When I suggested to the husband that we should do a camping “staycation” at Hillsborough River State Park here in Tampa, he was totally on board with it. So, I booked a dog-friendly camping site for us (of course, we wanted to bring our pup).
We actually decided to camp on a weeknight, as the campsite gets pretty busy on the weekend.
Our plan was to arrive at camp before dark so that we could get everything set up while it was still light out. Right after we got our gear set up and sat down to relax by the fire, it began to pour. There had been no chance of rain for this night or evening, but, storm, it did. (That’s possibly the most Florida thing ever.) We retreated to our tent to attempt to stay dry. However, that plan only partially worked, as we quickly learned our rainfly was leaking pretty badly. But, we didn’t let that get to us. We laughed it off and considered it just part of the adventure. Once the rain slowed down enough to get a fire going, we cooked up some dinner over the fire and relaxed.
We had a pretty good night’s sleep in our tent, despite not being as dry as we had hoped we (and our stuff) would be. The rain made for a really relaxing soundtrack to fall asleep to, so it actually ended up being really nice and relaxing.
Once dawn came, we awoke to the sounds of birds chirping and gorgeous morning light. Getting rained on a bit was totally worth it to wake up to such a stunning scene.
(Our campsite was marked by a smiley face.)
After we got dressed for the day, we cooked a delicious breakfast over the fire and made some espresso in our Moka pot. It was awesome and GORGEOUS out.
We then packed up the tent and headed to one of our favorite trails with our pup. It was his first time on the River Rapids Trail, and he had so much!
Our camping “staycation” at Hillsborough River State Park was such a success, we are already planning another trip there.
What to Know Before You Go:
+ The campsites at Hillsborough River State Park fill up quickly, especially during the cooler months of the year. So, be sure to book your site well in advance.
+ This campground is really popular with RV enthusiasts, so expect to see lots of RVs around.
+ The facilities at the campground are nice and clean. During our camping trip, I never saw another person in the bathrooms when I was there. I think that’s because most people were staying in RVs, so they didn’t need to use the campground’s restrooms.
+ Like most campgrounds, some of the sites on the property are more private than others. I recommend taking some time to look over the sites before choosing which one to stay at. You can get an idea of what the different sites look like and where they are in comparison to the bathrooms, here.
+ It’s Florida, so prepare and expect rain. Don’t be like us and assume just because there’s not rain on the radar, that it won’t rain. I highly suggest packing a rainfly (that you are sure is in good condition), some food that doesn’t need to be heated to eat (so that you can easily eat dinner in your tent), a change of dry clothes, and dry towels.
+ The campgrounds are well maintained. Please help keep them that way by properly disposing of garbage.
+ There’s plenty of wildlife in the area. While in the campground, you might see deer, squirrels, and all kinds of birds. We saw so many cardinals, woodpeckers, and more. It was so cool to eat breakfast over the campfire and watch these beautiful birds fly around.
+ Please keep the wildlife WILD by not feeding them and properly packing food away. This includes not leaving things like apple cores and banana peels lying around.
+ Again, it’s Florida, so it’s always best to prepared for biting insects. Just ensure you have a bottle of a well-working insect repellent with you. If you don’t have to use it, great! If you end up needing it, you can have peace of mind that you’ve got it with you.
+ If you are going to tent camp, you might want to bring a battery-powered fan with you. It can certainly get hot in Florida. Additionally, a fan can help dry out your tent and/or clothes if it rains.
+ In addition to the campground, the park hosts a concession area, a pool that’s open seasonally, laundry facilities, several beautiful hiking trails, Class II river rapids, canoe and kayaking opportunities, historic sites, event space, playgrounds, picnic pavilions, restrooms, shower stations, a boat ramp, and so much more!
+ Seasonally, Hillsborough River State Park opens up some primitive camping sites. Please note that pets are not allowed at these sites.
+ Just like all campgrounds at state parks, this one has its own set of rules you’ll want to familiarize yourself with before staying there. You can read more about the rules and fees, here.
Learn More About Hillsborough River State Park
Want to read further about Hillsborough River State Park? I included them in my Best Places to Spot Alligators Around Tampa post as well as my article The Best Places to Watch Sunset in the Greater Tampa Area.
If you have any questions about camping at Hillsborough River State Park or the park in general, feel free to comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.