Hillsborough River State Park
Florida abounds in natural beauty and offers some of the best RV camping anywhere. Close to large cities, near the water, or in the midst of the hammocks and forests, variety is available throughout the Sunshine State, so you never get bored. One of the best places to experience that natural side of Florida, however, is at Hillsborough River State Park, one of the first state parks in Florida.
During the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) had the foresight to create a public park surrounding the Hillsborough River in the southwestern part of the state. But history in this area started long before that. The Fort Foster Historic Site located in the park is the home to an 1880s reconstructed fort. The original fort dates back to the time of the Seminole Indian Wars and was built to protect and defend the river’s crossing. It also served as a resupply stop for soldiers out in the field.
The Hillsborough River is the main attraction here. Millions of gallons of water flow down this river daily, and it contains one of the only Class II rapids in the state. Naturally, you’ll want to get out on it. Canoeing and kayaking options are available. If you prefer to stay on land, then settle down on the river banks and toss out a line. Fishing is allowed year-round, but you’ll need to obtain a freshwater fishing licensing first.
The park has a pool that is opened seasonally with a daily $4 entry fee for all visitors. Children under 5 are free, however. There is also a poolside café that offers beverages, food, camping and picnic supplies. You can also rent chairs and umbrellas as well as bicycles, canoes, and kayaks.
Head into true Florida wilderness along the seven miles of hiking trails that are available. Two main hiking trails run alongside the Hillsborough River, with each veering off at times into the wooded sections of the park. You’ll be surrounded by magnolia, live oak, and hickory trees, as well as Sabal palms. One trail, in particular, leads you across a suspension bridge to a tiny isolated island to explore. The Rapids Trail takes you to the site of the Class II rapids where you’ll hear the roar of the water as it makes its way further downstream.
While you’ll be enticed by all the nature that the park has to offer, there are several nearby attractions to explore as well. A few of these are Crystal Springs and the Tampa Riverwalk.
To experience a natural Florida spring, head just 15-20 minutes northeast to Crystal Springs Preserve. This 530-acre sanctuary contains a natural spring system, wildlife watching, river boardwalks, nature center, and various educational opportunities presented by staff.
Head into Tampa for a little urban revival. Stroll or jog along the Tampa Riverwalk and enjoy incredible views of the bay. Stop in for a bite to eat at one of the restaurants or visit one of the museums along the riverfront. The Tampa Armature work is a food hall inside a renovated electric substation. It is at the northern end of the Rvierwalk.
Staying in Hillsborough River State Park
This state park provides ample RV camping and tent camping. The majority of the 112 sites have electric hook-up, and all have water, fire ring, and picnic table. Restrooms, hot showers, and laundry facilities can be found on each loop as well. There is also a dump station available.
The maximum length for an RV in these campsites is 50 feet. Be sure to make reservations early, including up to 11 months ahead of time through ReserveAmerica at 800-326-3521 or online.
A few tips
The gates of the park close at sunset, so if you plan to arrive late in the day, be sure to contact the park office ahead of time.
The campground area experiences seasonal flooding during the rainy season, which runs from April through October. Check for updates with the park office at 813-987-6771.
At particular times, open campfires are not allowed due to dry and hazardous conditions. Be sure to have charcoal or a propane stove if you plan to do any outdoor cooking.
Bring your pets along as this park is pet-friendly. Be sure to keep them on a leash of up to six feet and under your control at all times.