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Hiking Tips From the Pros

At Babcock Ranch, hiking enthusiasts will have 50 miles of trails to explore, a distance roughly equal to the drive from Fort Myers to Naples.

The idea is in keeping with master developer Kitson & Partners’ vision that residents should have access to nature from any Babcock Ranch neighborhood via an interconnected system of trails. In many cases, the trails exist today because cowmen used them for more than one hundred years to move cattle from one pasture to another (in Florida, we call them cowmen — not cowboys).

In an interview with the Babcock Ranch Telegraph, the community’s newspaper, Senior Vice President of Planning and Development Gary Nelson says the proposed greenway trails will take advantage of the ranch’s working grades, fire breaks and cattle trails to minimize the amount of disturbance to the natural environment. You can read the interview here.

“In fact, the primary backbone trail running north and south through the greenway was created 40 to 50 years ago when Curry Canal was dredged,” Nelson tells the Telegraph. “The dredge material was placed on the west side of the canal, creating an elevated trail through the natural system along the creek. It is a fantastic setting.”

And that’s just the trails linking nature preserves within the community of Babcock Ranch. The adjoining state-owned Babcock Ranch Preserve purchased by the state in 2006 totals 67,619 acres. Located within the Caloosahatchee River Basin, the preserve anchors a conservation corridor of public and private land that stretches from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The preserve spans a diverse mosaic of pinelands, including both wet and mesic pine flatwoods, and dry prairie ecosystems interspersed with cypress domes and cypress swamps. A dominant feature on the landscape is the Telegraph Swamp, the cypress strand swamp located in the eastern half of the property.

Hiking For Beginners

Beginner hikers will enjoy the EcoTour Trail, which provides a 1.5-mile hike through pine flatwoods. Park at the adjacent Babcock Wilderness Adventures parking area. Here’s a map: http://myfwc.com/media/304830/BRP_Trails_EcoTour_Color.pdf.

Tips For Advanced Hikers

More advanced hikers will enjoy the Footprints Trail opened in June 2008. Over five miles of trails in several different loops traverse pasture, cypress swamps, pine flatwoods and hammocks in the northwest corner of the property. This area is a working ranch with ongoing cattle, timber and farming operations. Please be respectful of ranch staff, be aware of and cautious of cattle and leave all gates in the same position you find them. Access the trailhead from a parking area located on State Road 74, adjacent to the Florida Forest Service tower. Here’s a map: http://myfwc.com/media/304833/BRP_Trails_Footprints_Color.pdf.

Hiking At Babcock Ranch

Trailhead facilities in the first 1,100-home phase of Babcock Ranch at Founder’s Square in the town center include restrooms, a dog park, a lakeside fishing dock, an observation deck and parking for visitors to access the trails. After hiking or biking the trails, residents and visitors can enjoy a cool drink and a meal at the appropriately named Trail’s End restaurant. You can read more about the first phase of Babcock Ranch here https://www.babcockranch.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Babcock-Ranch-Phase-1-Overview.pdf.

Stay tuned as more is announced in 2017 about our hiking trails!

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