Connecting Wildlife Drive and the Indigo Trail, the Cross Dike Trail at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge is an easy paved walk along a dike between two impoundments. An observation deck provides a spot for birding along the mangrove-lined waters.
Location: Sanibel Island
Length: 0.3 mile
Fees: National Wildlife Refuge fee
Bug Factor: moderate to annoying
This hike must be accessed via Wildlife Drive, which is a one-way driving trail through the refuge. The refuge is open from sunrise to sunset daily except Fridays.
Cross the causeway to Sanibel Island (toll) and, at the T intersection, turn right on Periwinkle Rd. Turn right on Periwinkle Rd and follow the “Captiva” signs through Sanibel to Sanibel-Captiva Rd. Drive 5.1 miles to the park entrance on the right. Follow Wildlife Drive through the refuge. The Cross Dike Trail is on the left not quite a mile past the ranger station.
Walking from Wildlife Drive out onto the dike along this paved trail, enjoy the vistas of the mangrove-lined waters, where green herons and snowy egrets pick through the shallows. Wild sweet pea climbs up and over the massive sea grapes. Necklace pod trees dangle their showy yellow blossoms, attracting ruby-throated hummingbirds bound for Mexico in their fall migration.
At 0.1 mile, you reach the observation platform. Use the mounted binoculars to scan the swamp for signs of alligators and turtles. One of Florida’s most colorful turtles, the ornate diamondback terrapin, lives in these marshes. The trail leads up beyond the observation platform to the Indigo Trail.
Unless you plan to walk along the Indigo Trail from here, turn around and follow the paved path back to Wildlife Drive for a 0.3-mile walk.