Little-known Nature Reserve with Bike Trails in St. Petersburg, Florida

Boyd Hill Nature Park is a great day out and a nice bike ride location

While we love to travel, often some of the hidden gems of our own region surprise us.  That is what happened when I went to Boyd Hill Nature Park in the south side of St. Petersburg, Florida recently.

We took our bicycles since we can cycle there fairly easily and paid the USD3 entry fee, which turned out to be quite a bargain.  There is a small building that houses an admissions and information desk and there are small but interesting exhibits in the building.  This is a government-run facility rather than a government supported facility but the exhibits were still quite interesting despite not being anything you would find at a professional museum or nature center.  Nonetheless, I was still impressed.  Mostly because St. Petersburg is a fairly urban and suburban area with very little open land.

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One of the inhabitants of the aviary was this barred owl.

To reach the bike trails we went past several large cages that contained various birds.  While there was nothing exotic or unusual, it was nice to see them and study them.  Shortly after the half dozen or so cages, we set off on the trails.  We passed a small golf cart that held passengers doing a “tram” tour of the facility and the guides seemed quite engaged and knowledgeable.  Our primary purpose was for some biking exercise with some sights thrown in along the way.

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Much of the trails are accessible by “tram” which is essentially a golf cart.

The park includes areas that are a swamp woodlands, pine flatwoods, willow marsh and sand scrub trail.  It is critical to note that the park brochure and map clearly states  the following as prohibited: “alcohol, drugs, loud or indecent language, radios …”  I am NOT making this up.  Makes you wonder since public nudity isn’t mentioned under the prohibited activities what the government would say if they caught someone without clothes.  Or maybe not.

Some of the trails were a bit more challenging at Boyd Hill.  But even the more challenging were fairly easy and this park is great for beginners or just having a relaxing bike trail of a day.
Some of the trails were a bit more challenging at Boyd Hill. But even the more challenging were fairly easy and this park is great for beginners or just having a relaxing bike trail of a day.

We took the main trail all the way to the back of the park along Lake Maggiore.  The park has various eco-systems and the bike trails go through them all.  The trails are very accessible and not terribly well marked but it was fairly easy to get around sticking to the main trail.  We saw some turkey buzzards which were really kind of cool.

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View of the swamp woodlands. You can see in the far distance downtown St. Petersburg buildings if you look really carefully. There are short boardwalk trails through here.

The most excellent thing we saw (and it could really have been a holy shit moment) was a big alligator on a very small island called Lake Maggiore Island.  You could easily walk right up to it if you didn’t notice it – which would be hard but still not impossible.  We ran into a small group of birders with binoculars looking for, well, birds I presumed.

Hello, Mr. Alligator.  This was taken on the very small Lake Maggiore Island.
Hello, Mr. Alligator. This was taken on the very small Lake Maggiore Island.

There are services here, including toilets, vending machines for soda and water and bags of Doritos and that sort of thing.  The staff and volunteers were extremely friendly and eager to help all visitors.  It was a leisurely day and for anyone looking for a low impact biking experience this is a perfect day visit and quite a surprise that such a location exists here – it is 245 acres in size.

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