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Golden Aster Preserve

Birding / Hiking / Adventuring Roadtrip Info

Andrew Thoreson
Nov 2021
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GRADES: Click each for info, * = Note
How Big Not Rated
Importance Not Rated
Revisit? A
Birding B
Wildlife C *
Summer Heat F
Terrain F *
Fun Hike B
Maintained B
Mosquitos B
Biting Files A
Ticks B
NOTE: Seen pigs and bobcat
NOTE: Deep sand is the issue
 LOCATION: Accuracy: Read me
Map On Big Map: Click map (or on google maps). Address: 12181 East Bay Road, Gibsonton, FL, Hillsborough, USA, 33534

1) What It's Like

Interesting place. It's named after an endangered flower - the Golden Aster. It's mostly scrub habitat that would be more at home on the Lake Wales ridge (a ridge of sand that snakes along the center of Florida that was once the coastline eons ago). So one draw is the interesting plants including some herbs. Another draw is that I'm pretty sure this is the only place in Hillsborough county with Florida Scrub Jays - species that only lives in Florida. Due to how they watch out for each other they often come out to greet you though I wouldn't come expecting it. They seem to live on the left side of the main trail much closer to the first pond than the big one in back. There are lots of blue jays as well so pay attention. This is one of the few places we've managed to spot a bobcat (near entrance when coming back near dusk) and the first to see a family of wild hogs (drinking from the first pond). Often there are gopher tortoise near the first pond and in the pond we've seen some of our first encounters with various duck species. If you follow the first trail on the right it runs past some bits of ruins of what this used to be - a cattle ranch. Go further and along the edge of the park a resident keeps donkeys and bees along a slightly shaded trail. The trail just after the first pond is slightly wooded - less deep sand and ends up at a gate at the easement/jeep-trail along the power lines. I think they keep cattle in that corridor sometimes (never seen any at this spot though). You can cross that and the park continues - here and further into the park where there are some steel stairs going over. If you go all the way to the end of the park there's a larger pond/lake with some woods around it. We went on a guided night hike here and heard some great whippoorwills. Watch their website for a repeat.  It's a county preserve more than a park but there are some amenities.

2) Kinds of Birds

Maybe the only Florida Scrub Jays in Hillsborough county live here and sometimes greet you on the trail. Usually you'll see a duck or two and wading birds in the ponds. Otherwise - hawks, warblers, hard to say but pretty nice stop.

3) Wildlife

We've seen bobcat, family of pigs, ranger says there's a huge eastern diamondback down a side trail, often see gopher tortoise. So pretty impressive given it's size and location. The farther you get towards the back the more tracks you see in the sand - snakes, deer, pigs, etc.

4) Amenities

It's a Hillsborough county park that's meant more as a preserve than a big destination. Still it's not bad at all: chemical toilet, nice trail sign, picnic bench, parking area, ranger lives on site. The trail keeps itself mowed more or less since it's so sandy.

5) Directions

 You have to walk for 5-10 minutes along a gravel road from the parking area before you really enter the meat of the park (though it is a pretty walk). When the trails diverge you'll see a composting toilet and picnic shelter by the first pond there.

6) Dear Ranger

Great job!

7) Time Requirements

You could spend more than half a day here but it would be brutal. Minimum is probably half an hour because when you enter you have to follow a road for awhile before you reach the interesting parts.


We've come back here several times because it's just an interesting place. Interesting wildlife, interesting plants, you can change it up by going in different directions. However I've managed to pull some odd muscles in the very deep sand that's on much of the trails combined with pigs digging things up. Also, in the summer - it gets extremely hot with all that sun reflecting off the sand.

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All images and data © 2016-2024 Andrew Thoreson unless otherwise noted.