Babcock Ranch Walking Trails
For a taste of the palmetto prairie that attracted ranchers to South Florida, head off the beaten path to explore Babcock Ranch on foot. At Babcock Ranch Eco-Tours – a popular ecotourism attraction east of Punta Gorda – the Eco-tour Trail is a no-cost option to getting your feet wet on an exploration of wet flatwoods habitats along a well-maintained trail through the palmetto prairie.
At certain times of year, you’ll literally get your feet wet. Given the vast expanse and ease of wildlife watching, it’s a prime place to see some of the rarer birds in Florida, including the caracara and swallow-tailed kite.
Location: Punta Gorda
Length: 2.4 miles
Lat-Long: 26.858184, -81.720377
Type: round-trip and loop
Fees / Permits: none
Bug factor: low
Restroom: near the trail-head
A little way-finding savvy is necessary. The trail is well-marked, but there are a lot of deceptive side trails you’ll need to avoid, and getting to the beginning of the trail is a little tricky. Bring your camera and binoculars and arrive early to spy on red-cockade woodpeckers, sand hill cranes, and swallow-tailed kites. Then grab a snack and, if the budget permits, take the official swamp buggy tour around Babcock Ranch. It’s a real trip back into Florida history and gets you up close to cattle, gators, Florida panthers, and into the heart of the deep, dark Telegraph Swamp – a cypress strand best enjoyed from the swamp buggy.
From Interstate 75 in Punta Gorda, head north on US 17 for 1.3 miles to the turnoff for CR 74. Follow CR 74 for 14.8 miles deep into the heart of Florida’s ranch land. At the intersection with SR 31, turn right. Continue 6.1 miles south on SR 31 through Babcock Ranch. Turn left and follow the entrance road through the ranch for 2.4 miles to the parking area. Turn right and park in the parking area, as far to the end on the right as you can to access the trail system.