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wooden stairs on a hiking trail at Hillsborough River State Park

One of the first Florida state parks -Hillsborough River State Park – is located in Hillsborough County, a mere 22 miles north of Tampa. Since 1938 this picturesque recreational area has attracted visitors with opportunities to kayak, fish, camp, explore trails and bird watch.

This 3,383 acre park also features a living history site: Fort Foster State Historic Site. A reproduction of the 1836 fort that once existed here.


Discover this serene area for yourself as you paddle along the scenic Hillsborough River; learn more about nature, wildlife and history along the nature trails; and experience what it means to go “glamping”.

Enjoy a quiet picnic lunch under one of the historic pavilions that were built during the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Playgrounds and a seasonal pool are located near the picnic areas.

Here are some of the many activities that you can do during your visit to Hillsborough River State Park:

Fort Foster State Historic Site at Hillsborough River State Park

Learn more about historic Fort Foster during your visit to Hillsborough River State Park. The park features a reproduction of the fort that originally existed here in 1836. This fort was used during the Second Seminole War as a way to defend the bridge crossing at the Hillsborough River.

Discover this real life fortress and watch re-enactors bring it to life. An Interpretive Center features exhibits, displays and more than 100 artifacts found at the original site.

Boating at Hillsborough River State Park

Bring your own canoe or kayak and spend a relaxing day paddling along the picturesque Hillsborough River. Launches are available near the day use area.

Hiking at Hillsborough River State Park

Explore one of the four hiking trails found inside Hillsborough River State Park. These nature trails total 7.3 miles if done all together; maps are available at the Ranger’s Station.

For those interested in horseback riding a 5 mile loop extends outside of the park and along the Model Dairy Road.
Here are a couple of the hiking trails at Hillsborough River State Park:

  • The Wetlands Trail – Easy 3.2 mile along pine flatwoods and forest with beautiful views of the park’s wetlands, wildflowers and wildlife.
  • River Rapids Nature Trail – Easy 1.3 mile shaded trail across bridges and boardwalks over the wetlands.
  • The Baynard Trail – Easy 2.2 mile across a suspension bridge along the river. This popular trail offers spectacular views of the river and wildlife.

Biking at Hillsborough River State Park

The 1.6 mile Wetlands Restoration Nature Trail is ideal for mountain bikers; and the 2.2 mile loop through the park offers a level ride for cyclists of all ages.

Fishing at Hillsborough River State Park

Fish for channel catfish, redbreast sunfish, bowfin, bluegill, black crappie, redfin pickerel, Florida gar, blue tilapia, brown bullhead, bass and bream along the Hillsborough River. Make sure you pick up a Florida fishing license.

Birding at Hillsborough River State Park

Before heading out on the trails, stop by the Ranger’s Station and pick up a bird guide. You may be surprised by the diverse species of birds and other wildlife that you can see during your time inside Hillsborough River State Park.

For example: the park’s woodlands are home to seven woodpecker species.

Other birds you may see inside the park are bald eagles, hawks, doves, hummingbirds, cuckoos, ducks, egrets, ibis, osprey, owls, American kestrels, Brown Pelicans and Great Blue Heron.

Nature and Wildlife at Hillsborough River State Park

Hillsborough River State Park is made up of cypress swamp, floodplain swam, pine flatwoods, grass pond and hardwood hammock. These various habitats provide for a diverse mixture of plants, birds and other wildlife. You may see snakes, alligators, gopher tortoises, deer and bobcats during your visit.

Pets at Hillsborough River State Park

Well behaved pets are allowed at Hillsborough River State Park most everywhere except park buildings. Pets must be supervised and kept on a handheld leash no longer than 6 feet.

Camping at Hillsborough River State Park

Camp in your tent or RV during your visit to Hillsborough River State Park. The park’s campground has 112 sites with electric and water hookups, a picnic table and a fire ring. Some campsites have space for hammocks.

Several bathhouses are located within the campground area, each has restrooms, hot showers and laundry facilities.

Glamping is also offered at the park. Timberline Glamping takes care of the setup and offers guests an outdoor experience that is both rustic and comfortable (a bed, air conditioning, furniture).

Four primitive group camping areas are available for organized youth or adult groups of up to 60 people. These sites are located in a wooded section of the park and have picnic tables, grills, a fire ring, water and restrooms with cold showers.

Park Location

Hillsborough River State Park
15402 US-301
Thonotosassa, FL 33592
Phone: 813.688.9500




Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Hillsborough River State Park: