Free 'hiking spree' promotes health and wellness in Hillsborough County

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. - If you and your family are feeling adventurous, Hillsborough County is hoping to make the weekend active. It is bringing back the "Hiking Spree," a set of twenty trails picked by Parks and Recreation officials. They are hoping this year's event is even bigger than last year's. 

"This is fairly low tide I guess," said Claire Brantley, who is now an active hiker, "This one's really pretty."

We caught up with Brantley as she walked along the Eagle trail in Upper Tampa Bay Conservation Park. She has journeyed through more than fifty trails around Hillsborough County and lost about fifty pounds in the process.

"I’ve been hiking now not quite a year, about eight months, nine months?" Brantley said. "I can do so much more than I could when I started."

Nearly 1,000 people signed up for the Hiking Spree in 2016 which encourages everyone to get out and walk.

"All ages, all abilities, families, on your own, however you want to hike and however you want to get outside they wanted to make sure that was available," said Dana McDonald, with Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation. 

McDonald says taking the time to get away from every day stress is good for your mental health too. 

"If you'd like to have some solitude and get away from all the things going on in the world, it's a really nice place to sit and think," McDonald said.

Here is how it works. First, register online so the county can keep track of how many people participated in the spree. Then print out the list of hiking trails and complete at least eight before March to get a medallion or patch.

The list breaks down the trails difficulty rating and if it is wheelchair friendly (10 out of 20 are). 
Brantley says the Hiking Spree helped her discover trails she didn't know existed.  

"Your tax dollars are already paying for things but if you don’t support them it’s easy for politicians or government officials to make decisions about what to fund and what not to fund," Brantley said.

Most of the parks are free though a few due charge an entrance or parking fee. Hillsborough County also offers group or guided hikes with park staff. Click here for a list of upcoming guided hikes. 

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