Hugging the “Forgotten Coast” of the Big Bend, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge encompasses a broad sweep of salt marshes and tidal flats, brackish impoundments, cabbage palm hammocks, and pinelands. The Tower Pond Trail – formerly the Mounds Pool Interpretive Trail – offers an excellent spot for birding, melding a shady walk along one pool to a breezy walk in the sun out along the marshes. The high point is an observation deck over the tidal marsh, where you’re bound to see egrets, herons, and wood storks feeding.
Location: St. Marks
Length: 1 mile
Lat-Long: 30.087983, -84.164433
Fees / Permits: $5 cars and motorcycles, $1 bicycles and pedestrians. $15 annual pass
Bug factor: Low to moderate
Restroom: at the Visitor Center
Mounds Pool is one of several excellent hikes within St. Marks NWR. To find the trailhead, head south from US 98 at Newport into the refuge on Lighthouse Rd. The trailhead is 6 miles south of the visitor center on the left.
The trail loops around several impoundments known as Mounds Pool and Tower Pond, offering a shady walk along the rim of one pool and sunny, breezy walks out along the salt marshes. Climbing a hill past the fire tower, it drops down through coastal pine flatwoods to take you to an observation deck over a tidal marsh. The trail loops back around along the salt marshes.