Things To Do
moonlight paddle_NR

Hillsborough Parks: More Exciting at Night!

Evening hikes, paddles, and photo shoots in County preserves and parks are increasingly popular

There’s a bit of guilty pleasure, sort of like stepping outside the lines or even breaking longstanding rules.

Until recently, most Hillsborough County preserves and regional parks were open from dawn to dusk, with rare exceptions. Nighttime programming did not exist.

That is changing. Conservation & Environmental Lands Management is learning residents enjoy hiking on moonlit nights, paddling beneath the stars, and photographing sunsets, all on select County properties. It seems people love doing things they normally are not allowed to do.

Last summer, a handful of people showed up for a nighttime tour of Golden Aster Scrub Preserve, near Gibsonton. It went well. More residents turned out for the next full-moon hike. That, too, was popular.

Hikers have learned a few things along the way. For example, the full moon isn’t always where you want it to be when a walk sets off. In fact, it might not rise over the horizon until hikers are driving home after a particularly dark nighttime excursion. 

Lesson learned: Make sure the moon will be visible when scheduling a moonlit excursion.

Hillsborough County leaders are considering other possible uses of preserves and regional parks at night — an outing to observe and identify constellations, for example. Dusk and darkness cast County lands in a different light, presenting opportunities and perspectives that differ from typical daylight encounters.