Conservation Collier is offering free, guided hikes led by master naturalists at selected Pepper Ranch Preserve trails on Friday, March 18 and Saturday, April 23.
Pepper Ranch Preserve is a 2,512-acre Conservation Collier preserve property that was acquired with the goals of protecting and restoring the native habitats for the benefit of wildlife, providing aquifer recharge, and to provide current and future residents an opportunity for nature-based recreation and education. Wildlife documented on the preserve includes the endangered Florida panther, gopher tortoises, crested caracaras, Florida sandhill cranes, white-tailed deer, bobcats, wild turkey and more! There are approximately 10 miles of shared hiking/biking/horseback riding trails on the preserve, which meander through prairies, hardwood forests, along the edges of freshwater marshes and through shady cabbage palm and pine flatwoods.
The terrain is uneven, but hikes will be of easy to moderate difficulty, and will cover approximately 3 miles, taking about two hours, hiking leisurely. Hike leaders will select the trail in advance for each hike.
Hikers must register in advance, as hiking groups will be limited to 20 people. Walk-ins on the day of the hike will be accepted if there is available space. There will be a sign-in sheet onsite. Participants should wear appropriate footwear (boots or hiking shoes recommended – no sandals) and hats. Participants should also bring insect repellant and water. Trails may be wet.
Hikers will meet at 9:30 AM at the Visitor Center for sign-in and safety briefing, and the hike will begin promptly at 10 AM. There are restrooms available at the Visitor Center. The Pepper Ranch Preserve is located at 6315 Pepper Road, Immokalee. Directions: From Immokalee, take State Road 29/Main Street north to Lake Trafford Road. Turn left and travel 2.9 miles to Pepper Road. Turn right and travel 0.9 miles to Pepper Ranch Preserve.
The Conservation Collier Program was established by local referendum in 2002 to acquire, preserve, restore, and maintain vital and significant threatened natural lands located in Collier County for the benefit of present and future generations. Conservation Collier currently owns 4,067 acres in 19 different locations throughout the county. For more information or to register for a hike, call 239-252-2961. Visit www.colliergov.net/conservationcollier for more preserve information.