Find Out What's Waiting for You on the Backcountry Trail
The parks and recreation trails of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach offer everyone from hikers to casual walkers the opportunity to explore the abundant natural beauty and wildlife of this paradise by the water.
The call of a bird high in the trees, the whispered hush of a tree as the beach breeze ruffles its leaves – discover a whole new state of untouched beauty and serenity during a walk in the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail through the Gulf State Park and Orange Beach. Seven trails and six different ecosystems comprise the more than 15 miles of trails. Hike, jog or bike the trails at your own speed to discover the other side of the Alabama Gulf Coast.
Along the Catman Trail, learn history laced with legend while you take in the beauty of the nearby butterfly garden. Meander over to Rosemary Dunes and uncover a lush world filled with cattails, wild flowers, tall dunes and some reptiles, including Lefty, the trail’s resident alligator.
Just a mile long, Twin Bridges connects the east trails of Catman Trail, Rattlesnake Ridge and Cotton Bayou to the west trail of Gulf Oak Ridge. Keep your eyes peeled for glimpses of some of nature’s own superstars, the fox and coyote, while resting on one of the many benches along this trail.
The longest part of the Backcountry Trail at 2.75 miles is Gulf Oak Ridge, which features the highest point on the island and one of the few remaining maritime forest communities along coastal Alabama. Revel in the cool shade of the canopies of ancient mossy oaks. Soak in the view of the small valley below the ridge and appreciate the beauty of this natural wonder.
At 1.75 miles, Rattlesnake Ridge has a lot to offer trail-seekers. From catching sight of an armadillo to carnivorous pitcher plants, the land of Rattlesnake Ridge has an interesting mix of fauna and flora. Take in the wet pine flatwoods, scrub oaks and palmettos while observing the native wildflowers as you breathe in the fresh scent of nature.
The Cotton Bayou Trail is comprised of 1.1 miles and begins near the tip of Cotton Bayou and a small beach area in Orange Beach. This new, paved trail is 12 feet wide and features benches for relaxing and enjoying the natural beauty along the way.
The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail is named for a long-time Gulf State Park superintendent who managed the park from 1970 until retirement in 2009. The Trail was recently designated a National Recreation Trail in 2010 and is a part of the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail and the Alabama Coastal Connection National Scenic Byway.
All of the trails are paved and may be used by hikers, joggers and bikers. Admission is free although guided eco-tours are available for a fee through the City of Orange Beach. Pets are allowed on a leash and all litter and pet refuse must be disposed in provided bins.