In this mellow preserve along a sleepy section of the Myakka River, Sleeping Turtles Preserve North buffers the river with 174 acres of floodplain swamp, pine flatwoods, and oak hammocks.
Offering two easy-to-follow loop trails, it provides more opportunities for wildlife watching along this Florida Wild and Scenic River basin.
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Length: 3.2 miles in two loops
Trailhead: 27.1229, -82.3519
Address: 3462 Border Rd, Venice FL 34292
Restroom: Portable toilet at trailhead
Land manager: Sarasota County
Open 6 AM to sunset. Bicycles welcome. All parking is north of Border Rd.
Leased dogs welcome on the North Loop, north of Border Rd, but not on the South Loop. The South Loop is open to equestrian use as well as hiking and biking.
From Interstate 75 exit 193, Jacaranda Blvd, drive north 0.6 miles to where the road ends at a T intersection. Turn right. Follow Border Rd to the entrance to the preserve on the left.
Not only is Sleeping Turtles Preserve broken into two pieces, north and south of Interstate 75, Sleeping Turtles Preserve North is also broken into two parts by Border Road.
Both pieces are accessed from the same trailhead, where you’ll find a picnic pavilion and portable toilet along with a trailhead kiosk with trail maps.
Like other natural lands in Sarasota County, there are numbered markers along the trail that correspond with the official trail map. You can download a copy of that map at the bottom of this page.
Starting at Marker 1, walk from the parking area into the oak hammock that surrounds the picnic pavilion and kiosk.
The trail is a firm natural surface with a canopy knit by the crossed limbs of the live oaks. Bluestem palm crowds the understory, along with young cabbage palms.
At the T intersection at Marker 2, turn right. The trail ascends from the oak and palm hammock to the bluffs above the Myakka River.
A bench provides the first place to stop and enjoy the view and look for turtles on the fallen logs in the slow current.
The bluff drops off abruptly in several spots where you can get close enough to it to look across the river. Sometimes it’s easier to look down into it.
Passing a series of benches along this section, you also go by the crossover trails at Marker 5 and Marker 6. These enable you to trim your hike.
One more overlook reveals tall pines in the forest above the bluffs on the far shore, in what is part of Carlton Reserve.
Look for wild coffee growing densely in the understory close to Marker 6.
By the time the trail turns away from the river after a look across at tall pines on the far shore, you’ve walked half a mile.
The trail works its way around a floodplain swamp along a depression along the river basin. Palms line a murky slough.
Beneath the canopy of oaks, sunlight illuminates the fibrous strands of bromeliads overhead.
At Marker 7, you can turn right to head north to two covered shelters along the trail. The first one, just east of Marker 8, provides another river view.
The second one, at the top of the loop at 0.7 mile, is where paddlers along the Myakka River can take out and take a break.
Returning to the bench at Marker 7, make a right to stay on the outer edge of the loop. The oak hammock opens up, and the footpath becomes grassier.
The trail curves past a tall slash pine in an open space before reaching Marker 11. Turn left to stay on the loop perimeter.
A picnic shelter overlooks a patch of open prairie, one of the more likely places for you to see deer gather as the sun sinks low in the sky.
At Marker 12, make a right. Walk down the corridor framed by live oaks as it swings around back to the trailhead.
South of Boundary Road is the 1.8 mile South Loop that can only be accessed by walking there from this trailhead.
We show it on the map, but we were running out of daylight to hike it ourselves. It also has overlooks on the Myakka River.
It is open to bicycle and equestrian use, but dogs are not permitted.
This entrance provides parking for both loops
See our photos of Sleeping Turtles Preserve North
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
T. Mabry Carlton Reserve is less than a dozen miles from downtown Venice but wild enough that the Florida panther roams these woodlands along the Myakka River floodplain.
Offering scenic views of wild shores along the Myakka River, this hike at Jelks Preserve makes a big loop along the trail system to immerse you in a variety of habitats
Along the southwestern Gulf Coast of Florida, Myakka State Forest offers an extensive trail network along the Myakka River basin, with tent camping under the stars.