Robinson Preserve: Osprey Loop, Tern Trail, Gull Trail, and Spoonbill Trail to Ibis Trail, Bradenton, Florida
The salt marshes that dot the regions near the ocean can be some of the most scenic environments for hiking in Florida. On this hike, you can escape the urban feelings of the city of Bradenton for an afternoon walk in a relatively little-known preserve just outside of the city limits. On this hike, you'll traverse many miles of salt marshes, travel to the shoreline of Tampa Bay, and climb up an observation tower to a sweeping vista of Tampa Bay and the surrounding salt marshes. This hike occurred on Wednesday, July 1st, 2015. My plan was to hike the Osprey Loop counter-clockwise. Along the way, I would take the spur trail to the Manatee Overlook observation tower, as well as Tern Trail and Gull Trail. If I would have any leftover time, I would also take the Spoonbill Trail to the Ibis Trail and take the short Ibis Trail to a view of Perico Bayou.
Florida hiking is unlike any hiking in the mountains. Instead of mountain vistas, most of the time you're looking for prairies; instead of waterfalls, with a few notable exceptions, you are looking for lakes and springs. This was my first Florida hike ever, and I was impressed. The bright blue lakes of Weeki Wachee Preserve provide excellent scenery on this hike. In addition, you can extend your hike into a bear habitat with the chance to see some wildlife or their traces. This hike occurred on Sunday, June 28th, 2015. My plan was to at least hike the main loop in the preserve (all on old jeep roads). I would first take Burnt Road, and then turn onto Loop Road and follow the western shorelines of the lakes. After crossing between two lakes, I would take South Lake Road to the second entrance to the preserve. From here, I would follow the paved road (which is open to vehicles only on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of every month) to the trailhead for Burnt Road, and I would follow Burnt Road back to the parking area. Depending on the conditions by the end of the hike, I also had the option of doing an out-and-back hike along Bear Claw Road.
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