Explore Some Of Florida's Most Scenic Hiking Trails At This Lesser-Known Nature Preserve

With over 4 million acres of conservation land, Florida is a hiker's paradise. Though it is a lesser-known destination in the southern state, Robinson Preserve is home to some of Florida's most scenic hiking trails that allow optimal wildlife viewing and coastal exploration. Just an hour away from the City of Tampa in Manatee County, Robinson Preserve is a peaceful destination well-loved by locals and vacationers alike. 

The Gulf Coast-adjacent preserve was once farmland, but thanks to restoration efforts, the lush area now comprises over 650 acres of healthy mangrove forests, thriving coastal wetlands, and clear waterways. The protected environment provides a crucial haven for flora and wildlife; you can observe white pelicans, roseate spoonbills, and other native bird species at the preserve. Further, marine life, such as manatees and dolphins, thrive here.

Robinson Preserve encompasses 5 miles of hiking trails. A majority of these are suitable for beginners and families with younger children — which can be difficult to find. To boot, the preserve's paths will still impress even the most seasoned trekkers.

Family-friendly nature trails

The paths at Robinson Preserve vary in length and boast breathtaking views of Florida's wildlands. The Tower Trail is one of the preserve's most iconic hikes, leading visitors on a half-mile-long boardwalk path that ends at Robinson Preserve's observation tower. The 5-story lookout is over 40 feet tall, with unobstructed views of 4 Florida counties. You can take sweeping views of Tampa Bay, the quaint Anna Maria Island, and Egmont Key, a secluded wildlife refuge from multiple platforms. For a primitive hiking experience, traverse the Tern Trail. The footpath is only .7 miles long but offers a wealth of sightseeing opportunities as you weave between the untouched mangrove forests.

Many of the trails at Robinson Preserve intersect, providing a perfect way to explore multiple paths during your trip. Visitors often combine the Spoonbill Trail and Osprey Loop for a longer yet gentle hike just over 5.5 miles long. The Spoonbill Trail is a paved asphalt and wooden boardwalk path that runs parallel to the crystal clear waters of Manatee River, and as its moniker suggests, you're likely to see beautiful roseate spoonbills. The Osprey Loop, on the other hand, takes you through an oak and pine tree forest for additional nature viewing. The different trailheads within the preserve are well-marked, but it's never a bad idea to keep a copy of the official trail map on hand.

Hikes for seasoned trekkers

Along with exploring Robinson Preserve by foot, you can hit the marshy estuaries and wind through the preserve's 2.5 miles of self-guided paddle trails. Kayak and paddleboard rentals have to be reserved beforehand, and bookings can be made online. For more family-friendly fun at the preserve, be sure to stop by The Canopy Zone. The two-story recreational structure features rope bridges, climbing nets, and slides suitable for people of all ages and abilities. Don't forget to swing by the Mosaic Center for Nature, Exploration, Science and Technology, a waterfront, treehouse-like building that hosts public yoga or Tai Chi classes. You can find the class schedule on the preserve's site to plan your trip accordingly.

Following a day of hiking and nature-filled activities, it's time to relax and grab a bite. You can snag a seat at a waterfront pavilion or even walk down the preserve's fishing pier to catch the famous Florida sunset. If you're an outdoorsy traveler visiting the Sunshine State, Robinson Preserve is a Gulf Coast gem that can't be missed.