Nature Trails Cedar Key Wildlife Refuge

sunset cedar keys national wildlife refuge

Shell Mound Nature Area Hiking Trails

People visiting the picturesque island town of Cedar Key who enjoy hiking and nature trails should visit the Shell Mound unit of the Cedar Keys Wildlife Refuge less than 10 miles from Cedar Key proper.

Within walking distance of Shell Mound County Park & Campground is the Trailhead for two hiking and nature trails within this section of the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge. The two trails are of modest difficulty and offer an opportunity to learn more about the plant ecology and history of the area, plus see some birds and wildlife.

Near the end of the peninsula that is surrounded by the backwaters of the Suwannee Sound on the Gulf is a boat and canoe launch that is particularly popular with canoeists and kayakers as the many islands provide great shelter for paddling, exploring and a chance to see dolphins, water birds, wildlife and unique plants up close. There’s also a boardwalk that connects to a decent-sized pier with seating for admiring the view as well as space for fishing from the pier.

Boardwalk Shell Mound
The Boardwalk and Fishing Pier at Shell Mound

Shell Mound and Dennis Creek Trails

The Shell Mound and Dennis Creek Trails are in the Shell Mound Unit of the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge. There are several other trails within the adjacent Cedar Keys Scrub State Reserve, but we think these two offer the most interesting variety of flora and fauna.

The Dennis Creek Trail is a 1 mile loop with a boardwalk that leads from the mainland, across 3 bridges over a salt barren, to a coastal island and then returns. There is an observation deck overlooking a fresh water pond. It is a very easy walk with interesting changes in scenery.

cedar keys wildlife refuge nature trail
Hiking and nature trails along the Dennis Creek trail.
Dennis Creek Hiking and Nature Trail Cedar Keys Wildlife Refuge
Dennis Creek Nature Trail Map
dennis creek hiking trail overlook
The viewing platform overlooking the freshwater pond along the trail.
dennis creek trail
One of three boardwalks along the trail

The Shell Mound Trail is a short loop to the top of the mound that is 28 feet above sea level. The mound was built from accumulation of shells and bones deposited there by ancient native peoples who may have used it for various ceremonies. Exhibits at the trail head provide some history about the indigenous people who built the mound. A path off the Shell Mound Trail leads to a boardwalk and fishing pier (see photo at the top of this page) that looks out over a bayou of Suwanee Sound.

shell mound hiking trail
View from top of Shell Mound hiking trail
Shell Mound Boardwalk & Hiking Trail
Map Shell Mound Trail, Park & Boardwalk Pier

See our Shell Mound Campground Review

Other Cedar Key Area Hiking Trails

The beach community of Cedar Key offers two hiking and nature trails within the city limits. See our article on Cedar Key Nature Trails.

There are also a network of hiking, biking, or horse riding trails within the adjacent Florida State Cedar Key Scrub Reserve, which we have yet to explore.

Further North off Hwy 347 near the Cedar Key Wildlife Refuge headquarters are two hiking trails, including a nature trail that has a boardwalk to a viewing platform of the Suwannee River.

Manatee Springs State Park, about a half-hour North, near Chiefland, Florida has several nice hiking, biking, and nature trails.

Cedar Key & Cedar Key Wildlife Refuge Links

Florida Gulf Coast Scenic Drives

Mississippi Alabama Gulf Coast Drive