Explore several coastal habitats on the Arrowhead Nature Trail at Fort De Soto Park, an interpretive walk with plenty of stops where you’ll learn all about the salt-dependent plants along the rim of Mullet Key Bayou. Openings between the mangroves enable you to enjoy scenic views with a wide sweep of the shallows of the bay, where dolphin and manatee might be cruising just offshore.
The trail can be a bit squishy underfoot as you draw near to the coast, and it’s important that you follow the signs or directions so you don’t walk in circles! Still, this easy 1.4 mile network of trails offers a great overview of the flora and fauna of the Gulf Coast.
Location: St. Petersburg
Length: 1.4 miles
Lat-Long: 27.639664, -82.735845
Type: loop and spur
Fees / Permits: none
Difficulty: 2 of 5
Bug factor: 5 of 5
To reach Fort De Soto Park, take I-275 south from St. Petersburg to Exit 31A, Pass-a-Grille Beach. Drive west on 54th Ave S (toll). Continue 2.5 miles to CR 679 S. Turn left and follow CR 679 south through Tierra Verde for 5.5 miles (another toll) to the park entrance. The popular campground is on the right. Stop in at the ranger station (to the left at the T) to pick up a map showing the nature trails. . Leaving the ranger station, turn left. Pass CR 679 and continue past the fort to the North Beach Swim Area. Watch for the small “Arrowhead Picnic Area” sign on the right; it comes up quickly. Turn into the picnic area and follow the one-way road around until you see the trail kiosk on the right. Park nearby and start your hike by picking up an interpretive guide at the kiosk.
The Arrowhead Nature Trail is a network of interpretive trails that cross and interconnect. Since it’s easy to skip or re-do loop, it’s best to follow the sequence numbers in the interpretive brochure (and signage) so you don’t miss anything. Starting under tall slash pines, the trail meanders to the right.
Past station 6, turn right and climb up a hill towards a tower. Turn right on the Spur Trail for a meander out to the bay, where the salt breeze is intoxicating. Keep right at the fork, passing a stand of southern red cedar. The trail follows the mangrove fringe along of the bay; you can see a glimmer of water between the mangroves. A short side trail winds beneath tall black and red mangroves to the water’s edge.
Back on the main trail, turn right and follow it back to the fork to finish the loop. At the T, turn right to pass station 7. Turn right again at the “Trail Stations 8-13” sign at 0.9 mile. You’re walking along a coastal savanna, where cabbage palms rise out of a sea of tall marsh grasses. At station 11, the trail reaches the edge of Bunce’s Pass, providing panoramic views. Turn right and follow the trail back into the savanna. After station 13, turn right at the T and right again to return through the pines to the parking area.