on trees every 30-50 feet.



There was quite a bit of water in the area so the park had built some cool bridges which were fun to run across. 🙂



The plant life was pretty amazing and so different from SoCal.  From oak trees with moss hanging off limbs…


…to giant old oaks that dwarfed everything around it…

…to little tiny trees growing out of large bumps on the side of palm trees…

…to pointy things sticking out of the water, it made for an interesting run!


Things became super interesting when the trail was swallowed up in some wetlands.  I by-passed the big puddle of water by bush-wacking through the undergrowth but then had second thoughts.  I had seen a sign earlier warning of poison ivy throughout the forest so I decided to get back on the trail.


That meant traversing through a lot of mud!

Unfortunately I had worn my street shoes instead of my trail runners.  So much for keeping them clean!


One of my goals was to see an alligator from a safe distance.  I knew they were around because I had seen this sign.  I couldn’t believe that people actually feed them–CRAZY!

So when I was about a mile or two from my finish I came around a corner and, glancing across the river, I saw a gator!.  He looked to be about three and a half to four feet long.  While I am sure he saw me, he didn’t move.  I went down to the rivers edge to get the best pic possible.  After snapping the pic I rethought my location as I did not want another gator popping up out of the murky water by my feet.  I jumped back up on the trail and watched him for a while.  It was sort of strange to be out for a run with a gator sunning on a rock just a stones throw away.  I am sure the locals are not fazed by them as they are probably as common as coyotes are in our area.  Being a west coast girl I found it pretty cool!

I finished up my run and found my way back to my car.  All in all I was pleased that I had seen a gator and some incredible scenery and really happy that I did not see any banana spiders!  🙂

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