The Little Manatee River begins in a swampy area near Fort Lonesome and flows almost 40 miles before emptying into Tampa Bay. The river has been designated an Outstanding Florida Water and is part of the Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve. Visitors can fish along the banks of the river. Wildlife enthusiasts can enjoy hiking a six-and-a-half mile trail through the park's northern wilderness area. For those who prefer their hikes on horseback, the park has 12 miles of equestrian trails and four equestrian campsites. Campers can spend the night in a full-facility campground or hike out to a primitive campsite along the trail. A youth/group campground accommodates up to 20 people. The scenic picnic area along the river has tables, grills, and pavilions. Pavilions can be reserved for a fee. Unreserved pavilions are available on a first-come-first-served basis. Located five miles south of Sun City, off U.S. 301 on Lightfoot Road.
My 14 year old son and I really enjoyed this trail. We completed a scenic 6.2 mile loop. Most of the trail was wooded with plenty of shade. Roughly 2 miles along the river. Lots of bugs. Did not see other wildlife but we did go at the hottest time of the day. Evidence of wild hogs throughout the hike.
Overall ok IMO. We have a young Rhodesian Ridgeback so we love to hike Florida parks.
Pluses .. saw a black racer snake and a good sized deer darted right across the trail. Good thing dog was on the leash. Trail easy and well marked although the big loop that would have increased the walk from 2.5 mi to over 6 mi was closed off. The wife was elsewhere this am so just as well
Minuses .. Buggy of course. Bug spray definitely helped. Scenery not super interesting compared to other nearby trails. Also they as for s $5 fee which I happily paid, I assume this goes to maintaining the trail (lots of bridges and plank pathways over water and mud). Other area trails are free other than Myakka State park which happens to be awesome.
I prefer Rye Preserve which doesn't seem to be on All Trails.
Good to have a variety though. Also love Emerson Point and Robinson's Preserve.
This was a great hiking area. We did the hike north of the river.(6.5 miles) I would say majority of it was under the canopy. Lots of changes in scenery which kept it very interesting. Clean narrow trails, some holes from hogs. There were areas that were somewhat flooded, but you could usually walk around it. On the river route the bugs were really bad, we forgot bug spray. We didn't see any wildlife which was disappointing.
Good hike with a nice primitive camp around 2 miles in. The trail is clearly marked, and they have bridges over the overly muddy sections. The primitive camp site is fantastic, in a nice stand of sand pines with soft ground and several good spots for hammocks. The nearest water to the campsite is a stream crossing about a mile away though, so camel up or carry a bit extra. Overall a short, but good time.
It was a fun romp through little Manatee river state park. A 6.3 mile loop trail follows the bank of the Little Manatee river. The path curves with the river, muddy and slightly overgrown for 2 to 3 miles before giving way to vast palmetto and scrub pine forests.
I enjoyed the surprising environmental diversity and elevation change along the relatively short route. Other than the neighborhood you momentarily skirt about 1/2 way through, the trail has a very remote feeling once you get away from 301. I decided to go early to avoid the full force of the Florida summer sun, and the move payed off. It was 76 degrees when I set out, as cool as possible for August in the sunshine state. I was also pleased to find the bugs surprisingly subdued, at first that is. After covering over 5 miles, 4 of which i ran, i decided on a cool down walk to finish off the trail. The last mile was rough, swarms of horse flies forced me to run when I desperately wanted to walk. There were so many that they were bouncing off of my head and chest. So bring some DEET!