11+ trails with varied terrain. Mostly single track with probably over 30 miles total. The majority of which is found in southern Morris Bridge Park.
Mostly beginner to intermediate cross country type trail.
Outdoor Travels Rating:
3 out of 5 bikes. Almost anyone can find something interesting to ride here. Freeriders and those seeking vertical thrills only, will leave quickly and unimpressed.
Thumbs Up and Down
Many miles of mostly fast pretty single track
Options for shorter rides are almost endless
If pavement is your thing, Flatwoods has a 7 mile loop
Person per mile ratio is low
These trails by and large can be ridden as fast as you can hammer it - making them more exciting for experienced riders.
If big drops and/or tough climbs you seek, look elsewhere
Rain can really ruin and/or close this trail system fast as it floods easily
Some trails have large sandy areas that are tough to traverse
Navigation is challenging in this big trail network
This is a complex set of trails. Until you are familiar with the circuit, make sure to bring a map AND a compass!
Bug spray is a MUST during March - November -unless you ride fast and don't stop
Be aware that recent rains can make some trails more difficult if not impassable
The Main Trail makes a 17-mile loop, but a little on-road riding at Morris Bridge Road (northeast) is needed to complete it. Taking side trails can take the total mileage over 20 miles.
Nuts & Bolts
Toilets and water at most trailheads. See individual reviews (right) for more information.
Access and trailheads:
Morris Bridge Park:
The park is 3.5 miles northeast of I-75 on Morris Bridge Road (CR-579). From I-75 exit at Fletcher Avenue. Morris Bridge Road bisects the park. Hole in the Fence trail head is only one-half mile northeast from I-75/Fletcher exit on Morris Bridge Road. Flatwoods Park:
The main entrance is five miles northeast of I-75 on Morris Bridge Road (CR-579) at Flatwoods Park Trail. The Flatwoods Visitors Center is around a half-mile in. The Bruce B. Downs Blvd., entrance is located one mile northeast of I-75. Trout Creek Park:
Directly east of I-75 at Fletcher Ave. Head northeast on Morris Bridge Road for one-half mile, the entrance will be on your left. Hole in the Fence trail-head is directly across the Morris Bridge Road.
Southwest Florida Water Management District 2379 Broad Street, Brooksville, FL 34604-6899 Phone: 352-796-7211 or 800-423-1476 (FL only)
or the South West Association of Mountain Peddlers at www.SwampClub.org
Tampa, Florida An extensive network of singletrack spanning Morris Bridge Park, Flatwoods Park and Trout Creek Park
Dana Farnsworth, Outdoor Travels
Six separate parks make up the county owned Wilderness Park complex: Morris Bridge, Flatwoods, Sargeant, Dead River and Trout Creek. Of the three main off-road trail areas, Morris Bridge encompasses 106 acres, Trout Creek comes in at 42 acres and Flatwoods is the largest, at 5,400 acres. The area is composed mainly of pine flatwoods, hardwood floodplain forest, upland hardwood hammocks, oak scrub and cypress swamps. Popular with cyclist from Tampa, the Main Trail that loops and traverses three parks (Morris Bridge, Trout Creek and Flatwoods) is at a minimum 17 miles with approximately 15 miles of side trails under a naturally shaded canopy. It is important to realize the fact that while riding on the off-road trails in these three main parks, the individual parks tend to blend together and seem like one large park. There are slight personality differences in each area, but for the most part, it's just one big trail system strung over three named parks.
The trails vary slightly in degree of difficulty with the majority being well-groomed beginner to intermediate trails. Experienced riders will appreciate trails like Palmetto and Gator Bait in lower Morris Bridge Park (across from the Trout Creek Park main entrance) that feature tight winding sections and rooted sort-of technical surfaces. Although some areas of loose sand are present here and there, most of the surface is hard packed making the trails a "fast-as-you-want-to-go" racetrack. Hours are generally sunrise to sunset. The area is predominately a slough - better known as a swamp when the Hillsborough river is high making trail closures during the rainy season (summer) a guarantee.
Morris Bridge Park
The most popular and most extensive network of trails are accessed at the "Hole in the Fence" trailhead approximately 100 yards from the I-75 Fletcher Avenue off ramp, east on Morris Bridge Road. The actual facilities for Morris Bridge Park are a few miles north of the "Hole in the Fence" trailhead and offer picnic benches, a boat launch, board walks and restrooms. Since the main facilities are a few miles from the "Hole in the Fence" trailhead and Trout Creek's ample facilities are directly across the street, this tail access point is probably not the most used due to it's lack of amenities, but boy does it offer the most immediately accessible trail choices. This is an extensive, crisscrossing trail network. Keep in mind, you will probably get marginally lost at least once. The local riders can be of navigational help, but a good map and compass are highly recommended for all but the seasoned Morris Bridge rider.
