Hiking Starkey Wilderness Park, New Port Richey, FL

Last Monday I got into TPA near noon, got across the Bay, had lunch, got checked into the hotel, and got the accumulated email taken care of. I wanted to go for a hike, and picked this area. It was about 30 miles from my hotel in Largo.

I got there about 1600. There is a staffed booth for campers. They sort of rudely have a sign in the window that they did not make change. The fee to enter the park was $2. It cost me $5 since they did not make change.

I walked 6.9 miles at this park. I really had no idea where I was going, there were no trail maps at the entrance station. I saw two trail markers – one for the nature trail, and one for the bike trail. I ended up stumbling across another trail, and I essentially walked until I got so sweaty that I decided I was done for the day. It was pretty humid, but not terribly hot.

The first thing I did was find one of the parking areas. On the way there, I passed this guy scarfing grass on the side of the road; he’s about a foot long. I believe this is a Gopher Tortoise, which is native to and common in Florida. I saw one just like him right before I got on the nature trail.

I started off walking along what I thought was a trail through the trees. Not so much. I walked on a road for a while, detoured off the road to an open play area, and then ran across a sign that pointed to the nature trail. The nature trail was a little more like it.

At some point the trail branched, so I took the branch. I ended up in a swamp. It should be noted that there were many places on the nature trail (and everywhere else) where the ground was waterlogged and muddy. But this was a no-kidding, the-body-will-never-be-found, swamp. There were a lot of mosquitoes there as well. I backtracked.

Eventually the nature trail came back to a playground. I came right back to the parking lot my car was in, and that’s where I ran across this very wide trail that led to the south.

I wandered along this trail for a while. I have a pretty good internal compass and distance indicator, so I knew how to get back (and I had set a waypoint in the GPS as well). There was lots more swamp and mud to walk around. I walked out to a point, looked at my sweaty shirt, and turned around and walked back. I sort of looped around another swampy area, then near the entrance station, and finally back to my car.

Here is my path on a topo map, a Google Earth overlay, and finally the park trail map that a work friend found online and sent to me.

The area I hiked is outlined in yellow. There is a lot of park left to hike.

I left around 1830.

Signage for the park is not very good. It’s flat. It’s got a lot of pretty trees and shade. It’s a swamp in places. It was nice hike. Max altitude gain was… 6″ (that was going from the trail to the road surface 🙂 ).

I really thought the “no change” sign was rude.

One thing that I find myself amused by. My last hike was thousands of feet of altitude change. This one was the equivalent of walking across a parking lot. Both were sweaty.

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2 Responses to “Hiking Starkey Wilderness Park, New Port Richey, FL”

  1. barefootandprimal Says:

    Not the best place to hike in our area. Have you checked out the Croom Wildlife Management area in Hernando County? It’s not that far from NPR. Oh and yes, that was a gopher tortoise. We have two in our back yard that forage around our house. 🙂

  2. Bill Hensley Says:

    Hi, thanks for the good advice. Croom isn’t much farther north, so I’m going to put it on the list for a future visit to the area.

    I got to hike Withlacoochee State Forest about 10 years ago, that’s even a bit farther north, it was very pretty also.

    Our tortoises are much smaller, about 1/6th the size of the gophers, which are very neat!


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