Lots of great photos to give you a good idea of what riding here is like!Morris Bridge / Hole in the Fence
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.
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.