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Wildlife Watching and Nature Trails

Birders_520x219Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge offers amazing opportunities to watch and enjoy wildlife!  

All trails are open from sunrise to sunset. Be sure to stop by the visitor center to pick up a map (or get one at this link) and get the most recent information.

During the following hunting dates, some trails will be closed:  Dec 19 - 21, Dec 27-29, Jan 2-4 and Jan 7-11. 

Kiskadee Trail
(1/8 mile)  
This cement-paved walking trail is one of the refuge's most popular trails. Near the visitor center, watch the treetops for great kiskadees, warblers and green jays. It encircles a pool and in wet years may harbor an alligator (in dry years the alligator often moves to the old livestock trough beside the trail).  

Prairie Island Trail
(1/8 mile) 
The crushed gravel trail is great for viewing native thornscrub plants and the butterflies and birds that depend on this important habitat. Stop and rest in the shaded gazebo. Enjoy the water feature and bird feeding area. This trail is across the parking lot from the visitor center.  

Metalmark Butterfly Trail
(1/8 mile) 
Circling the visitor center, this cement trail has many native plants and a photo blind with a water feature and bird feeding area. 

Mesquite Trail
(1.5 mile loop) 
Beginning at the visitor center parking lot, this figure-eight loop trail winds through grassy savannas and across two small ponds. The primitive trail passes near a historic family cemetery. 

Alligator Pond Trail
(1/3 mile) 
This accessible, paved trail at the end of Lakeside Drive follows the shoreline of the Laguna Atascosa lake. It leads visitors to a viewing platform on a pond that hosts alligators during wet years. This trail is an excellent walk or makes for a nice bicycle ride. 

Prairie Trail (formerly called White-tailed Deer Trail) (4.5 miles) - currently CLOSED due to construction
This loop trail is located on FM 106 just west of San Roman Road. Visitors should park in the area provided that is located south of the road. The dirt trail traverses coastal prairie and thornscrub, and in wet years has several ponds. There are also views of the Cayo Atascosa, the water source that feeds into Laguna Atascosa. American alligators can be present in the freshwater. 

Lakeside Drive
(1.5 miles)  
This Drive leads to the 3,500-acre freshwater lake, Laguna Atascosa. In the fall, the lake can have more than 20 species of wintering waterfowl, egrets, herons, pelicans and shorebirds that feed and rest here. Stop at the Osprey Overlook's covered kiosk to scan the lake for wildlife. Lakeside Drive is also the entrance to a series of service roads available to visitors for hiking and biking. Entrances are at Kidney Pond Road, Scum Pond Road, Alligator Pond Road and County Line Road. Follow posted signs. Be sure to pick up a detailed map at the visitor center. Portions of Lakeside Drive are paved. Visitors can access on foot, by bicycle or car. 

Bayside Drive
(15 miles) Visitors can access on foot, by bicycle or guided refuge tours.
This route is a one-way loop through thornscrub forest, coastal prairies, freshwater wetlands and Laguna Madre shoreline. Plover Point Boardwalk allows you to view the Laguna Madre and is a great place to see shorebirds. An elevated overlook, Redhead Ridge, gives you a 360 degree view of all four habitats. A restroom is located at the Redhead Ridge parking area. Wildlife sightings may include aplomado falcons, white-tail deer, coyotes, Texas tortoise, osprey, great blue heron, reddish egret, crested caracara, Harris’ hawk and armadillo. If you are touring by bicycle or on foot, there is a three-mile round trip trail just south of Redhead Ridge. Moranco Blanco trail traverses coastal prairie and thornscrub with a great view overlooking the Laguna Madre. Guided tours of the Bayside Drive include cultural and natural history, management of wildlife habitat, and information on how visitors can help in the wildlife conservation effort. Portions of Bayside Drive are paved.

Bahia Grande Unit
From Highway 100, follow Highway 48 south of Port Isabel. There is a parking area pull-out on the right side of the road before you get to the main water channel to Bahia Grande. This is great place to see wading and shore birds. The refuge also offers birding tours of the Bahia Grande Unit seasonally. Learn more about Bahia Grande here.  

South Padre Island Unit 
Visitors may enjoy the refuge tracts along the beach north of Public Access 6 off Padre Blvd. Activities include beachcombing, fishing, bird watching, horseback riding, swimming and camping. The dunes and tidal flats, however, are closed to public activities as they are sensitive wildlife habitats. These tracts are many miles from the public access and are generally accessed by four-wheel drive vehicle.  Learn more about South Padre Island here.  

Bicycles are permitted on tour roads and some service roads. Service roads are primitive routes where riders should be prepared for emergencies. Check with Refuge staff for approved routes and trail maps. Bring plenty of water and sun protection, patch kits to repair a flat, and be prepared to walk several miles if your bike breaks down. Off-road riding is prohibited. 

Last Updated: Feb 18, 2015
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