|Intersection of the Pine Beach and Centennial trails.|
Several years ago, I read a great hiking book called “Hiking Alabama: A Guide to Alabama’s Greatest Hiking Adventures” (Third Edition) by Joe Cuhaj, and this book contained an entire chapter about the Pine Beach Trail at the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. This book made this trail sound so cool that I put it on my official “bucket list” a short time later. Last Saturday, Nov. 5, my son and I made the trip to this wildlife refuge and officially scratched this trail off my list.
The Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is located in Baldwin County, Ala., between Gulf Shores and Fort Morgan. My son and I left early in the morning, not long after daylight, and got there around 9 a.m. When we arrived in the parking lot at the trail head, there were already a number of vehicles and people there, including what looked like a group of teenage students on some sort of nature hike.
We immediately set off on the Pine Beach Trail, which is two miles long from the trailhead to the beach. This trail is unique because it divides a large salt water lagoon and a freshwater lake before arriving at the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, you’ll find more than a few signs that describe plants and trees along the trail.
The trail mostly looked like a dirt road cut through the woods and about halfway to the beach, you’ll find a sturdy two-story observation tower that gives a nice view of the lagoon and lake. Not far away, there’s also a bridge that takes you to the portion of the trail that runs along a thin strip of land between the lake and lagoon. Here the trail begins to change before eventually becoming entirely sand.
Before entering the sandy dune portion of the trail, there’s a wooden bench, where you can sit and look out over the lagoon. We took advantage of this seat and cooled our heels there for a while. The morning started out cool, but at this point in the morning, we were dressed two warmly and were feeling the effects of the warm weather.
We set off down the sandy portion of the trail, toward the beach, and found the walking not impossible, but more difficult, in our boots. The trail was roped off to keep us from walking into the areas where the protected beach mice and other creatures live. We passed by the remnants of an old house with standing wood pillars and what’s left of a brick chimney, the rest of which was probably carried off by a hurricane.
The trail eventually led us to the beach, where there was only one other family. It was windy, but we spent a few minutes enjoying the view, watching the birds and looking for shells. Eventually, we turned back and hiked the two miles back to the trail head.
It should be noted that, in addition to the Pine Beach Trail, there are other trails in the Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge, including the Jeff Friend Trail (one-mile loop), the Centennial Trail (two miles) and the Gator Lake Trail (one mile). We opted to save these trails for our next visit to the refuge and left looking forward to what those trails have to offer.
In the end, how many of you have hiked the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge trails? What did you think about them? What other hiking trails in Alabama would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.