Trail Snapshot

Trail:

10-11 miles round trip. There is another small loop to the south of the Dead River Trail Head and additional gravel double track from the gate of Dead River Park to the Dead River Trail Head that is not reviewed here.

Difficulty:

Easy

Outdoor Travels Rating:

1.5 out of 5 bikes for it's lack of intermediate sections. If you are looking for a beginner trail or a comfortable ride with good scenery; I would rate it at 3. This isn't an "extreme" ride, go here to relax, see some scenery and get some exercise.

Nuts & Bolts

Location:

Hillsborough River State Park is located 9 miles north of Tampa and 6 miles south of Zephyrhills on US Highway 301. From I-75, Southbound from Ocala take the SR 54. Exit #279 east to Hwy 301, travel South for 6 miles, and the park will be on your right-hand side. From I-75, Northbound from Tampa take the Fowler Ave. Exit #265 east to Hwy 301, travel North for 9 miles, and the park will be on your left-hand side. From I-4, West bound take Exit 10 go north on CR 579 to US 301, follow the signs and go North 7 miles the park will be on your left-hand side. From I-4, East bound take Exit 7 (be careful of the merges) and go North on US 301 for 14 miles, the park will be on your left-hand side.

Facilities:

Swimming in a half-acre swimming pool (river swimming is not permitted). Launching of private boats with motors of five horsepower or less is by hand portage only. Canoe rentals are available at the park's concession stand. Hiking is available on several nature trails. Camping facilities for tents and trailers are also available. Fishing for bass, brim and catfish is permitted with a Florida freshwater fishing license if 16 years of age or older. Concessions are available at the swimming pool. Bike rentals are available. Fort Foster Historic Guided Tours are also available.

Access and trailheads:

Hillsborough River State Park:
Hillsborough River State Park is off of US-301, north of Tampa. Getting there is easy. From Tampa, you have several choices, but the easiest is probably taking I-4 east to I-75 north to U.S. 301 north. Dead River Road is on the left heading north. Hillsborough River State Park is also on the left, approximately 1-2 miles north of Dead River Road.

Admission:

There is an admission fee to Hillsborough State Park see their website for details.

Activities:

Walking, jogging, picnic areas, biking, rollerblading, fishing, canoeing, camping, primitive camping

Contact:

Hillsborough River State Park Website

Maps Links and Photos

Maps and Links:

Excellent Trail Map

Useful Links

Trail Photos:

Lots of great photos to give you a good idea of what riding here is like!

Morris Bridge / Hole in the Fence

Hillsborough River

Grassy portion of the trail

Dead River Double Track

Park's paved loop

Wetland's Restoration Trail

Road / Offroad Biking

Hillsborough River State Park - Dead River


Tampa, Florida
Easy riding pretty trails for beginners and nature lovers
Dana Farnsworth, Outdoor Travels

Hillsborough River State Park / Dead River Park is an area of thick hammocks of oak, hickory, sabal palm and magnolia bordering the Hillsborough River which flows through the park, giving it its name. It flows over outcrops of Suwanee limestone that create a small set of rapids as well as the park's most unique natural feature. Cypress swamps, pine flat woods and marshes can also be found here. Opened in 1938, HRSP is one of Florida's oldest parks. Fort Foster Historic site is also here. It's a 1830s reconstructed Second Seminole War fort. All plant and animal life is protected in the park. Canoe rental is available along with camping facilities for tents and trailers.

Hillsborough River Biking Log

Turning onto Dead River Road, we traveled to the parking lot at the end of the road. If you would like to add 4 miles to your ride, you can park at the entrance to Dead River and ride under an arching canopy of Spanish moss laden oak trees for two miles to parking lot and trail entrance at the end of the road. Your first choice on the trail is turning left or right. Left will take you on a nice half-mile loop, while turning right will take you on the main trail heading northeast towards HRSP. Initially the trail is flat, winding its way along the banks of the Hillsborough River. The surface here is relatively hard packed sand, with quite a few roots and bumps. Kelli commented that it looked smoother than it actually was. The scenery here is so nice, it's hard to keep your eyes on the trail.

After about a mile and a half, the trail takes an easterly direction. Here we were a little confused about a gate that is in the trail. It's actually the entrance to Dead River from the other direction. We passed around it and continued on. The terrain, as well as the trail composition, changed several times. Initially soft grassy double track winding through a wooded area leads to hard packed double track that wanders through a picturesque open field. This area is county owned parcel that offers an interesting scenery diversion. Around a mile and a half from the gate you'll be faced with your one and only trail dilemma: Turning left onto the HRSP Wetlands Restoration Trail is the correct way. Staying on the trail will lead you to a dead end, running into US 301, with no access.

The short Wetlands Restoration Trail is composed of grassy double track through a very pretty area. The Wetlands Restoration Trail begins in HRSP and is directly off of the 2 mile paved loop around the park. After riding the loop around the park, we returned to the Dead River parking lot the same way we came in. Along the way, we spotted a couple of black snakes (one that Kelli ran over by accident) and a turtle sunning himself on a log in the river. The first thing - and last thing- I noticed about Dead River / HRSP is it's complete and utter solitude for off-road bikers. Kelli and I did not see any other riders on the trail while we were there. We really enjoyed the ride. It was fun enough and scenic enough for me, and the level of difficulty was perfect for my wife Kelli at this time. If it's thrills or even some sections of moderately challenging singletrack you seek, then you'll not like it here. This ride is all about relaxing, getting some exercise and taking in some scenery and wildlife. If that is what you seek, you'll have a good time.

Options other than the route described here for riding the trail would include entering HRSP, parking at the Wetlands Restoration Trailhead and riding to Dead River and back.

 
Sierra Trading Post