Take a Walk through Prime Panther Habitat
(image by: JohnBob Carlos)
Two interconnected hiking trails provide free public access to the Refuge from sunrise to sunset, seven days a week. Seasonal wildflowers, animal tracks, and many species of birds and butterflies are often seen along the trails. Though Florida panthers frequent the areas around the trails, their elusive nature makes them a rare sight. If you happen to see one during your visit, consider yourself one of a lucky few! The trails are accessible from State Road 29, approximately 0.25 miles north of Alligator Alley (I-75). The first trail is an unimproved 1.3 mile trail, and the other is a 0.3 mile improved trail that is wheelchair accessible. Nature observation and photography are encouraged. For current trail conditions call 239-657-8001.
The rich estuarine, mangrove and marsh habitats attract hundreds of species of wildlife. During the summer, thousands of water birds roost on the coastal islands. Mangrove Cuckoos and Black-whiskered Vireos can occasionally be heard from the mangroves as they mark their home territory on the refuge. Wintering waterfowl forage in the northern marshes as Bald Eagles soar over the open water searching for a meal. Rare reptiles, like the beautiful diamondback terrapin, can also be spotted if you’re quiet. The majority of the Ten Thousand Islands Refuge is accessible primarily by boat, but all of these sights and sounds can often be found along our hiking trail. The first segment of Marsh Trail leads to a two-story observation tower that overlooks a brackish marsh. The tower provides an excellent vantage point for wildlife photographers. In the morning, this is a great location to spot some beautiful wading birds. As the day warms, alligators can often be seen basking in the sun. The trail is a 1.1-mile road that ends in the middle of marsh habitat, so be prepared for a 2.2 mile hike if you want to get to the end and back. The Marsh Trail parking lot is on US 41, 3 miles west of Port of the Islands, and 20 miles southeast of Naples.