Hillsborough County is kicking off its annual Hiking Spree this month, and this year, dog owners are invited to bring their pets with them on their hikes throughout the county.

Hillsborough County is again encouraging residents to get outdoors and explore the beauty that Florida has to offer at this time of year. The annual Hiking Spree will kick off this month, making it easier for locals to learn about trails throughout the county. And this year, walkers are invited to bring their canine friends along for the ride.

“The goal of the Hiking Spree is to get Hillsborough County residents to experience the amazing parks and trails that are in their backyard,” said Dana McDonald, program coordinator for Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation.

Through the Hiking Spree, residents are encouraged to explore 24 trails at 21 locations throughout the county. Trails range from less than a mile to more that four miles and vary from easy to strenuous.

If, after signing up online, a hiker visits at least eight trails between Friday, November 1, 2019 and Tuesday, March 31, 2020, they can earn a patch, a medallion for a walking stick or a dog tag.

According to Todd Pratt, Hillsborough County’s media relations strategist, last year, between 3,300 and 3,400 people participated, hiking trails alone, with a group or through one of the county’s guided park staff hikes.

This year, organizers are encouraging dog owners to bring their pets with them as leashed dogs are welcome at all Hillsborough County parks.

The 2020 Hiking Spree will also feature a fun, new twist with special weekly giveaways for hikers. Each week, Hillsborough County will give Hiking Spree hikers clues through social media on where to find the official hidden Trail Magic spot. Giveaways will range from hiking supplies to massage gift certificates.

“The program promotes a fun way to engage in a healthy and active lifestyle,” said McDonald.

To start this year’s spree, the county is hosting a kickoff event at the Upper Tampa Bay Conservation Park, located at 8001 Double Branch Rd. in Tampa, at 9 a.m. on Saturday, November 9. The event will include games, nature arts and crafts, outdoor workshops and classes on orienteering, knot tying, how to make your own hiking stick and more.

There is no cost to participate in the Hiking Spree, but some parks have a $2 entrance fee. Participants are encouraged to post photos from their hikes on social media using the hashtag #TakeAHikeHC.

To learn more or to sign up for the program, visit https://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/en/residents/recreation-and-culture/recreation/hiking-spree.

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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.