The Cypress Preserve Lizard’s Trail is maintained by Hillsborough County. This is a primitive trail with minimal amenities, so do not expect to find any luxuries at this location. There is a trail map, safety information, and some park information posted on the bulletin board. I would suggest snapping a quick photo of the map before heading out. There are also two open shelters with picnic tables and trash cans here.
There are no restrooms (or changing tables) at this trail. There is no welcome center, no air conditioned buildings, and no water fountains. If your kids are not accustomed to walking in true wilderness, I would suggest taking a different trail. There are a lot of tall grasses, marshes, and insects here. Shade is also sparse, so if you venture out don’t forget sunscreen and insect repellent!
I have recently been trying to find moderately-challenging trails in the 4-6 mile range for us to practice on. It was proving to be a challenge until I discovered the AllTrails App. This app has a list of trails and you can filter the results based on distance from your current location, difficulty, etc. It’s a great concept and I encourage you to check it out! I’ve been using it to scope out a lot of new sites and that is how I came across this trail!
Finding the trail head can be a challenge. From the parking area, you need to backtrack down the road that you entered from. The entrance of the park is just under a quarter of a mile from the parking lot. From the trail head, you will walk a short ways on the trail before crossing a boardwalk.
The trail splits three ways shortly after the boardwalk. Watch out here, because this is where we got mixed up. There will be a wooden post capped with blue paint and arrows pointing left and right. You want to either go straight or right here. Do not go left unless you want to get lost! If you go straight, there will be a tree not far ahead on your left with a blue blaze. Follow that trail! I will update this summary later and transfer it to the “Parks” section when we actually hike the trail the way it was intended to be hiked, but feel free to read along and share our experience from today!
We started out our hike as detailed above, and mistakenly turned left after the boardwalk. From here we started a pleasant, sunny hike along a grassy trail. Grasshoppers jumped out of our way as we marched through the tall grass. Everything was going fine as we started out, except suddenly M said he had to go number 2, really really bad. Shit. Literally, shit! We didn’t have any wipes (I haven’t been carrying them since the twins got out of diapers!) or toilet paper. Just great! I had packed everything except this one necessity. To add to the situation, M had never gone number 2 in the wilderness before. Guess it it was time for a crash course! I led him off the trail, found a good spot, scraped out an hole, and had him pop a squat. We used some cotton gauze from our first aid kit as a wipe and found our way back to the trail. Whew. No drama, no tears, and way less stress than I first imagined! Maybe we can actually do this backpacking thing after all!
The trail here was nice and wide, so we thought we must be going the right way, but it was strange that we had not yet seen any more blue markers. Oh, well. We trekked on as the trail curved and we started making our way through slightly marshier trails. They were nothing too bad – all of the inundated regions were easily avoidable by either walking directly down the center of the path or finding a route off to the side of the trail.
About a mile and a half in we came across a four-way intersection. There was one stake with a yellow blaze and a picture of a backpacker on it pointing perpendicular to the direction we were walking. There were no blue stakes or blazes at all! While the kids were distracted by pretending to fish in a puddle, D and I pulled up the photo of the map to pinpoint our location. We did not see anything hinting at another trail. In a final effort to determine where we had ended up, we tried Google Maps, but that did not provide us with a definitive answer, either. Our current location seemed to almost line up with the map from the parking area, though. We decided to go a little farther and find a dry spot so the kids could sit down and have a snack. They were getting a little cranky and food is always a great distraction! We continued following the trail we had been following.
After the snack, we continued on in what we thought was the right direction, but after roughly another mile we discovered yet another wooden post, this one capped with red paint and the image of a backpacker. Something just seemed off, so shortly after passing that post we turned back around. It wasn’t until we made it back to the original blue-capped post that we realized our mistake!
The hike itself was not bad, but adding the confusion of not knowing where we were to the heat, it could have gone a lot better. The children all carried their packs with ease and not one complaint. We actually had two instances with two different boys in which they forgot they were even wearing their packs! M and Ry actually accused their siblings of taking them away! I give these Sprout backpacks so much praise! Seriously, so glad we were able to choose a winner on the first try! Throughout the walk we stumbled across cricket frogs, oak toads, beetles, spiders, and ginormous flying insects! We did not find many vertebrates here, but they would probably be more abundant during the early morning hours. All in all, we ended up walking about 5 miles. That is roughly the total length that the actual loop is supposed to be. Well give it another shot in the fall, and see how it goes!