The 2020-21 Hillsborough County Hiking Spree kicks off this month.

Petrified by the pandemic? Tired of politics? Stressed from tracking yet another hurricane? Residents looking for some relief—and a great excuse to have fun and get outside—are encouraged to participate in Hillsborough County’s Hiking Spree, which started earlier this month.

The annual Hiking Spree began in 2016 as a way to encourage people to exercise, explore the outdoors and experience nature through the county’s numerous parks and preserves. The Hiking Spree has grown in popularity each year, drawing thousands of participants and is expected to be particularly popular this year as it offers residents a safe way to have fun outside during the pandemic.

“Following COVID-19 precautions is a breeze when you’re walking or rolling along any of the 25 trails at 20 county parks and nature preserves selected for the 2021 Hiking Spree,” said Hillsborough County’s Todd Pratt.

This year’s Hiking Spree trail list features 25 trails at 20 locations throughout the county. Complete at least eight before Wednesday, March 31, 2021 and earn a patch, a medallion for a walking stick or a dog bandana. One of the hikes can be at a location of the participant’s choice that is not on the list.

The trails are designed to offer something for everyone, from hiking rookies to seasoned outdoor enthusiasts, with hikes rated from easy to strenuous. Lengths range from less than a mile to more than 6 miles. The environmentally diverse sites are spread throughout the county and range from neighborhood parks like Carrollwood Village Park to large preserves with multiple habitats like the 1,100-acre Lake Dan Nature Preserve.

For the first time, this year’s list includes two state parks: Alafia River State Park and Little Manatee River State Park.

“The 2021 Hiking Spree isn’t just for walkers. Some trails are ideal for bicycles, strollers, in-line skates or wheelchairs. Studies show spending time in nature has many health benefits. Among them: it reduces stress, boosts the immune system, increases energy levels and improves sleep,” said Pratt.

The Hiking Spree is timed to take advantage of the cooler, drier weather and to coincide with prime bird-watching times. Participants are encouraged to post photos from their hikes using the hashtag #TakeAHikeHC.

For more information and to register, visit www.hillsboroughcounty.org and search for the Hiking Spree page.