Suncoast Trail is a furrific hike for athletic dogs and Floridians who love them. This paved mixed-use trail is part of the Florida Greenways and Trails System that parallels Suncoast Parkway for over 40 miles through Hillsborough, Pasco, and Hernando Counties.
Because the highway is so close, the trail doesn't feel remote even though it provides excellent wildlife viewing opportunities and crosses a number of streams. It might not be a top choice if your pups want a break from traffic noise, but many walkers will appreciate the safety of nearby assistance if something should go wrong.
The southern trailhead at Lutz Lake Fern Road is less than half an hour north of Tampa and gets heavy weekend use, especially by bikers drawn to the paved surface. Bikes should be the fastest thing on the trail: motorized traffic is prohibited. On-leash dogs are welcome, of course!
Running from outer-metro Tampa north to Brooksville, the Suncoast Trail transitions between suburban, agricultural, and natural landscapes. Relatively flat on its southern end, the trail becomes rolling to the north. There are dozens of trail access points at parks and street crossings along the route, which means your pack can take a different hike each weekend. The trail is day-use only and too long to walk in a single day, so through-hiking isn't an easy option.
Dedicated trailhead parking costs $3 at self-service stations, though suburban crossings are sometimes reachable from free street parking. Benches and covered picnic areas (pawfect shelter from rain or sun) dot the trail. The Suncoast Trail also passes near several parks with trailheads: Anderson Snow Regional Park, Crews Lake Wilderness Park, and Concourse Nature Center. The scenic palmettos and live oaks at the 8,300-acre Starkley Wilderness Park are reachable via a spur trail, but unfortunately, the campground doesn't allow dogs.
There are 6 restroom access points along the trail (chemical toilets on the southern half of the trail and park restrooms in the northern half). Still, expect to walk for miles between pit-stop opportunities. There are 7 water coolers and park water fountains where you can fill up your bottles, but you'll need to carry enough to get your pups safely between stops, particularly on high-traffic days when water coolers might run dry.