After throwing a housewarming party to break in our new apartment, we were moving slow the next morning. To clear the fog and get the blood flowing we decided to go for a hike. Nothing cures a hangover like some sun and sweat.
We chose Violet Cury Nature Preserve because of its central location and the preserve’s wild, untouched feel. Just 15 miles north of downtown Tampa, this park is a quick jaunt for anyone within the city limits.
The state of Florida acquired the 160-acre Violet Cury Nature Preserve in 1995 and opened it to the public five years later. This park is not regularly maintained by the county so it’s pleasantly overgrown. The only reason trails exist is thanks to a Boy Scout leader who took his troupe out one summer to mark them.
Getting to Violet Cury Nature Preserve
The entrance to the park is small and unimposing. If you’re moving too quickly down Sinclair Hills Road you may even pass it. It’s only a half mile down or so. A clearing under large oak trees is the best indicator you’re getting close.
Park your car alongside the road. As you walk towards the metal gate, cars zip past and you wonder how many of them know this place even exists.
We visited in the morning after a rainstorm and the park was surprisingly cool. It was August, but all of a sudden it felt like October. As we approached the only picnic table in the park, we were engulfed by a canopy of oaks, pines and palmettos.
The main trail is a two mile loop and could take a couple of hours to complete if moving at a leisurely pace. Off the main trail are paths crisscrossing left and right, each connecting back to the main trail.
The trail alternates from sand to flattened grass. Yellow flowers and the shards of trees struck by lightning decorate the path. Butterflies appear out of nowhere, playfully bopping along, seeming to follow hikers for a minute before going on their way.
We encountered just one other person on our trip – a man and his dog out for a morning jog. AC/DC blared on the man’s phone as he ran by.
“Good morning,” he said.
What to Expect
The only potential drawbacks of the park are the absence of bathrooms and water facilities. Bring plenty of water. Also, the north end of the park backs into an apartment complex. You walk right by their dumpsters.
But these are minor blemishes on an otherwise outstanding park. What we enjoy most about Violet Cury Nature Preserve are all the twists and turns. It’s perfect to get lost in. Every impulse to change direction enhances the feeling of wilderness wanderlust. This may be about as in nature as you can get in Tampa. It’s quite satisfying to feel as if you’ve left it all behind, if only for an hour.
And with civilization on all sides and the hum of traffic always in the background, you can rest easy. Your chances of getting really lost are pretty slim.
Check out the county’s guide to Violet Cury Nature Reserve to learn more.