Thursday, November 21, 2013

BikeWalkLee: Get off road to get into nature

BikeWalkLee's column features an off-road biking adventure in the Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area near Punta Gorda.

BikeWalkLee's Column in News-Press "Go Coastal" Section, Nov. 21, 2013

It’s fall — time to discover new places to bike in Southwest Florida. While there are many miles of paved paths and bike lanes in Lee County, there are hidden gems of off-road biking not far from here that make for a delightful and different biking experience.

Seaboard Grade and Tucker Grade are part of a scenic bike trail at Babcock-Webb.

The Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area is part of a 65,758-acre wildlife management preserve five miles from Punta Gorda and just 20 miles from Fort Myers. It’s better known for its hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing, but is also a great place for some off-road cycling. There are 37 miles of scenic, mostly unpaved roads that allow you to experience Babcock-Webb at your own pace. There’s also a two-mile nature trail that passes ponds and marshes popular with alligators and wading birds.

The area has expansive vistas of wet flatwoods, dry prairies, freshwater marshes, wet prairies, and lakes and ponds, all teeming with birds, alligators, cattle and other critters. The biking trails (actually unpaved roads) are on raised trams and roadways that were constructed during logging operations early in the 19th century. One of the trails is on the Seaboard Grade, which is a canopied quiet path with shady palms and pines. There is no better way to experience the beauties of Southwest Florida wilderness than on a bike.

The Recreation Guide for the Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area ( has a well-marked map showing the scenic biking trails. The easiest route is to come in at the entrance right off Tucker Grade (Exit 158 off I-75). Pay the self-service entrance fee ($6/car) and then park your car near the information kiosks (where you can also pick up the map). There’s also bathroom facilities on the road to the right of the kiosk.

Hop on your bike and head straight ahead on Tucker Grade path about 2 miles until you see a sign to the left to Seaboard Grade. Take that route until it intersects with Tram Grade (about 2 miles), and turn right and ride straight for about 9 miles. You’ll see Route 31 off in the distance (which is the far boundary of the Wildlife Management Area) but, before you go that far, turn right onto the road just before the highway and ride about a mile until it intersects with Tucker Grade again, turning right, and head down Tucker Grade until you reach your car where you left it — about a 20-mile route.

Along the way you'll see a couple of picnic areas to stop for lunch. You’ll cross over several grated areas that are gates. Hopefully, they’ll be open while you’re there, but if they’re not (put there to keep the cattle in), you can figure a way around it. During peak hunting season (approximately mid-October through mid-November), be aware of hunting in progress, and stay on the tram roads (vs. bushwhacking through the wilderness) — and check the website for details.
The surface is crushed limestone and is pretty well packed. You definitely don’t want to bike with skinny tires, but a comfort bike or mountain bike works fine. There are no facilities once you get on the trails, so make sure you bring plenty of water and some snacks or lunch.

 Info Box

How to get there: Coming from Fort Myers, take I-75 North and get off at Exit 158 (Tucker Grade). At exit ramp, turn east (left) and drive 0.25 miles to area entrance.
Cost: $3 entrance fee per person, or $6 per carload.
For more information:

Thursday, Nov. 28: Turkey Trot 5K, Cape Coral Hospital (
Saturday, Dec. 7: River Run 10K, downtown Fort Myers (
Sunday, Dec. 8: Everyone Runs, JetBlue Park. 5K and half marathon (
Saturday, Dec. 14: Rotary Park 5K, Cape Coral. (
Sunday, Nov. 29: Turkey Leg Century Ride, Publix at Six Mile Cypress at Daniels Parkway ( (Note: A self-supported ride)
Sunday, Dec. 8: Everyone Rides, JetBlue Park. 15-, 30-, 62- and 100-mile rides (


  1. Your instructions for the bike tour appear to have an error: "Take that route until it intersects with Tucker Grade (about 2 miles), " that should read "Tram" Grade not Tucker Grade

    1. Thanks for the correction. I fixed it in the text of the blog post.


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