Protecting over 2000 acres of land along and near Old Tampa Bay, this park is an important preserve of one of the few natural habitats along Tampa Bay, where most of the shoreline is now developed and the native ecosystems are gone. On a short half-mile trail in the park, you can explore some of Old Tampa Bay's native salt marshes and get a view of the bay itself. This hike occurred on Saturday, November 28th, 2015. My plan was to hike the Eagle Trail out and back to a view of Upper Tampa Bay. I would then hike two other short trails in the park - they are described separately.
R/T Length of Hike: 0.7 Miles
Duration of Hike: 0:20
Type of Hike: Out and Back
Difficulty Rating: 1 out of 10
Points of Interest: Salt marshes near the end of the trail; the observation deck with a panorama of Upper Tampa Bay
Trail Blaze Color(s): None
Best Season(s) to Hike: Year-round
Beginning Point: Eagle Trailhead
Directions: From Oldsmar, FL: From where FL State Route 580 and FL State Route 584 join together, follow FL 580 (Tampa Road) East for 1.6 miles. Then, turn right onto Double Branch Road and continue on it for 0.4 miles. Near the end of the road, you will see the entrance to Upper Tampa Bay County Park to your right. Enter the park, pay your $2 fee, and continue on the park road for 0.6 miles. The trailhead will be to your right.
A map and some other information regarding this hike can be viewed here.
When one looks at the Tampa Bay and the Tampa Bay Metro Area, it is hard to imagine there is an undeveloped or preserved section of shoreline in an area with a population of over 4 million people. In the southeastern corner of Tampa Bay, there is a relatively new state park known as Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve, but it's not really open to public yet - and there's no hiking trails. However, there is another location, known as Upper Tampa Bay County Park, and this is one of the few locations with hiking trails along and near Tampa Bay. While these hiking trails are nothing much more than a few 20-minute nature walks, it's still nice to know that a preserve such as this one exists in the densely populated Tampa Bay Area.
The Eagle Trail is the first trail you will see upon entering the park. There is limited parking at the trailhead, although you may be able to find additional parking nearby. The Eagle Trail is very wide and seems to be built to be ADA accessible. At first, the trail drops into dense forest dotted by palms and saw palmetto. At 0.15 miles, a freshwater marsh is visible to your right. At 0.3 miles, the wide trail ends at a boardwalk. The boardwalk leads across a salt-marsh lined by mangroves. To your right, there is a small lake, where - on this day - two herons were "fishing". The boardwalk leads across the salt marsh, then briefly into a thick mangrove jungle, before rending at an observation deck of Old Tampa Bay at 0.35 miles. This upper ending of Old Tampa Bay bears the name of Mobbly Bay. Looking across Mobbly Bay, you can see some residential structures. When you look left, the views stretch far down Mobbly Bay and Old Tampa Bay. This is a panorama to linger at. From this view of Old Tampa Bay/Mobbly Bay, retrace your steps to the trailhead for a total hike of 0.7 miles.
The Otter Trail and Bobcat Trail in Upper Tampa Bay County Park
Mark Oleg Ozboyd
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