The Estero River Scrub trails at Estero Bay Preserve indeed protect some scrubby habitats, although much of the property can be very wet.
Three colored loop trails and one short linear trail provide access to an impressive variety of different ecosystems.
The orange loop and eastern portions of the yellow and red loops are seasonally flooded.
Adventurous hikers can delve into the tidally influenced western side for a literally immersive trek through mangrove laden salt marshes.
Expect soft mud, soggy footpaths, and swamp wading along this wild trek on the edge of the suburbs.
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Length: 5 miles
Trailhead: 26.441980, -81.836218
Addresses: 940 Broadway Ave W, Estero
Fees: $2 per vehicle
Restroom: At trailhead
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open sunrise to sunset. Leashed dogs welcome. Expect mosquitos and prepare for them before you step out of the car. Trails may be muddy or entirely a wade, depending on tides.
From Interstate 75 in Estero, exit on Corkscrew Rd and head west for 2 miles before turning right onto S Tamiami Tr. In 0.7 mile, turn left onto Broadway West. Continue straight for 1.6 miles, turning right at a parking area marked with a State Park sign.
At the trailhead, a covered pavilion and picnic bench stand alongside an information kiosk with trail maps and details about the preserve.
Turn to the left to begin the hike, heading westward down a broad pathway speckled with tufts of grass and pine needles.
Orange painted metal poles mark the trail as it follows an access road to a junction with the Blue Trail at 0.3 mile.
Taking a detour here leads down a sugar sand laden, and occasionally flooded path for 0.2 mile to an outlook over the Estero River.
From the trail intersection, yellow blazes continue to the west for a quarter mile, passing bright yellow seaside goldenrods and milkworts.
Reach a bench near the high tide mark. The water level at the bench will indicate how swampy the next mile of trail will likely be.
Fiddler crabs scurry in every direction as you proceed into the squishy terrain of the tidal marsh.
Although markers are scarce in the marsh, the trail forms a very distinct narrow corridor cutting through densely clustered young mangroves and glasswort.
Red, white, and black mangroves thrive in the salty bayside habitat as well as salt-loving panicum and other grasses.
Hundreds of tubelike pneumatophores sprout from the muddy soils, allowing black mangroves to acquire oxygen in flooded conditions.
Continue straight at 1.9 miles, joining the Red Trail to the north as the Yellow Loop leads east towards the trailhead.
In areas where the path through the mangroves widens, deep footprints in the mud evidence the direction of the trail as it heads northward.
Passing alongside and over a few sandy beaches, the trail enters a drier section at 2.3 miles, where cabbage palms stand at the edge of the estuary.
The trail weaves through a seasonally flooded palm forest dotted with slash pines for a half mile before climbing slightly into a mesic flatwoods habitat.
Red painted metal poles lead the way as the path reaches an edge of the property before circling to the south.
An occasional trailside bench offers a resting spot as the route crosses wide swaths of healthy pine savannah carpeted with saw palmettos and tall golden grasses.
Small candyroot plants produce puffy lemon-yellow flowers alongside carnivorous sundew plants and showy blooms of rose gentian.
At four miles, the Red Loop concludes where the Yellow Trail begins curving gradually east.
Crossing over a few patches of dry, scrubby flatwoods where gopher apple grows next to prickly pear cactus, the path reaches the trailhead after another mile.
Learn more about Estero Bay Preserve State Park
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