One Tank Trip: Alafia River State Park

Vanessa Ruffes reports.

- Looking for a little change in scenery that's just one tank of gas away? Alafia River State Park might be the place for you weekend wanderers.

The 6,200-acre park is located off of County Road 39 in Lithia and features some of the most drastic elevation changes in Florida.

"The main feature of the park is our mountain biking trails," says Bryon Maxwell, park manager with Alafia River State Park.

"They are rated number one in the state of Florida. We get people who are interested in hiking the Appalachian Trail who come out as well and prepare for that."

Altogether there are 40 miles of combined hiking, biking, and equestrian trails, along with places for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. Dogs are welcome too, Maxwell says, as long as they are leashed.

The secret behind the state park's rolling hills is in its history. Maxwell says the land is, in fact, on old phosphate mines.

"It's also an attraction for people interested in seeing what phosphate mining looks like," he says. "This was before the era of when they had to do the reclamation of the lands."

And after a full, fabulous day of exploring the trails, there are options for staying-put and relaxing.

"Our camp sites -- we have 30. They are very popular during our winter months," says Maxwell. "These are electric- and water-hookup for RVs and tent campers. There are 12 sites that are designated as equestrian, which means equestrians can have their horses there with them."

For the day-trip, Maxwell says the prices are hard to beat and so are the views.

"Our occupancy rate is 5 dollars for 8 people in a vehicle. That's cheaper than going to a movie these days, and the scenery is so much more enjoyable."

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