Alafia River State Park features several trails that showcase the park’s calming scenery.

By Ava Benedict

Florida is known for its majestic nature parks that are filled with colorful plants and abundant wildlife. Luckily, you don’t have to travel far to see the beauty these parks have to offer. With over 3,000 acres of parks in Tampa Bay alone, there’s plenty of great areas to explore. If you’re looking for a place to spend time in nature this summer, make sure to grab some sunscreen and check out these five local nature parks.

Alafia River State Park spans across almost 8,000 acres and is renowned for its variety of mountain biking trails, ranging from beginner to highly advanced. For those who want to enjoy a more leisurely experience, scenic hiking trails run throughout the park. If you want to sleep under the stars this summer, camping and glamping spots are also available and only a short walk away from hiking and biking trails.

The park is open from 8 a.m. to sundown and is located at 14326 S. County Rd. 39 in Lithia. For more information, visit or call 813-672-5320.

Created in 1848 by settler James Alderman, Alderman’s Ford Nature Preserve features a 1.9-mile paved hiking loop where visitors can view a diverse scene of creeks and pine woodland habitats. It’s perfect for those who want to take a relaxing hike, ride a bike or walk with their furry friend. A playground area is also available for families with children, and several pavilions can be rented for special events.

The park is open from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. in the summer/spring and is located at 100 Alderman Ford Park Dr. in Plant City. For more information, visit or call 813-757-3801.

Sprawling tree roots are a highlight of Edward Medard Conservation Park, which includes numerous amenities, such as a 3-mile walking trail, boat launch and observation platform. A disc golf course and beach volleyball court provide family-friendly fun for people of all ages. Canoes and kayaks can be rented on-site, and campsites give guests the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors overnight.

The park is open from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. in the summer and is located at 6140 Turkey Creek Rd. in Plant City. For more information, visit or call 813-757-3802.

If you’re looking to see a beautiful sunset over Tampa Bay, Apollo Beach Nature Preserve is a must-visit this summer. During the day, visitors can spot manatees swimming in the warm waters near the TECO power plant. Sandy pathways span across the park, showcasing the incredible nature of the beaches. A large lookout tower can be spotted as soon as you enter the parking lot, providing guests with an incredible view of the summer sunsets and the shimmering waters of the bay.

The preserve is open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. during the summer and is located at 6760 Surfside Blvd. in Apollo Beach. For more information, visit or call 813-672-7876.

Circle B Bar Reserve is a birdwatcher’s paradise with a huge population of bird species (including bald eagles and ospreys) present on the property. Foxes, otters and owls are just some of the amazing creatures you can see in the vast, 1,300-acre park. Out of the nine hiking trails, Alligator Alley is one of the most popular to venture down — but beware, as it offers a close glimpse at these massive reptiles. Walking isn’t the only way to enjoy the park, as cycling and mountain biking is allowed on all trails, and free guided tram tours are available a few times per month.

The park is open every day from 5:30 a.m.-8 p.m. and is located at 4399 Winter Lake Rd. in Lakeland. For more information, visit or call 863-668-4673.

Exploring these local parks is a fun way to get outside this summer and embrace the beauty of nature while still staying close to home.

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