Upper Tampa Bay Trail: An Urban Oasis in Tampa, Florida
The Upper Tampa Bay Trail is one of the best multi purpose paved paths I have come across in the Tampa region thus far. The 7.5 mile path is a nice distance for a weekend morning bike ride – not too much, but enough for a great workout! Because it is such a fast, smooth ride, the 15 mile round trip journey goes by in a breeze.
The path is clean, well-maintained, and paved. It’s a pretty smooth, flat ride with only one hill and just a few small inclines. Great for anyone, from beginning to advanced cyclists. But the path isn’t just for cyclists. You will see everyone out here enjoying the Florida sunshine: dog walkers, skaters, runners, birdwatchers, and those just out for a nature outing.
Take a look at the hill below. This is the only one you will encounter on the trail. This is the small section where you go onto the overpass.
The trail is shaded for the majority of the route, allowing you the opportunity to exercise even on a hot summer day (very unusual for the area!). Beautiful trees cascade down on both sides of the path, making you forget that you are in clustered, overcrowded Hillsborough County.
Even though the path runs right next to a busy highway, it is not as noisy as you would expect. Trees line both sides of the trail, and a portion of the path ventures a bit off the highway. The section that goes past an old landfill is actually pretty scenic as you finally get to take in some hills and open space.
This is definitely a great urban trail – scenic, not too crowded, and wide enough to accommodate all types of exercisers. There is never too much congestion due to the width of the path. It’s the place to go whether you are training for a marathon or just out for a leisurely weekend morning ride.
Spend some time away from beaches and crowded tourist attractions and enjoy Florida as it should be: peaceful and green. As is the case at all Florida parks, you have the opportunity of seeing various forms of wildlife along the way, including: alligators, turtles, and all different types of birds.
You can take a few short detours over the bridges for some beautiful water views. This is a great time to take a break and take out your camera. Definitely a nice change of pace from the crowded suburban surroundings.
It can be hard to plan natural activities in the Tampa area due to a number of conflicting factors such as heat, traffic, and long driving times. However, the Upper Tampa Bay Trail offers the chance to enjoy exercise in a nice shady setting. And, there are multiple trail heads so you can plan ahead.
There are beautiful views of the river throughout the path. Take a few looks below.
The Upper Bay Tampa Trail is a perfect year round escape. So, get out your bikes, jogging shoes, or skates and enjoy one of the best free activities Tampa has to offer.
Dining near the trail
I recommend fueling up with a bagel and cup of joe at Sips prior to your ride. The Wilsky trailhead access point is located just a few miles from this charming local coffeehouse. The great ambiance, pastries, bagels, and coffee easily make Sips one of the best local coffeehouses in Tampa!
For your convenience….
Cold water and bathrooms are found at multiple points along the path.
Trail maps are provided at various points along the course.
Various benches along the way allow you to give your legs a rest, if needed.
Tips for a great ride
- Plan your ride as early in the morning as possible for cooler temperatures.
- Check the weather forecast, especially during the rainy summer season.
- If biking, make sure everything is properly tuned.
- Bring with a GPS watch so you can track your distance.
- Get out and stretch often to give your legs, shoulders, and feet a break.
- Wear sunglasses and a hat to shield yourself from the sun.
- Drink plenty of water. Exercise + heat equals easy dehydration.
- Eat a decent breakfast and pack a few snacks if completing the entire ride.
- Treat yourself to a nice healthy lunch after your ride. Try a casual salad and soup bar restaurant like Jason’s Deli.
Address & Parking Info
You can start the path at one of several trailheads. The southern end of the trailhead is located at: 7499 Montague St. Parking is $2. The northern end of the trail is located at: 203 Peterson Rd and Rails Rd. There is also a free parking lot off of Gunn Highway, however, you will have to start 2 miles or so into the trail. I recommend parking at the Wilsky trailhead – 10180 Wilsky Blvd – so you can enjoy breakfast at Sips.