Nature Lovers Favorite Hikes in Sanibel Island

When you’re spending time on Sanibel Island, there are plenty of ways to get into nature. You can stroll down the shore and spot some birds, bike through town, or kayak in the waters to observe the stunning marine life. To get up close and personal with nature while getting your exercise in, consider a hike! There are Sanibel Island hikes for every age group and skill level, so the whole family can get involved. Here are a few of our favorite hikes in the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

mottled duck

Bailey Tract

This section of the Refuge is an easy 1.1-mile hike, though groups can modify the hike to be shorter if needed. You’ll be able to hike through some of Sanibel’s most incredible freshwater marshes and mangrove islands. Be sure to check out the cordgrass, cattails, and giant leather ferns as you pass!

The whole family will enjoy this quick and easy hike, even the four-legged members! Dogs are welcome on the trail as long as they stay on a 6-foot leash.

Beach Walk at Blind Pass

Interested in looking for seashells on your hike? Spend some time at the Beach Walk at Blind Pass. You’ll have miles and miles of shoreline at your disposal, all full of some of the most incredible shells you’ll ever see. This shore is one of the best beaches of Sanibel Island, so bring the whole group to find a unique souvenir!

Calusa Shell Mound Trail

Near the end of Wildlife Drive in the Refuge, you’ll find Calusa Shell Mound Trail. This trail has a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk, perfect for any and every guest. You’ll spend 0.4 miles exploring the loop that surrounds mounds left behind by the Calusa, a group that once populated the barrier islands. This hike is considered easy and is great for all skill levels. In addition to the rich history here, you can also spot incredible plant life like saw palmettos, tall sea grapes, poinciana, and more.

woman hiking on a log

Cross Dike Trail

Cross Dike Trail is located between Wildlife Drive and the Indigo Trail. If you’re looking for the most popular birds in Sanibel, this is one hike you won’t want to miss out on! The hike is just 0.3 miles long and takes visitors between two impoundments to an observation deck for birding to your heart’s content. Not only will you spot beautiful birds, but if you look down, you can see more interesting wildlife like alligators and turtles!

Indigo Trail

The most popular trail within J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is the Indigo Trail. While many people choose to drive through the Indigo Trail, it’s an easy hike that can take you up to 4 miles round-trip. Start at the educational center and grab a drink, then make your way down the trail and into the stunning mangrove forest. You’ll have gorgeous birds surrounding you and unique wildlife right in front of you every step of the way.

red mangrove overlook

Red Mangrove Overlook

If you want a really quick trip through the Refuge, head to Red Mangrove Overlook. This short 0.1-mile trek gives you the perfect chance to birdwatch and observe mangrove crabs up close. The crabs are brightly colored and so beautiful that you just have to see it to believe it! Look down into the water to see hundreds of gar, and at the mangroves, you might spot birds like ibises and egrets. This hike is a simple way to get some sunshine and keep moving on your vacation.

Once you’ve completed some (or all!) of these Sanibel Island hikes, you can explore all the other great things to do in Sanibel Island. From shopping to eating to family-friendly activities, there’s something new to discover every day! If you’re ready to plan your dream getaway, browse our Sanibel listings!