In the dense pine forests along a tributary of the Caloosahatchee River, Dennis Hickey set up a homestead and ranch after his service in the Civil War.
Years later, once dredging along the Caloosahatchee River made shipping possible, a sawmill camp and its timber cutters later made short work of the dense pine forests along Hickey Creek.
Preserved in the 1990s as a mitigation park for destruction of gopher tortoise habitat by developers in the Fort Myers area, Hickey Creek WEA offers nearly 5 miles of hiking through re-established pine flatwoods and prairies.
Disclosure: As authors and affiliates, we receive earnings when you buy these through our links. This helps us provide public information on this website.
Length: 4.7 mile loop
Trailhead: 26.712656, -81.665188
Address: 17980 Palm Beach Blvd, Alva FL 33920
Fees: parking fee of $1 per hour or $5 per day
Restroom: at the trailhead
Land manager: Lee County
Open dawn to dusk daily. When the trails flood too badly for hiking, the land manager may post a notice at the trailhead and/or on their website.
Be sure to obtain your parking permit from the automated machine ($1 an hour or $5 per day) and place it in your windshield before you start the hike.
From Interstate 75 exit 141, follow SR 80 east for 9 miles to the preserve entrance on the right.
Three stacked loops make up the trail system at Hickey’s Creek, so you can shorten this route to suit your time and the weather.
Pick up a map at the parking area before following an accessible path through the pine flatwoods. This connector meanders through a sea of saw palmetto, passing a covered amphitheater.
At the T intersection, turn left. When you see the “Fishing Pier” sign, turn right to wander down to an overlook along a bend in the creek, where turtles bob just below the surface.
The main trail leads past a side trail to the canoe launch – the waterway is part of the Calusa Blueway System, so you are welcome to paddle here – and crosses the Live Oak Bridge at a half mile.
On the south side of the creek, the Hickey’s Creek Trail starts. This is the most popular loop in the park. Turn left at the T intersection to hike clockwise through an oak hammock along the creek.
A bench is tucked away in the vegetation, giving a great view of the creek. Giant leather ferns wave from the far shore. The trail turns towards the pine flatwoods for a stretch.
After climbing out of a small ravine, there is a side trail to a natural overlook above the creek. Soon after it, the Bald Cypress Bridge crosses Hickey Creek at 1.1 miles.
It leads to the North Marsh Trail, a mile loop around the northeast corner of the preserve. While you can add it on to extend this hike, it was flooded on our visit, so we skipped it and continued along the Hickey’s Creek Trail.
The trail leaves the creek and enters the pine flatwoods. After you pass the rain shelter at 1.3 miles, a short connector trail crosses under the power line easement to lead you to the Palmetto Pines Trail.
At the T intersection where you start this loop, turn left. The footing can be a bit rough along this loop, and sometimes soggy in places. But the payoff is in wildlife.
Keep alert for a flash of blue as you approach scrub oaks at the edge of the saw palmetto prairie. Florida scrub-jays have been seen here.
As it curves, the trail continues through the shade of sand live oaks before crossing a broad sand road at 2.4 miles. Scrub habitat now surrounds the trail. Watch for gopher tortoise burrows in the bright sand.
In an oak hammock, the trail makes a sharp right before reaching the Palmetto Pines shelter at 2.7 miles. Take a break and hydrate in the welcome shade.
Turning north, the trail climbs up onto an old tramway used by timber companies to remove the pines and cypresses that once made up this forest. The small bit of extra elevation means sweeping views of the pine flatwoods.
After you cross the sand road again, the trail dips in and out of the shade of tall slash pines and the sunny side of the scrub. Past a bridge at 3.1 miles, an observation deck beckons with an easterly view of the pine flatwoods.
The trail continues along the tramway and is a little rough in spot. Lilies float atop a small pond. By 3.6 miles, you return to the top of the loop.
Turn left to take the connector under the power lines to the Hickey’s Creek Trail, and left again to follow the west side of its loop.
A well-defined footpath leads through the scrubby flatwoods, where tarflower blooms attract insects. Twisting and winding through saw palmettos and oak scrub, the path emerges at a boardwalk.
Reaching the Live Oak Bridge at 4.2 miles, cross Hickey’s Creek. Follow the accessible entrance trail back to the trailhead to complete this 4.7 mile hike.
See our photos from Hickey Creek WEA
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Tropical gardens from the 1920s grow lavishly around the historic winter homes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers
Along a mile of interconnected footpaths at LaBelle Nature Park, walk a gentle half-mile loop with views of the Caloosahatchee River from a lush hammock
Providing a rare peek into unspoiled upland and floodplain habitats along the Caloosahatchee River, Caloosahatchee Regional Park evokes the wilderness in which the Calusa lived