Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Upper Hillsborough River Trail

Today we drove south to the community of Zephyrhills to hike the Upper Hillsborough River Trail.  This trail is 4.6 miles one way through the Upper Hillsborough River Management Area.  The Hillsborough River runs through the area and the trail roughly parallels the river, but it is nowhere near close to it.

Since this is an out and back hike, it is possible to park either at the northern end or at the southern end.  We chose to park at the northern end (near the junction with CR 54 and CR 35A) because that was closer for us.  There is no parking lot at this trailhead, but there is plenty of room to park on the shoulder of the road.  There is a parking lot at the southern end (on CR 535) which will accommodate about 8 vehicles.

The trail is blazed orange with a short three-tenths of a mile blue-blazed trail from where we parked the car to the junction with the main trail.  Florida Trail Association maintains this trail, as they do all the trails we been hiking in Florida.  So far, our experience has been great.  The trails have been well marked and junctions with forest service roads well signed.  The trails have been cleared of debris and vegetation has been cut back leaving the trail easy to follow.  The volunteers have done an excellent job.
Hard to tell from the photo, but the ground has been all dug up.
We can't figure out what kind of animal is doing this.
The Upper Hillsborough River Trail is a different story.  Within the first tenth of a mile we were confused about which way to go.  There were blazes in both directions.  By looking at the map, we were able to determine quickly we needed to turn left.  We almost missed the junction with the main trail after three tenths of a mile.  There was no double blaze nor a sign indicating we had arrived at the trail junction.  We just happened to notice a Florida Trail sign that was turned perpendicular to the way we were walking.  It clearly marked the trail junction, but only if you were coming from the other direction.
The trail is barely visible through the palmetto
We were glad to have our long pants on to save our legs
from the overgrown vegetation.
The trail was very twisty for the first mile and a half.  There were plenty of blazes on the trees, but they were not always visible from one blaze to the next.  Often we had to stop at a blaze and one of us would wait while then other scouted for the next blaze.  Usually, the treadway is very evident on the ground, but this trail was so overgrown and apparently gets so little use, we often couldn’t see the trail.

There was a lot of small limbs and palm fronds on the trail.  We took the time to move some of the smaller stuff off, but that did little to make the trail more visible.
Saw a couple flowers today, but I have no idea what they are.
I need to get a Florida wildflower book.
We walked through a few small areas of live oaks, but the trail mostly ran through saw palmetto and low scrub.  Our heads and upper bodies were out in the sun most of the day.  We really appreciated the slight breeze that was blowing.

At the 1.6 mile mark, we got to cross a railroad track.  We haven’t done that in a long time.  This was an active track, too.  We heard the train whistle several times during the day and saw the train on our return trip.  The trail also stayed close enough to the road that we heard a lot of traffic all day.  At one point the trail passes under the approach for the small Zephyrhills Airport.  We saw many small commuter planes pass overhead.  Had to be careful planning those potty breaks.

Crossing the railroad tracks.
This area is open to hunting on the weekends and we crossed several roads the hunters use to access the area, but unlike what we’ve seen in the Withlacoochee State Forest, these roads were not signed.  I think this trail may be closed during hunting season.

We got to the southern end of the trail a little after noon.  There was a picnic table there which would have been nice for lunch, but it was in the full sun.  We opted to spread our ponchos on the ground under the shade of a few live oaks.  After lunch, we retraced our steps to the car.

I’m gonna have to say this was a difficult hike.  The trail was hard to follow and we crossed several large areas that had been dug up by something.  If we came across an area like this in the Smokies, we’d say wild boar had done the damage.  I’m not sure if they have wild hogs here or not, but something had definitely torn up the trail.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for tagging along.


  1. Funny how I've seen such damage in the Smokies done by those wild boars, but the only time I've actually seen the ugly animals themselves was in Florida. We were somewhere near Merritt Island and three of them ran right across the road in front of us. So yes, they are most definitely in FLorida.

  2. Wild Hogs are a huge problem all through Florida, very destructive.

  3. Wild Hogs? Worse than alligators. I've never even thought of polishing my hiking boots - maybe I should!