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Walking Club: Exploring Bell Creek Preserve on a night hike

Bell Creek Preserve night
Posted at 5:00 AM, Feb 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-22 18:18:06-05

Many of us are looking for ways to get active while also staying a safe distance away from others. That's why Sarah Phinney started a ‘Walking Club’ to highlight some hidden, and some not so hidden, trails and parks across the Tampa Bay.

Have you ever wondered what goes on inside a preserve after dark? Sarah went on a group tour, led by Hillsborough County, to find out!

What is it?

Hillsborough County offers several night hikes every month. Only eight people, not including guides, are allowed on each hike.

The hikes range from a couple miles to more than five miles.

Where are we going?

Sarah went on a Wolf Moon Night Hike at Bell Creek Nature Preserve in Riverview. The address is:

10940 McMullen Road
Riverview, FL 33569

Bell Creek spans nearly 500 acres. It is surrounded by developments and is near a school.

The preserve is home to white-tailed deer, gopher tortoises, sandhill cranes and a bobcat, that is frequently spotted.

“This preserve is really important because animals do not have spots to live, other than places like this,” said Rebecca Winch, Environmental Lands Management Technician with Hillsborough County Conservation and Environmental Lands Management.

Want to visit the preserve some time this weekend? It's open during daylight hours! And, it's part of the Hillsborough County Hiking Spree.

What was the night hike like?

We gathered in the parking lot before the hike began. After receiving some safety instructions, we hit the trail. The preserve was even more stunning as the sun set.

There were lots of opportunities to stop, learn about the wildlife and ask questions. The guides told us that there is a paved road inside the preserve because a development was once planned for the area. Thankfully, it didn’t come to fruition.

The full moon lit up the hike, but it was still very dark. Consider bringing hiking poles to steady yourself! It was hard to see (even with the full moon lighting our way).

We listened and looked (as best we could) for wildlife. Although we didn’t see much, the experience was really neat.

How do I sign up for a night hike?

If you want to get in on the fun, sign up for The Trailblazer Newsletter. That way, you can be one of the first to know when new night hikes are scheduled.

Remember to pack water, snacks and closed-toe shoes. Bug spray and a flashlight aren’t bad ideas either!

The hikes cost $5.

More of an early riser? Keep an eye out for scenic sunrise hikes led by the county!

Click here to sign up for a hike or get on the waitlist.

What else is going on at Bell Nature Creek Preserve?

Hillsborough County is marking 5K routes at Bell Creek and another preserve nearby. You’ll soon be able to come to the preserve, follow the signs and run or walk a 5K.

“Eventually, we plan on doing that at multiple preserves and holding virtual events so that people can compete in their own 5Ks!,” said Winch.

Join Walking Club!

Post photos of your adventures, ask questions and learn about upcoming #WalkingClub stories in Sarah’s Walking Club group on Facebook!

You can also keep up with Sarah on Instagram and Twitter.