Nestled among the pine and oak woodlands and sand dunes, just 8 miles west down Fort Morgan Rd in Gulf Shores, AL, you’ll find “Alabama’s last remaining undisturbed coastal barrier habitat” – the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. As a gulf coast photographer, this refuge is an oasis of photography opportunities as well as a great way to explore nature.
The name Bon Secour comes from the French meaning "safe harbor," very appropriate considering the sanctuary for native flora and fauna the refuge provides.
Many assume that I grew up in the Pensacola, FL area, but actually, I moved to Gulf Shores, AL in 2005 and then to Pensacola, FL in 2011. Growing up, North Alabama was my home. My family has vacationed in Gulf Shores or Pensacola every spring break and summer for as long as I can remember. In fact, for about a decade, my grandparents had a beach house about 14 miles down Fort Morgan Rd. The many family vacations I spent on the Fort Morgan peninsula left me with a strong love of south Baldwin County, AL, the city of Gulf Shores, and, more specifically, the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge that I have spent countless hours exploring both as a child an adult.
So for today’s “Exploring the Gulf Coast” one-tank trip blog post, that’s where I’m taking you.
The refuge is open from dawn until dusk each day and is completely free! It boasts a total of 7 miles of trails ranging from the Jeff Friend Trail, a 1-mile, ADA accessible boardwalk loop, to the Pine Beach Trail, a 2-mile one-way sand trail that takes you through a maritime forest, across the land bridge between Gator Lake and Little Lagoon, and finally cuts through the brush and sand dunes all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
When I don't have all day (or it's just too hot to take the entire Pine Beach Trail), I like to park half way down Mobile St. at the Gator Lake trail head. This trail is a one-mile one-way trip across a dune ridge from the parking area to the land bridge at Gator Lake and Little Lagoon. This is also the Pine Beach Trail intersection. This is a great, shorter walk where you'll see wildflowers, birds, and lizards. At the end of the trail you could choose to turn around and walk back, you could head South and continue on to the Gulf of Mexico, or you could turn North and take the Pine Beach Trail to it's trail head where you'll be about 1/4 mile down the road from where you left your car.
Whatever trail you decide to embark on, be sure you're well coated in sunscreen and bug spray and that you have plenty of water. Take it from someone who's ended the day red as a tomato - these trails spend a lot of time in full sun! Plan accordingly.
Amanda is the prop buying, location scouting, mom-bun rocking, flip flop wearing, owner/ operator/ and woman behind the camera for Finding Beauty in the Ordinary Photography.
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