Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail
The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail system consists of 7 different trails that span Orange Beach, the Gulf Shores, and the Gulf State Park. The entirety of the system passes through 6 distinct ecosystems, seeing such things as Coastal Hardwood Swamps, Freshwater Marshes, Pinewood Forests, and much more.
This system was named after the long-time superintendent of the area, Hugh Branyon, who took care of it from 1970 until retirement in 2009. He took pride in protecting these ecosystems, and that will be easy to see during your visit. Your group may catch glimpses of bobcats, alligators, red or gray fox, coyotes, white-tailed deer, rattlesnakes, or armadillos, depending on which specific trail you decide to explore. Here's a little bit about each:
- Catman Road - Fun Fact: this trail is named after local legends dating back to Native American times when it was thought a man merged with a cat spirit during one of the 'great cat hunts'. Oddly enough, this legend has lived on even today, several locals still claiming to have seen this 'Catman'.
- Rosemary Dunes - Cattails, wildflowers, and tall pines will greet you on this scenic dune trail.
- Twin Bridges - The best thing about this trail? The hand-built wooden bridges, of course.
- Gulf Oak Ridge - Gorgeous mossy oak canopies will fill the scenery as you explore the trail with views of the 34 ft bluffs in this area.
- Rattlesnake Ridge - Pine Flatwoods, scrub oaks, and palmettos line the way as you enjoy this peaceful trail.
- Cotton Bayou - The newest trailhead, with spacious trails beginning right behind Publix.
- Coyote Crossing - A two-mile trail connecting the two sister cities of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores.
There is also a Butterfly Garden and new Kid-Friendly Boulder Park to enjoy along the way!