Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge: A safe haven for wildlife Gulf Fritillary on the Dunes The Bon Secour NWR contains 7,000 acres of wildlife habitat for migratory birds, nesting sea turtles and the endangered Alabama beach mouse. The refuge was established by Congress in 1980 to preserve the coastal dune ecosystem, to protect threatened and endangered species, to provide compatible recreational opportunities, and to serve as a living laboratory for students and scientists. The name Bon Secour comes from the French meaning "safe harbor," very appropriate considering the sanctuary for native flora and fauna that the refuge provides. The refuge serves the additional benefit of comprising one of the largest undeveloped parcels of land on the Alabama coast. Its dunes are a reminder of the Gulf Coast, as it once existed. As a consequence, the refuge has been named as one of the 10 natural wonders of Alabama. The refuge is small, compared to most national wildlife refuges, and is comprised of five separate units in Baldwin and Mobile counties, Alabama. The full-time staff consists of three, but the refuge has numerous committed volunteers throughout the year. The refuge hosts more than 100,000 visitors annually. The Refuge is home to the endangered Alabama beach mouse, which is associated with the sand dunes and sea oats. Refuge beaches serve as nesting sites for loggerhead, and Kemp's Ridley sea turtles. Habitats include beaches and sand dunes, scrub forest, fresh and saltwater marshes, fresh water swamps, and uplands. More than 370 species of birds have been identified on the refuge during migratory seasons. The largest are usually ospreys and several species of herons. At the other extreme, seven species of hummingbirds have been identified. Mammals such as red fox, coyotes, and armadillos are also present.
Was enchanted by this very different (when you think of hikes/trails you think of forest and mountains automatically) walk. It was sublime. So much diversity in scenery and vegetation with a wonderful isolated beach finish. Two days later I did the Centennial trail that is just off of Pine Beach Trail for 6 miles (when you also do Jeff Friend). Outstanding trails.
There are four trails in this refuge. I've hiked Pine Beach and Gator Lake. March is a great time to go especially if you enjoy photography without the annoyance of crowds invading your shot. Trails are short and easy with some stunning scenery along the way.
Nice walk on Pine Trail from Parking out through beach dunes and associated overgrowth, path is easy except the soft beach sand will wear on your legs. Potty has been added about half way from the road to the beach, nice convenience. Walked back on Gator .Lake Trail out to road connecting back to Parking. Few sea shore birds, butterflies, no gators :) , a little late in the season I think. Gulf water was sparkling clear and temp was ok once you got wet, fun days outing to the sea.
Good trail but way too short. it doesn't take anywhere near an hour and a half to be honest. an hour at the most. I have to do the entire trail at least twice for it to really be worth the drive. however if you are not an experienced hiker and do not want anything too challenging it's perfect for you.
1. you get to see some interesting wildlife. many plant and bird species, several species of insects, lizards and frogs. the highlight for me is seeing a cotton mouth on one visit and on another some type of water snake nearly as long as I am tall.
2.The views are absolutely brilliant.
3. you get to see maritime forest, swamp, lake, lagoon and beach in less than an hour
1. In busy season it is over crowded by tourist. I enjoy hiking for solitude and that kind of defeats the purpose. also it's not convenient if you need to strip off your cloths off and pee in the woods. it also tends to scare off the snakes and other wildlife.
2. it says foot traffic only but there is one elderly lady who drives her car down the trail on nearly every visit. she honks her horn at me and then waves. it's very rude yet she justifies it with the waving. That's not what you typically think of when you hear the word "nature reserve".
3. it's not a long enough or challenging for my liking
The bottom line: Great for beginners, over crowded in summer time, not the least bit challenging, if not crowded you get to see beautiful snakes and other wildlife and watch out for cars (even though the sign says "For foot traffic only".) .