Challenge Yourself With the 2022 Hillsborough County Hiking Spree

Take the challenge and explore the great outdoors this winter.

Finally, winter has arrived in all of its low humidity and hurricane-free glory. While much of the nation braves bitter temperatures and snow-filled streets, this is the perfect time of year for Floridians to get out and get fit by experiencing our diverse landscape. Hillsborough County alone is home to over 60 conservation parks and nature preserves with more than 300 miles of marked hiking trails, and the parks and recreation department is challenging you to get just a taste of what the area has to offer during the 2022 Hillsborough County Hiking Spree.

How it works

The parks department has compiled a list of 22 locations broken down into the following categories:

  • Neighborhood Parks and Recreation Centers, consisting of short, paved trails with water and facilities.
  • Conservations Parks, which are home to mid-range, well-maintained paths and trails.
  • Nature Preserves, which have no facilities and are subject to daily weather conditions.
  • State parks, which offer well-maintained facilities and a variety of trail options.

Simply hike a minimum of eight of these trails by March 31, 2022, to earn your choice of a commemorative medallion or an official Hiking Spree Patch.

Start by visiting hcflgov.net/hikingspree. From there, you can register to participate and download a list of eligible trails. The trail list includes the county park, state park, neighborhood or preserve where the trail can be found, the number of miles the trail covers, the trail class (A-All Purpose, B-Basic or C-Primitive), the rating (1-Easy, 3-Moderate, 3-Strenous), as well as a section track your hiking progress.

While the 2022 Hiking Spree encourages hikers to explore a variety of different trails, you are allowed to repeat any trail twice for credit, provided those hikes occur on different dates.

Who can participate

Anyone and everyone. There are no age or physical restrictions, and with a wide range of trails from which to choose (including several that are accessible), it is easy to find the right match for any hiking level. This is the perfect opportunity to introduce young children to the joys of hiking and the great outdoors.

Hikes can be completed on your own, with family and friends or as part of a special interest group. Just be sure to follow CDC guidelines for social distancing with your group.

Participation is not limited to Hillsborough County residents, so if you have family or friends in town for a visit, be sure to get them in on the fun.

What to bring

No matter the level of the hike you plan to tackle, there are a few essentials you should always have on hand: sturdy walking shoes, water and sunscreen. Insect repellent and a hat are also advisable, and a walking stick may come in handy for more strenuous trails.

Several of the designated trails are located within parks that charge a minimal entrance fee, so you will need to have cash on hand to cover any fees if applicable. Consider bringing along your camera or binoculars to get a better view of any wildlife you encounter (and rest assured, you will see some wildlife).

How to claim your reward

To receive your medallion or patch, simply complete the online hiking spree form at hcflgov.formstack.com/forms/hikingspree or mail your completed hiking trail form to Bell Creek Administrative Offices, Attn: Hiking Spree, 10940 McMullen Road, Riverview, FL 33569. You can also drop off your completed form at the Westchase Recreation Center.

This winter, when the temperatures are mild and the sun is shining, why not mark a trail or two off your list. Whether you prefer a casual stroll on a boardwalk or a more challenging hike along a primitive trail, the 2022 Hillsborough County Hiking Spree is the perfect way to make the most of this glorious time of year.

By Karen Ring

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