By Kevin Mims

For wildlife watchers, the Gator Lake Trail at St. Andrews State Park, sited in Panama City Beach in northwest Florida, offers a ton of viewing opportunities in a small space. See wading birds, alligators (hence the name) and other assorted wildlife in the dunes and in the lake itself.

While at the trailhead, don't miss the scene across the road at Buttonwood Marsh, too. Deer are a common sight, as they are all around the park, but this is a very scenic spot that shouldn't be missed.

For a short trail, it's pretty rugged. There are some hilly spots where the trail snakes its way along the dunes, so keep that in mind when setting out for your hike. You'll be rewarded with good views of the lake and a high vantage point to watch wildlife from.

If you are camping at St. Andrews State Park, it's an easy walk or bike ride to the Gator Lake Trail. Afterwards, ride a little further down the road and spend the rest of the day hanging out at one of America's best beaches.

By the Numbers

The Gator Lake Trail is short, clocking in at only .36 miles around. It's a loop, so you'll start out and end in the same place, crossing over an ancient dune and along the edge of the lake. Numbered markers indicate stops along the trail identifying points of interest.

Again, it's short but you can easily spend a couple of hours exploring this trail. Go early in the morning when wildlife is most active.

What to Bring

Binoculars or spotting scopes are a must for this trail. Several bird rookeries are just outside of comfortable viewing range, but good optics will get you up close to the action. Bring water and wear clothing suitable for a couple of hours of outdoor activity.

More Information

For more information on the Gator Lake trail visit

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