Go Take a Walk (It’s Good For You!)

I suppose that if you live in or love to visit Florida you know that there’s nothing as refreshing and reinvigorating as a nature walk. The sights, sounds, and smells wake up something in us that is deeply human.

Now, according to the Washington Post, there is scientific evidence these walks make you feel better. Essentially, walking in nature limits inward, negative thinking called “rumination” that can increase the risk of depression. Researchers backed up their claims with brain scans. The big takeaway from the research is to get outside.

Spending time outdoors, in nature, is good for you. The new study just adds — in a new way — to a growing body of evidence that demonstrates that.

– Chris Mooney, Washington Post

With that in mind, here’s a few nature walks to take in Southwest Florida.

1. Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, Fort Myers

Gator Lake at the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in Fort Myers.
Gator Lake at the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in Fort Myers.

The Six Mile Slough (pronounces “slew”) includes a 1.25-mile boardwalk that twists through a cypress swamp. The boardwalk takes visitors past four bodies of water that are havens for birdwatching – Gator Lake, Wood Duck Pond, Otter Pond, and Pop Ash Pond. The best part about the slough is that it is right in the middle of Fort Myers about 1 minute off Daniels Parkway. (Find directions HERE)

Find more about the amazing wildlife at the slough by clicking here.

Hours: Dawn to dusk
Cost: Parking is $1 per hour

2. John Yarbrough Linear Park, Fort Myers

An alligator hangs out at the John Yarbrough Linear Park in Fort Mters.
An alligator hangs out at the John Yarbrough Linear Park in Fort Mters.

This trail runs parallel to Metro Parkway in Fort Myers and offers views of alligators and Florida wading birds. The six-mile-long trail offers free parking, fishing, and allows on-leash dog walking.

The trail can be accessed by sidewalk or paths at: Six Mile Cypress Slough Parkway, Daniels Parkway, Crystal Drive, and Colonial Boulevard. There is free parking on the Daniels Parkway section of the trail.

Public parking is also available at several nearby recreational facilities (parking fees may apply): Lakes Regional Park (1.5 mi.), the Lee County Sports Complex (1 mi.), the City of Fort Myers Neighborhood Trailhead Park (2.1 mi.), and the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve Interpretive Center (3.7 mi.).

Hours: Dawn to dusk
Cost: Free
More information: Click here for more information

3. Big Marco Pass Critical Wildlife Area, Marco Island

A black skimmer soars over Tigertail Beach on Marco Island. The skimmer is one of several bird species nesting right now.
A black skimmer soars over Tigertail Beach on Marco Island. The skimmer is one of several bird species nesting right now.

Adjacent to Tigertail Beach on the northern section of Marco Island, the critical wildlife area gives visitors an opportunity to visit an unspoiled Florida beach. Sea life such as dolphins and starfish inhabit the blue water. Seat turtle nests and birds such as egrets, herons, and osprey wade through a lagoon. The area is an important nesting site for sea turtles, black skimmers, and least terns.

Be prepared for a hike, however. unlike some of the other walks on the list, this is completely a beach hike.

Click here to find out what you can see on Marco Island.

Hours: Dawn to dusk
Cost $8 to park for the day at Tigertail Beach
Directions: Click here for directions

4. Alice Saylor Nature Trail, Barefoot Beach PreserveBarefoot preserve 1

A trail at one of America’s best beaches (Ranked second in 2014!) allows hikers to discover a hidden gem of a beach at Wiggins Pass. Located in the third parking lot at Barefoot Beach Preserve, this path travels 1.25 miles through the woods between the beach and the bay. There are benches spread across the trail that offers rest stops. Be on the lookout for gopher tortoises, which are omnipresent at the preserve.

Hours: 8 a.m. to dusk
Cost: $8 a day to park at the preserve
Directions: Click here for directions

Other worthwhile spots

Bunche Beach

J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Drive on Sanibel

Lakes Regional Park in Fort Myers

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