Flatwood Off Road Trails
The northern most park of the three, Flatwoods is probably best known for its seven-mile paved loop track which is a favorite among Tampa's road bikers, skaters and joggers. A two-mile paved extension connects Bruce B. Downs Blvd., with Loop Road. There are restrooms at the visitors center, air compressor and picnic tables as well as four rest shelters with drinking water along the Loop Road. A network of fast and easy to ride single track winds under the protection of pine canopies connecting Morris Bridge to Trout Creek. IF you park at the main facility, and wish to ride off-road trails, a little road riding is required. Just hop on the paved trail and look for marked opportunities to duck into the "jungle". For more information on the Flatwoods paved loop, see our review.
Trout Creek Park Off-Road Trails
This 42-acre site on the Hillsborough River is popular for fishing, canoeing and off-road biking. Facilities here include ample parking, picnic tables, restrooms, nature boardwalks along the Hillsborough River and ample parking that make Trout Creek a good base for activity. When parking in the Trout Creek parking lot, the trails can be a bit difficult to find for the first-timer. Luckily, finding them isn't very hard. Exiting the parking lot on bike (coming out the way you came in), look for a gravel trail to your right heading up a small hill and to a gravel road. Turn right onto the gravel road and ride across the flood control dam over the Hillsborough River. After a short distance, the Main Trail will be visible over the hill, ducking in and out of he woods to your right. The main trail provides an important connecting route to both Flatwoods and Morris Bridge Parks. As an added extra feature, the gravel road offers riders who don't fancy themselves as a single-track rider an opportunity to ride a couple miles of isolated traffic-free (except for rangers) wide double-track.
Dont Miss: Of all the single-track trails in this park, Panther Trail is a high point. This easy to ride trail circumnavigates a beautiful wetland area, full of water birds and a few alligators! Catch it at the Main Trail in Trout Creek and ride to the wetlands. Take in the scenery and then retrace your route back. Panther continues beyond the wetlands as a double track that goes all the way to Bruce B. Downs Blvd., several miles away.
Return to Wilderness Park - A full loop and some exploring
12/25/2003, by Dana Farnsworth, Outdoor Travels
What a nice Christmas present we had. Today, my wife and I decided to visit an old friend. Neither of us had been to WIlderness Park in some time. A ride was much needed. We decided to ride a full loop of the three parks and do some side trail exploring. We entered at Hole in the Fence trail head and rode Gator (which is rarely open due to high water) and then continued on the Main Trail to Indian (which I have never ridden due to it being perpetually closed). Indian turned out to be the most interesting trail in the system to date. It's a cypress laden trail that is moderately challenging. Indian twists and turns, with to my surprise a few slight elevation changes. We even spotted a few grazing deer while riding. Indian exited onto the Powerline trail a few yards above the Main Trail. Instead of our normal route on the Main Trail, we chose to continue on a trail I don't think is mapped. It roughly paralleled the Main trail and although it was rather under-developed and overgrown it wasn't too hard to ride. I was surprised to find that we exited the trail a few feet north of where we normally would have, had we taken the Main Trail. We exited onto a double track road that leads to the Morris Bridge facilities. In order to skip ahead and not to repeat any details from our previous loop ride (above), we continued on the same path (Main trail) as before. We did make one side trip onto the trail Panther which is on the Trout Creek side. It's a pretty trail that is punctuated by a beautiful marsh lake full of all manner of water fowl. We stopped, took a few pictures and marveled at the beautiful landscape before turning around and rejoining the Main Trail which eventually wound us back to the Hole in the Fence trail head (after spotting literally dozens of armadillos).
Kelli and I both commented on how much easier this loop was to ride after slightly a year since our first attempt. Kelli now has a much more appropriate bike for this sort of riding. We also have another year of active riding under our belts - which equates to us being in much better shape. All in all Wilderness Park, et al, still offers a great wilderness experience and a great opportunity to get off-road and stretch your legs on your bike. If you are looking for a longer ride, a good spot to stretch your legs and ride hard or a great spot to hone your off-road skills, the Wilderness Park system is still the pre-eminate trail system in the Tampa Bay Area. While several areas offer a lot more thrills and spills, few if any offer this type of scenery and long-ride adventure-type capability.