It is a 6,000-acre park that was previously the site of a phosphate mine and was donated to the state in 1996. There are about 12 miles of the South Prong Alafia River flowing through the park. Alafia River Park is a popular location for mountain bicycling and horseback riding as well as hiking, fishing, picnicking, and canoeing/kayaking. There are 20 miles of equestrian trails that are wide enough to accommodate buggies and carriages.
We, of course,, were there for hiking (dogs are permitted) and picnicking. From the Ranger Station, we took a left turn and drove to the parking lot near the picnic area where there is a playground and pavilion (that can be reserved).
There are multiple trailheads in this area. They wind through wooded areas, around lakes, and over hills. Most of the countryside we have been in over the last few months in southern Florida have been flat. It was surprisingly delightful to hike some hills!
We came across many lakes, large and small, along the trails and most were completely covered with green algae. Nonetheless, we did see this alligator in one of the lakes (he didn't seem to mind the slime); and, a turtle in another lake. I am sure there were many more reptiles here, but they were hard to spot!
Below is the South Prong Alafia River and creeks that flow into it.
Foot traffic is not permitted on some of the mountain biking trails. Trail difficulty is marked on many of them allowing riders to chose their preference. The biking trails and signage is maintained by the Swamp Mountain Bike Club. We saw more bikers here than hikers during our visit!
We continued our hike through areas with slash pines, cabbage palms, and hardwood hammocks along various trails (a total of about 4.5 miles).
There are picnic tables in the area surrounding the pavilion and playgrounds. We enjoyed our picnic lunch in the shade...even Sadie was a little worn out.
As we were leaving the park, we noticed these osprey nesting in the infrastructure of the power lines. One of the photos below is an osprey eating his catch, a fish. We really enjoyed the hiking and all of the sights we saw at this park.
Admission to the park is $5/vehicle (but we have an annual pass to Florida State Park's this year). Camping is available with tie-ups for equestrian visitors. Also, a 12-stall barn is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. The overnight fee is $22+tax and can be reserved at www.reserveamerica.com. For additional information about Alafia River State Park go to www.floridasstateparks.org/alafiariver/.