Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach
Only minutes from the beautiful Alabama Gulf Coast beaches is an outstanding system of trails that seems far removed from the rest of the world. Nestled in Gulf State Park, the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail allows visitors to leave the world behind and explore the 6,150 acres of the park. USA Today named this spectacular trail 2023’s best recreational trail in the country.
Its accessible trailheads, vibrant plant and wildlife, and exceptional views make the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail special.
How it All Began
The area in which the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail lies was once inhabited by Native Americans thousands of years ago. Their early hunting paths later became logging roads for European settlers in the 1700s, and centuries later, some of those roads, including Catman Road, were "rediscovered" and converted into the paths of the Backcountry Trail. The first trail section was completed in 2003 and named for the former Gulf State Park Superintendent Hugh S. Branyon, who had a burning passion for the outdoors and served in his position from 1970 until his retirement in 2009.
Experiencing the Backcountry Trail
The Backcountry Trail has several trailheads with ample parking and direct access to the trail. Several restrooms and water fountains are located on the trail or not far from it.
One of the trail's highlights can be found at the hub of the trail system, where four paths meet. Here you'll find the Butterfly Garden and Nature Pavilion, where butterfly-attracting plants shower the trail with color from spring to fall. You can watch those butterflies and birds from a porch swing, catch an informative show about local nature and the environment, or bring a picnic lunch to laze around on the thick, green lawn.
The kids will love rock climbing at the Bouldering Park next to the Pavilion, and not far from the Butterfly Garden is Al’s Parkour Challenge on the Twin Bridges Trail. They can test their skills as they jump, climb, and balance through this fun agility course.
If you venture further down the Rosemary Dune Trail, you’ll find a great lookout spot equipped with shaded seating and a slide.
There aren't many trails where you can camp, but you can on this one. The Backcountry trail offers a fantastic camping area under the tall pines with white sand footing and scrub oak called The Outpost.
The Outpost has three primitive campsites you must walk or bike to. Each site includes a canvas tent erected on a slightly elevated rustic floor, nylon cots, fire pits, and firewood provided by the park. A nearby pump sink is available for washing up. Even though you must walk or bike in, you're close enough to the Gulf State Park Campground camp store if you need anything. Remember, there are only three campsites, and they book fast. Reserve yours in plenty of time for your trip.
Originally written by RootsRated for Gulf Shores, AL.
Experience the wonder of the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail and plan a trip to Gulf State Park today!