Two hiking trails are open to the public on the refuge. The trails are located about a quarter mile north of the intersection of State Road 29 and I-75. Open during daylight hours only, the trails provide the refuge visitor with a chance to experience the various habitats found on the refuge.
The Leslie M. Duncan Memorial Trail is a 1/3 mile, wheelchair-accessible loop trail that winds through a hardwood hammock dominated by ancient oak trees and tropical vegetation. A small boardwalk and overlook allow visitors to view a small, recently restored, seasonal pond. The trail and boardwalk were funded by private donations from Marge Duncan, Safari Club International, and the Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge.
The trail is well marked, but during the wet season, overgrown vegetation on the trail may encroach on the trail. Regardless of the trail's condition, the visitor will enjoy a leisurely walk through hardwood hammocks, pine flatwoods, and wet prairies. Late winter and early spring will bring out many wildflowers. Deer, bear, and occasional panther tracks can be found along the longer trail. Don't forget to look up to catch a glimpse of a Red-shoulder Hawk, Swallow-tailed Kite or Osprey. Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to observe wildlife. Call the main office (239-353-8442) to check the status of the trails and to see if there are any planned events at the trails. Occasional tours may be offered during the winter depending on staff or volunteer availability.
Click here for to view a trail map.
Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) consists of 26,400 acres and is located within the heart of the Big Cypress Basin in southwest Florida. It is located 20 miles east of Naples, Florida at the northwest corner of the intersection of Alligator Alley (I-75) and State Road 29. The refuge is due west of the Big Cypress National Preserve and due north of Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve and Picayune Strand State Forest.
From Naples Area: Take I-75 South towards Miami. Get off at Exit 80. Turn left on State Road 29, heading North. The refuge trails will be located on the left-hand side about a half mile down the road. The trails are open from dawn to dusk all year long.
From Immokalee Area: Take State Road 29 South. The refuge trails will be located on the right-hand side right before the on/off ramps for I-75.
Please use caution when walking the trails. Bring water, insect repellent, and sunscreen. Please do not leave valuables in your car. Allow time to return to your vehicle and leave the refuge before the entrance gate closes at sunset. Pet are not allowed. Do not hike or jog alone. Keep small children under supervision and close at hand. Do not feed any wildlife.
Panthers are rarely seen on the refuge. However, if you do see a panther, follow these guidelines:
•Keep children within sight and close to you. Pick up small children.
•Give the panther space. Give them a way to escape.
•Do not run. Stand and face the animal.
•Avoid crouching or bending over.
•Appear larger. Open your jacket.
•Throw stones, branches, or whatever you can reach without crouching or turning your back.
To learn more about how to stay safe in panther territory, check out these Florida Panther Safety Tips
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The Florida Panther Refuge open house will be held on Saturday, March 15th. All activities are free and include lunch and refreshments sponsored by the Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge. Make your reservations for free swamp buggy tours, orchid wet walks, guided birding walks, and guided plant hikes starting March 10th.