At Amberjack Environmental Park, 225 acres of conservation land protects the high ground in the Cape Haze Peninsula.
Accessed via a boardwalk through a mangrove tunnel, Amberjack Slough provides a prominent feature at the north end of the park, an excellent spot for birding.
Elsewhere along the trail system, the landscape is open and panoramic, with pine flatwoods, scrubby flatwoods, and scrub.
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Length: 1.1 mile hike / 5.6 mile trail system
Trailhead: 26.8717, -82.3000
Address: 6450 Gasparilla Pines Blvd, Rotunda
Restroom: at the visitor center
Land manager: Charlotte County
Open dawn to dusk. Dogs are not permitted. Cyclists welcome. Expect soft sand on some trails. Walk bikes on boardwalks.
On the map it encourages cyclists and those with ADA needs to use the Red Trail closest to the parking area. It has some hard-packed limestone along it.
Trail intersections are not all marked. Definitely take a map with you. You can download the official one at the bottom of this page.
From CR 775 south of Englewood, turn east on Gasparilla Pines Blvd. Follow this road for 1.2 miles through residential neighborhoods until it ends at the park entrance. Park near the kiosk to follow the hiking route shown on the trail map. There are several different entrances to different loops, and they are not marked.
In addition to this main trailhead, there are three walk-through entrances to different parks of the preserve to enable local residents to take an easy walk out of their neighborhoods. See the map.
Start at the trail closest to the kiosk to follow the hiking route shown on our trail map. There are several different entrances to different loops, and they are not marked.
We ended up doing a 1.1-mile hike since we inadvertently cut our hike short by reaching a five-way trail intersection with no blazing whatsoever.
We followed what is shown as the Pink Trail on the park map, aiming for the boardwalk at its far end. Oaks and palmettos surround the trail up to the trail junction at a quarter mile. Turn right.
After walking under the pines, it’s a surprise to reach a wall of mangroves. You leave the footpath to follow a boardwalk towards the light at the end of a mangrove tunnel.
The boardwalk is surprisingly long. It ends at a large open mangrove-fringed waterway. On some maps it’s called Amberjack Slough, on others, Lemon Lake.
We stood there for a while to watch the birds. It seemed there was an eagles’ nest in a tall pine directly across the water.
A wood stork flew in about the time a great egret settled onto some branches on the far side. Looking at that location, nest-building might have been underway.
An anhinga dove, resurfaced, swallowed a fish, and settled onto a log to dry its wings in the time it took for a pair of teals to cruise by.
Return through the tunnel of mangroves to the scrubby flatwoods and the junction with the loop. Turn right. The forest gets scrubbier, with shiny lyonia and soft white sand.
At the next junction, which was marked with a Q, the trail straight ahead goes to the back gate entrance from a neighborhood. Turn left.
The landscape opens up into coastal pine flatwoods. Reaching a firebreak along the preserve perimeter by a half mile, the trail stays with it briefly before turning deeper into the preserve.
You’re following an old forest road through the pines up to a junction at an oak hammock. This is where the Pink Trail ends at the Red Trail.
We turned right but upon reaching the next junction, couldn’t figure out where each option led.
Backtracking, we followed the Red Trail through the scrub with its oak hammocks to the parking area, completing a 1.1-mile loop through the middle of the preserve.
What we hiked is simply the heart of a more extensive trail system. Use the official map – download from the link at the bottom of the page – to extend your exploration of this preserve.
See our photos of Amberjack Environmental Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Where Oyster Creek meets Lemon Bay in Englewood, Cedar Point Environmental Park provides easy interpretive hikes through coastal habitats on a wildlife-rich peninsula
Along the northern shore of a mangrove-lined creek, Oyster Creek Environmental Park offers gentle hiking trails with interpretive stops beneath old-growth slash pines
Imagine your own private island: a sweep of bright white sand along the shallows of the Gulf of Mexico. That’s Don Pedro Island, a Florida State Park that is mostly offshore.