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RSW Living Magazine

Take a Guided Hike!

Apr 01, 2024 08:00AM ● By Ann Marie O’Phelan

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Hiking in the local parks is peaceful and a great way to spot wildlife and greenery, and it’s even more impressive when a naturalist guides one through it. Lee County Parks & Recreation offers a chance to enjoy free guided hikes through several local parks. 

Guided nature walks of Hickey Creek Mitigation Park are offered on the first Tuesday of every month. The Park is co-managed by the Lee County Department of Parks & Recreation and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “Hikers can enjoy various habitats, including palmetto-oak scrub, pine flatwoods, and seasonal wetlands; views of scenic Hickey Creek from the trail and overlook areas; and threatened Florida scrub jay and gopher tortoises,” says Mickey Miller, Supervisor.  

Amenities include a fishing deck, two shelters, an amphitheater, five miles of primitive hiking trails, and a kayak landing located 0.5 miles from parking lot. Launching paddle craft is not recommended unless the craft can be carried on foot. The Park is a designated Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail site. For more information, visit  The parking fee is $1 per hour or $5 per day; Lee County Annual Parking Stickers are accepted. Bring exact change. No pets. Hickey Creek Mitigation Park, 17980 Palm Beach Blvd., Alva.  

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At Manatee Park in Fort Myers, hikers can enjoy a free garden tour of the butterfly garden and habitats. In cooler weather, from mid-December to March, manatees can often be spotted. “A volunteer naturalist leads the tours through the butterfly garden and native habitats. Hikers learn about the park’s history, butterfly gardens, and the native flora and fauna,” says Laura Carr, Supervisor. Free admission; fees for parking, kayak/canoe rental. Park highlights include picnic shelters, a fishing pier on the Orange River (saltwater license required), a program amphitheater, playground, a gift shop, and visitor center. Manatee updates and live viewing camera can be found at

For kayak rentals, contact the Manatee Kayaking Company at 239-913-9993. Kayak launch available for self-launching. For group program requests, call 239-533-7521. Parking fees are $2 an hour or $5 per day, $20 per tour bus, and $10 per tour van. Lee County Annual Parking Stickers are accepted. No pets. Manatee Park, 10901 State Road 80, Fort Myers. 

One can also join Lee County Bird Patrol volunteers for free monthly birding tours at Lakes Park. “A variety of birds, including ibis, egrets, herons, cormorants, and anhinga, offer good bird watching and photographic opportunities,” explains Joe Debacker, Supervisor. 

This easy walk along clear path offers an opportunity to see birds in native vegetation. Experienced Bird Patrol guides point out the many species in Lakes Park, a Lee County birding hot spot and crucial nesting area for many birds, such as woodland birds and waders, especially in the back areas. The Lee County Bird Patrol is a group of volunteers who watch and identify birds and provide a database of their findings for Lee County Parks & Recreation properties to help make decisions about the future.  

Hikers should bring water, a hat, comfy shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen, bug spray, binoculars, and a camera. For more information about guided hikes, visit For information about Lee County Parks, visit

Ann Marie O’Phelan is a SW Florida resident and a regular contributor to TOTI Media.