A windswept walk along the Gulf of Mexico, the Lighthouse Levee Trail at the end of Lighthouse Road in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge provides scenic panoramas of both the Gulf and marsh impoundments. It starts near the St. Marks Lighthouse.
Location: St. Marks NWR
Length: 0.6 mile
Lat-Long: 30.074350, -84.180267
Fees / Permits: $5 car, $1 cyclist/pedestrian
Bug factor: low to moderate
Restroom: at the Visitor Center on Lighthouse Rd.
A salt water boat ramp adjoins the trail on its north side, providing a place for boaters to quickly slip into the shallow Gulf of Mexico.
From US 98 in Newport, follow Lighthouse Drive south into St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and stop to pay the refuge fee at the iron ranger near the Visitor Center. Continue south slowly on the scenic drive to the end of the road. The trail shares the parking area with the lighthouse grounds.
Starting at the sign for the Lighthouse Levee Trail, pick up an interpretive brochure keyed to numbered stations along the way. The half-mile loop isn’t hard to follow, as water prevents you from wandering off the levee. The Gulf of Mexico is on your left for the first third of the walk, with scenic views at spots where the vegetation doesn’t grow too tall. During October, the saltbushes along this trail turn hues of orange as thousands of monarch butterflies settle on their puffy white blooms to feed.
The Gulf of Mexico is very shallow in this area, except for the dredged and marked channel extending out from the boat ramp area. You may see people walking through the shallows well offshore, looking for crabs or casting for shrimp. Several access points allow you to walk down to the water and wander in, if you wish.
A sheltered picnic bench provides a shady place to look out over the calm waters. Soon after, the trail hangs a right to leave the Gulf and follow the boat channel, with the impoundment continuing on your right. Herons pick through the shallows.
Trail’s end for the Lighthouse Levee Trail is at the parking area for the boat ramp. You have several options: return the way you came (1.2 mile round-trip), continue through the boat ramp area and around the boat basin to walk the Cedar Point Trail on the other side of the boat channel (1.5 mile round-trip), or carefully walk back along the edge of Lighthouse Road to make a loop back to the lighthouse parking area (0.5 mile loop).