This past weekend we decided to check out a park we’ve heard so much about, but we’ve never been to. We went to Lettuce Lake Park in Tampa. This park was so much more than we were expecting!
Lettuce Lake Park is a Hillsborough County Park located just west of I-75 on Fletcher Ave. (Exit 266). There are 240-acres of hardwood swamp, hardwood hammocks and pine flatwoods that sit on the Hillsborough River. The admission fee is only $2 per car load (up to 8 people). That is a very small price to pay to step outside the city and into nature! It’s crazy to think the huge, bustling University of South Florida is within earshot of this park. I would imagine this park is a hot-spot for college students!
There are so many options of things to do at this park! One of the most popular things to do at Lettuce Lake is to follow one of the trails and take a walk. You have three options to choose from – Boardwalk, Nature Trail, and Paved Path. Each one offers a unique experience through the park.
The first one we chose to explore was the 3,500ft boardwalk. You can park near the Visitor Center to find the boardwalk. This path will take you up to the Hillsborough River and to an observation tower. While walking the boardwalk we saw some pretty amazing sites! We saw a five-foot alligator up close and personal! He was just hanging out right off the boardwalk. We also saw a tiny baby alligator, turtles, bowfin fish, egret, and a roseate spoonbill. Also along the boardwalk is one of the largest Cypress trees I’ve ever seen. There’s a plaque marking it’s spot, but if you’re paying attention you’ll see this massive Cypress tree before the plaque! This particular tree is guesstimated to be 900 years old! Simply amazing! Further on down the boardwalk you’ll find the ever popular Observation Tower. The tower takes you up a few flights of steps to a fantastic open view of Lettuce Lake. From the tower we were able to see all different types of birds, the beautiful landscape, and kayakers. It is definitely worth a trip up to the top!
The next path we chose to explore was the Paved Path. This path is an approximately 1.25 mile loop around the park. Most of this path seemed shaded with a nice hammock overhead. This is a great path for both hiking and biking! Along our walk we only saw an armadillo because this path was bustling with people! It is the most accessible path from the parking lots making it very busy.
The last type of trail they offer is the Nature Trail. This is a more typical hiking trail. When we were there we didn’t see a single person on this trail, which made for an extremely quite hike for us! We didn’t see too many animals on this trail either. There was an armadillo nosing around and an owl hooting in the distance. That’s it! If you’re looking to see a wide array of animals I’d stick with the Boardwalk. The Nature Trail is definitely best if you want to get away from the crowds and truly enjoy nature.
If hiking isn’t your thing, don’t worry! This park also offers very reasonable canoe and kayak rentals. The rentals were $25 for 4 hours. You pay for the rental at the entrance and they give you a key to the kayak/canoe. Included in the rental price was the use of a life jacket, whistle, and paddle. The Park Ranger’s also offer reasonable guided tours. The topics vary, but they are all $5 per person.
This park is very family friendly! They have a great playground surrounded by an open field, picnic tables, and covered pavilions. There were tons of kids enjoying the playground, birthday celebrations happening in the pavilions, and friendly football games being played. It’s so great to see so many people enjoying the park!
While you’re visiting Lettuce Lake Park be sure to check out the Visitor Center. There’s a bulletin board where guests can write down what types of animals they saw in the park that day. This will give you an idea of what to look out for! Also in the Visitor Center there is a hands-on animal footprint exhibit that kids like to play with. There are also some displays of native animals and local flora and fauna. While you’re standing in the middle of the room look up! Above your head you’ll see a dugout canoe! You don’t see those too often.
Overall, we had a nice time at Lettuce Lake Park. We would like to go back in the future to take advantage of the canoeing and kayaking. The lake and river are absolutely stunning with so many sites to see. If you are in the Tampa area and have a few hours to spare I would definitely recommend checking out Lettuce Lake Park.
Address: Lettuce Lake Park is located .8 miles west of I-75 on Fletcher Ave (Exit 266). The address is 6920 East Fletcher Ave, Tampa, FL 33637.
Hours: Spring/Summer – 8 am to 7 pm. Fall/Winter – 8 am to 6 pm
Phone number: (813)987-6204
Admission: $2 per car, up to 8 occupants.