Hillsborough County is encouraging residents to explore local trails with its annual Hiking Spree from now until March 31, 2019.

With the weather cooling off, December is the perfect time to enjoy Florida’s great outdoors, and Hillsborough County recently launched its annual program to encourage residents to get out and explore the many local trails and parks.

Last year, more than 5,000 people participated in Hillsborough County’s Hiking Spree which features 25 trails in 19 locations throughout the county, many in the SouthShore area. Residents are encouraged to register on the Hillsborough County website and then complete a minimum of eight of the trails before March 31, 2019.

“Participants may hike on their own, with others or on our guided park staff hikes,” said Dana McDonald, Senior Program Coordinator with Hillsborough County. “Each trail is a unique, fun way to explore outdoor Florida.”

Upon completion of the hikes, residents should turn their completed form to one of seven local park locations, including the Ruskin Recreational Center, and can then chose a medallion or an official Hiker Patch as a reward.

Local parks with participating trails include Bahia Beach Nature Preserve, E.G. Simmons Conservation Park and Cockroach Creek Nature Preserve in Ruskin, Triple Creek Nature Preserve, FishHawk Creek South Nature Preserve and Steven J. Worthan Neighborhood Park in Riverview, Little Manatee River Corridor Nature Preserve in Wimauma and Lithia Springs Conservation Park in Lithia. One of the hikes can be at a location of the participant’s choice that is not on the list.

Trails range from less than a mile to more than four miles and from easy to strenuous. A list of all the participating hikes with information about length, difficulty levels and terrain can be found at www.hillsboroughcounty.org.

“We chose the trails to give residents a really good range of the gorgeous trails Hillsborough County has to offer,” said McDonald. “We wanted to showcase some of the less popular ones we know residents will enjoy and also make sure we have a wide range of difficulty levels so there are options for everyone.”

Participants are encouraged to post photographs from their hikes on social media using the hashtag #TakeAHikeHC.

For information or to register, visit www.hillsboroughcounty.org and search “Hiking Spree.” To receive a reward by mail, send a completed form with a stamped/self-addressed envelope to HCPRD Hiking Spree; Bell Creek Regional Park Office; 10940 McMullen Rd. Riverview, FL 33569.

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Assignment Editor Kate Quesada started working at the Osprey Observer in 2004 after graduating from the University of South Florida with a masters degree in Mass Communications. Since then, she has held various positions at the paper and has been working as the assignment editor since January 2020. She lives in Lithia with her husband Mike and sons Dylan and Max and stays active in the community on school PTA boards and volunteering with local organizations.