Florida State Parks: #6 Hillsborough River State Park
Built during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and one of the first of Florida’s state parks, Hillsborough River State Park is located on about 3,000 acres and offers a variety of activities for the everyone.
The lands have been inhabited by humans for thousands of years and there are examples of different time periods including from the Second Seminole War and the Great Depression.
Today the park is available for a variety of activities and home to some class II rapids, which are rare in the state of Florida because of the lack of elevation in the state.
$4 per vehicle for 1 person. $6 per vehicle, 2-8 people. $2 per person for bicyclists. Annual Individual Park Pass holders get in free – each of their additional guests cost $2. Family Park Pass holders get in free, along with 8 of their guests.
Click here for camping fees
There are seven pavilions at the park that can be rented for parties or events for between $60 and $90
Things To Do
Fort Foster Historical Site
Originally constructed on the site in the 1830’s, Fort Foster was built to protect the Hillsborough River during the Second Seminole War. The fort was abandoned off and on for 15 years and reactivated whenever the military felt there was a threat from the native Seminole residents.
The original fort no longer exists, but a replica was constructed that you can visit. Tours must be scheduled and there are two re-inactments scheduled per year: the Fort Foster Rendezvous which takes place in February and Candlelight Experience at Fort Foster, which is in December. Check with park rangers for specific dates. There’s also an interpretive center at the site that has artifacts found at the original fort. The interpretive center is open from 8am to 5pm each day.
There are four trails at the park which total almost 8 miles: the Rapids Trail (easy), the Baynard Trail (moderate), the Florida Trail (experienced) and the Wetland’s Restoration Trail (experienced). The experienced trails are much longer and can tend to flood during certain parts of the year. the Rapids Trail is only about 1.5 miles and has several points where you can cut through and shorten your hike.
Look for the signage on the trails that indicates different plants and animals that you’ll find while on the trails.
No matter which trail you take, be sure to have plenty of water, sunscreen and bug spray. Hats are probably a good idea as well and wear closed toe shoes as the trails are uneven at some points.
You’re allowed to bike on the Wetlands Trail, which is about 1.6 miles and there is a bike trail that circles the park which is 2.2 miles. If you don’t bring your own, bikes are available for rent at the cafe.
The suspension bridge is located off the Rapids Trail (near parking lot 3) and was built during the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was a work relief program that was created by the United State government during the Great Depression. You can get some amazing views of the river from the suspension bridge but remember it does move so it can seem a little scary (at least it was to me!)
The Hillsborough River. as it runs through the park, has some class II rapids. These are rare in Florida since it’s not a mountainous area, which is usually where class II rapids appear. The park since it sits on the river gives opportunities to be able to do a wide variety of water activities such canoeing, kayaking, fishing (with a state license) and even stand up paddle boarding. There are also calm portions of the river for those activities. The river is home to alligators, river otters and many native Floridian birds such as Great Blue Herons.
There is a pool at the park and it’s open to day visitors and overnight campers. The pool is extremely large (1/2 acre) and there are lifeguards on duty. The cost to enter the pool for everyone is $4 per person and wristbands can be purchased at the pool cafe.
Pets are permitted in designated areas only and must be on a leash that is no longer than 6 feet. Please remember to clean up after your dog.
Food & Restrooms
Restrooms are located throughout the park.
The Pool Side Cafe is located at the pool and offers a variety of items such as pizza, hamburgers, beer and wine, ice cream, bagged ice, firewood, camping supplies, bug spray, hats, sunscreen, and postcards.
Rentals can be paid for at Pool Side Cafe. Options include canoes, kayaks (single, double or triple), adult or child bikes and pool chairs.
Hillsborough River State Park offers RV camping, tent camping and primitive camping.
The 112 site RV and tent area are available with water, electricity, picnic tables and a firing ring. There’s also a laundry, showers, restrooms and a trash area. Pets are allowed in this camping area, as long as they’re on a 6-foot leash.
The primitive camp area is a 1.5 mile hike to get to. Everything needed must be walked in and walked back out, including all trash. There’s no electricity, water or restrooms in this camp area. Be sure to bring enough water to last you during your stay. No pets are allowed in the primitive camping area.
RV and tent camping is $24 per night, which includes electricity and water. Reservations for the RV and tent area are allowed to be made 11 months in advance and can fill up pretty quickly, especially in the non-summer months.
Primitive camping is $5 per person, per night. Be sure to make your camping reservations as early as possible. To make a primitive camping reservation call the park ranger at (813) 987-6771,
Hillsborough River State Park is open from 8am to sundown, every day of the year. The park is located at 15402 US 301 N in Thonotosassa. Thonotosassa is located approximately 35 miles east of Tampa International Airport.