The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail resides in the Gulf State Park, and is a looping network of 7 diverse ecosystem trails with 5 separate trailheads and parking areas. You can pick one up wherever you're closest and see them all in one go. The trail has been planned to optimize the nature trail experience while providing amenities that make it possible to do the full loop in about a half day. Lined with stationary and swinging benches for resting and contemplation, along with water fountains and restrooms, you'll be able to refresh and rejuvenate periodically. Although your pooch must be leashed while on the trail, a leash-free dog park near the campground road features plenty of room for Fido to run and cavort with other dogs.
The Backcountry Trail surface is paved, with boardwalks and bridges over wet areas that get you closer to the diverse flora and fauna. The terrain varies, from sandy beach to a high ridge from whose summit you will spy the Gulf of Mexico. From coastal hardwood swamp with its amphibious and waterfowl denizens to pine and Spanish Moss-covered oak forest with deer, bobcats and other mammals, this is a feast for your fur-buddy's senses. Colorful wildflowers like native hibiscus line the trail, and birds of many species flit from tree to tree while squirrels and rabbits rustle in the undergrowth for nuts and berries.
Catman Road Trail was the first trail developed and it serves as a hub to attractions like the Butterfly Garden and Boulder Park where climbing is expected and encouraged. It also carries the Legend of the Catman, as old as the ancient Native Americans who once lived here. Two handbuilt wooden bridges mark the Twin Bridges Trail, which links the eastern trail loops of Rattlesnake Ridge, Catman Road and Cotton Bayou with the western Gulf Oak Ridge Trail. Here you'll find mossy oaks and a pawtastic bluff overlook. Armadillo and tortoise live on the Rattlesnake Ridge trail, along with wild orchids and the carnivorous pitcher plants. And the Cotton Bayou trail forms a connector from the trails to the Highway 161 trailhead, with its nearby shops and restaurants.
The Backcountry Trail can and should be visited again and again, but even just one hike with your furry bestie will delight you both!
Be aware that none of the animals you will see are restrained, all have access to the trail and everyone needs to respect that this is their home. It's wise to pay close attention and look ahead for possible snakes, bobcats or alligators in the path. Keep a firm grip on your fur-pup's leash to avoid any unpleasant mishaps.