What was once a phosphate mine known as Fort Lonesome is now one of Florida's most sought after state parks. Alafia River State Park beckons visitors with 40 miles of scenic trails for horseback riding, hiking, and mountain biking. Open all year long, this park provides a base for explorers to camp and prepare for more fun the next day. The Alafia River adds another level of entertainment to this state park for those who wish to kayak, canoe, paddleboard, or fish.
With 7,730 acres of land, Alafia makes for a gorgeous outdoor playground for nature lovers of all styles. The land’s natural ability to regenerate life shines throughout this park and its rich history. The reclaimed phosphate mine areas have begun to produce new land formations, offering mountain bikers and hikers some of the state's most challenging trails.
Bring your curious side and learn about Fort Lonesome. The U.S. Army utilized the area in the 1850s during the Third Seminole War. Tree lovers will enjoy seeing water hickories, red maple, and swamp tupelo along the water’s edge and throughout the park. The Alafia River and its surroundings provide visitors with plenty of space to relax, explore, and enjoy some dirt and sunshine!
Alafia River State Park is about a 45 drive southeast of the Tampa area and can be easily accessed via County Road 39 in Hillsborough County, Florida. The small community of Lithia sits about three miles north of Alafia on CR 39. Central Florida is about as flat as a pancake, for the most part, so even those driving large rigs should have no trouble making their way to the park.
Alafia closes its gates at sunset, so be sure to call ahead if you plan to arrive after 5 PM. It's also a good idea to make sure that the Thatcher Road entrance is open, as flooding tends to close the road on occasion. Note that the Ranger Station is on County Road 39 (not Jameson Road as GPS systems may show). The campground is located off of the main park entrance, so those who are parking their campervan overnight will want to enter the park near the Ranger Station.
Motorists should remain alert and aware that cyclists, horseback riders, and hikers may be present in parking lots and road crossings. Alafia offers multiple modes of travel throughout the park, allowing campers to give vehicles a break and enjoy the park in a more natural manner through hiking, biking, horseback riding, and water travel.
The Alafia River State Park Campground is accessible via County Road 39. (Note that some navigation systems have incorrectly shown the campground to be located on Jameson Road.) The campground is located just beyond the ranger station inside the park. The campground’s proximity to Alafia Lake means that getting from your campsite to the water is easy.
Solar-heated showers and large picnic pavilions are available in the campground, and each site is equipped with water and electric hookups. RV and camper setups need to be 55 feet or less to fit within the campground. Reservations can be made at least one day up to 11 months in advance. Pets are permitted, but not allowed on the biking trails.
Equestrian-friendly campsites allow horse owners to enjoy a camping adventure with ponies in tow. Be sure to follow current regulations regarding animals at your campsite. Consider booking in advance to ensure that you are able to acquire a site that permits horses. A negative Coggins test for each horse is required. Hitching equipment is available.
If you were unable to secure a campsite at Alafia River State Park, you won't have to drive far to find a place to park the pop-up for the night. Those looking to camp in comfort will find a variety of private RV parks, with a range of different amenities.
Those who prefer camping amongst unspoiled nature will find three state parks within an hour's drive of the park. Little Manatee River State Park is the closest option, at just half an hour to the southwest of Alafia. Here, guests will find 30 RV-friendly sites, all of which are equipped with water and electric hookups.
A bit further south you'll find Lake Manatee State Park. Lake Manatee has 27 RV-friendly sites on offer, and each is equipped with water and electric hookups.
For more options, continue south down to Myakka River State Park, where overnight guests will be treated to over 80 RV campsites -- some of which even offer full hookups!
Alafia’s many creeks, riverways, and small lakes make it an ideal place to fish. Largemouth bass, catfish, and bluegill are often caught by anglers in the area's waters. Catch and release fishing is recommended by the park for largemouth bass, and a Florida State Fishing License is required for anyone over the age of 16. Bring your fishing gear along in the Airstream and hike on over to your new favorite fishing spot in Alafia.
Bring your binoculars along in the travel trailer when you visit Alafia River State Park because creatures big and small enjoy this area just as much as its human visitors. Visitors to Alafia have reported sightings of tortoises, alligators, otters, wild pigs, owls, wading birds, and many others. Bring your birding books and wildlife viewing logs along while you wander the park and see what you can find. Maybe someone in your group will see a less common Red-Shouldered Hawk. Make a game of it and see who can record the most colors or the most species of your favorite animal type!
Land and water move around one another in intricate fashion throughout the paths of the Alafia River, providing visitors with more options than can be explored in a short time. Canoeing, kayaking, and paddle boarding can all be enjoyed on the South Prong of the Alafia River and elsewhere. Water lovers who are up for a challenge can even choose to travel upstream to Lake Hurrah. The landscape of Alafia River State Park has changed over the course of time, leaving visitors with an ever-changing water wonderland.
There's no better way to experience the great outdoors than by enjoying an outdoor meal. Alafia River State Park is equipped with a scenic picnicking area that includes two pavilions, plenty of tables, and restrooms. Once you've had enough to eat, you can access the nearby trailheads, or play a game of volleyball or horseshoes. There's even a playground for the kiddos in your group. Before heading back to the fifth wheel, be sure to clean up your area and leave nothing behind.
Looking for a great place to explore with your favorite horse? Alafia offers a wonderful trail system for horseback riding. Horse trails bring riders through moderate terrain with plenty of visual interest and just enough ups and downs to keep your animal in shape. Equestrian riders will need to be mindful of other visitors, as several trail options intersect or are shared. Many of the trails in Alafia are open year-round, making this a great place for a winter getaway.
Get ready to stretch your legs after a long ride in the Sprinter because there are over twenty miles of trails that will bring hikers through some of Florida’s most challenging ascents. The Alafia State Park Trail is a three and a half-mile loop that provides views of the lake waters and plenty of nature’s little creatures. Tree markings help hikers recognize where they want to go. Remember to listen for other travelers on the trail as you enjoy Alafia’s natural wonders because hiking trails are shared with horseback riders and mountain bikers in some places. In an effort to make nature accessible to as many individuals as possible, this park has trails that are ADA-accessible.
An RV vacation to Alafia River State Park wouldn't be complete without taking a spin on some of the state's best mountain biking trails. Although central Florida is generally flat, the park's location on an old phosphate mine makes for some more radical topography. Trails range from easy to epic (only for skilled riders), so even the beginners in your group are sure to find a trail that suits them. The park is even known to offer mountain biking skills clinics where you can learn the basics or acquire new skills during your time at the park.
If you're looking for a fun way to experience the park during the off-season, then get out of the travel trailer, grab your camping crew, and spend the day geocaching. This modern-day treasure hunt involves using a GPS-enabled device to locate buried loot hidden around the park. The plunder you uncover could be anything small enough to fit in the canister-- from pencil erasers and stickers to key chains and shells. Once you find a cache, simply remove your spoils, sign your name in the log, and be sure to replace what you find with your own geocache swag. Happy hunting!