Sanibel Island – 6 Mile Running Trail Loop

There are many trails to run around Sanibel Island but a lot of the paths are interrupted repeatedly by traffic or passing cars. This 6-mile run route on the island is one of the least interrupted routes, outside of the 15-mile run route to Captiva Island that I wrote about earlier. The 6 mile loop is a great little trail that keeps you around local activity centers.

There are a couple places to park to start off, depending on which way you decide to run, both clockwise and counterclockwise. Also, the way you choose sets up your water fountain or bathroom breaks either at the beginning or end of your run. When summertime hits, the timing of water fountains can become more of an issue. The water fountains on Sanibel Island are pretty great, especially since they seemed to have changed out their old ones. Also, you might want to go a certain direction if you are starting out later during high sun. If that’s the case, heading counterclockwise is your best bet, but only by a fraction really.


parking at Island Theater/Bailey’s General Store









start of route near Island Theater


You can start at the 1-mile marker start on the corner of Tarpon Bay Rd and SanCap Road, just like you would at the start of the 15-mile out and back route, and park there at the gas station or other shops nearby. Or you can park near the island grocery/movie theater area and have quick and immediate access to the trail and have the bonus of your car being in the shade. This parking has you heading immediately towards the beach and your first water/bathroom stop. The fountain will be across the street once you come to a 4-way stop. I’ve even heard of runners dipping in the ocean or standing under the outdoor shower station to cool off in the summer months. The bathroom facility there is pretty nice for public facilities and there’s a map that shows other bathroom facility stops on the island.


first 4-way stop near beach entrance









beach facilities + water fountain









water fountain by beach











Sanibel Island restroom map and hours










At the 4-way stop, head to the right (or northwest) on the path. You’ll run through a lot of shade here, comparatively, for about 2 miles. Keep going until you hit a “T” in the trail where it goes left to the side of the road or right through a path in the trees. This is where the loop gets interesting. You will end up through this hole onto a residential side road with houses. Keep going and you’ll get to a very welcoming sign that warns you that you will be eaten by alligators that you should proceed with caution because the path traverses a “natural alligator habitat.” Most of Florida is surrounded by natural alligator habitats so don’t let that scare you off. I mean, it sometimes scares me off but I’m assured by the local wildlife experts that it’s no more dangerous than other places near residential areas. They also tried to sell me some oceanfront property in Arizona too, so do what makes you feel comfortable.


looking away from where trail “T’s”











hole heading towards residential street











see? no shoulder

An alternative is for you to venture down the parallel road, Rabbit Road, which isn’t a path through the swamp. But be prepared to jump out of the way from oncoming traffic. There is no shoulder to the road except into someone’s yard. It’s not a big deal though as this isn’t a heavily traveled road usually.


residential road & trail option – the path continues there on the left











my 1200 route

typical Florida run route warning


This path goes through the woods (aka brush/swamp) and is over in less than a mile, or 0.7 ish for those who want exact numbers. You end up at another intersection at the corner of Doc Ford’s, a local rum bar. In fact, it’s not a bad place to meet up with friends if you wanted to do a quick workout session and end your run there. They even have outside seating if you’re worried that you’ll be all gross afterwards. Oh and it’s not just rum, there’s food too. 🙂 That’s the great thing about this 6 mile loop is that there are a million interesting places to start and finish.

At this intersection, take a right along the trail back towards Tarpon Bay Rd. It’s almost 2 miles on this stretch with little shade. That might be a reason to begin the trail from Tarpon Bay and go counterclockwise, especially if you are starting later in the day. That way you can hit all the shady points on the last 2-3 mile stretch of the loop and be at a water fountain at mile 5. If you do need water at this point near Doc Ford’s (approximately 4 miles into the loop), instead of going right after Doc Ford’s, take a left and in less than an eighth of a mile you will be at Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge where there’s a great water station and a place that supplies cold filtered water for you to fill up water bottles. For more about that as a fill station, check out my other Sanibel running route post.

Doc Ford's

nearing Doc Ford’s










Doc Ford's

Doc Ford’s and someone else running the trails!








After the 2 mile stretch back, you’ll come to your last 4-way stop at Tarpon Bay Rd. Take a right back to where you may have parked at the Bailey shopping center parking lot and you’re done! You can also head in and get a bunch of different cold drinks available for single sale inside.

It’s a great 6-mile loop if you happen to be on Sanibel for the day and want to get a run in. Like I said in another post, there are few trails in south Florida that are removed from alligator habitats or fast cars with people carelessly texting, so this loop is a bit of a gem if you want to stay safe and want a beautiful area to run. There are many trails on Sanibel to run besides this one but sometimes it’s nice to know some defined routes so you don’t have to play the math game with your GPS watch.

Also check out the Captiva to Sanibel island-hopping trail here.

One response to “Sanibel Island – 6 Mile Running Trail Loop

  1. Pingback: Sanibel Island Running – 15 Mile Route | ishouldrun·

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