I don’t often run this route on Sanibel Island because there are so many twists and turns. But there is a great reason to hit the trails on the east side of Sanibel and that’s to see the Sanibel Lighthouse.
When you get onto Sanibel Island, hang your first left and it’s a straight 2 mile shot to the Lighthouse. I see a lot of runners near the hotels further south, off or around Middle Gulf Dr. and East Gulf Dr. (main roads on south side of island), but not as many on the trails towards the Lighthouse. Maybe that’s because from Middle Gulf to the Lighthouse it gets tricky. I’m not going to say I get lost every time I make a turn down there but….. um, yeah. Anyway, I want to at least share some pros and cons of running around there.
The east side of Sanibel, towards the Lighthouse, has great trails for easy, short runs. A 2 mile one-way run from the corner of Causeway Rd and Periwinkle Way can be extended to 3 miles if you run the south side trails, arching up towards the Lighthouse. They won’t be a straight shot but the good news is that as long as you’re still going east you’ll eventually going to find the lighthouse! There are a couple of random stores along the way with reasonably priced water if you’re desperate, but the water station at the Lighthouse is pretty good. It has a water fountain and a water bottle fill station. It also has outdoor showers if you want to douse yourself in case you’re overheating.
It’s not like it’s a maze to get to the Lighthouse of course. It’s just that you have a lot of choices on route so you’re constantly deciding whether to go right or left. You also have to go through trees away from the road on several occasions and I’m not a fan of that when I’m running alone. Though I will say it is very, very brief and it’s rare that someone else isn’t around on the trails. I prefer open and predictable run routes on Sanibel Captiva Rd (you can read about SanCap trail here) but it’s still a nice change to check out the unique area near the Lighthouse.
If you’re staying at a local hotel and want to run to a point and turn around, the Lighthouse is a good place to aim for. You could probably eek out 6 or 7 miles round trip. You will have to cross the road a couple of times to follow the path though, but there isn’t as much traffic around here as there is on Periwinkle. And if you’re blazing hot and want to stop and walk, there won’t be as many people staring at you the whole time. Hey, these things cross my mind when I’m heading out in heat or when I’m running with injury. (i.e. Pffft, I didn’t quit my run! I’m just taking a walk to see the Lighthouse!!).
Fun fact for you distance runners, it’s 14 miles from the Sanibel Lighthouse to Captiva Island. You have to pay to park at the Lighthouse, and Captiva for that matter, but it would be the perfect way to see all of Sanibel Island. You’d be going from one point of the island to the other, and basically be seeing all you needed to see in that route of shortest distance between the two points.
Once you get to the Lighthouse area, it gets really beautiful. It reminds me of those Runner’s World “favorite runs” pictures they publish every month. There are these bridges or paths that let you run over the water or swamp or whatever they call it. I really have to ask the appropriate name because “swamp” doesn’t sound nice. And it may not even be accurate but, ok, you know those hell holes they have the people try and make shelter and survive in on Naked and Afraid? That’s what the area under the bridge looks like. It’s still interesting though! The water looked red when I was there this past weekend. I heard there is the “red tide” going on down here where the released inland water hits the sea water and warms it and causes a red algae bloom. I’m not sure if that’s what it was but best not to go sticking your feet in there.
There are multiple bathroom areas with outdoor showers area nearby. And at least one place has a station specifically for you to fill up your water bottles too. Also I noticed that they had cameras in the area. Just an aside for anyone concerned about security.
The larger bathroom area at the entrance near the road and parking is a very nice, large, modern building. Truth be told, I never use this one when I’m running, but I have gone into other ones around the island before and they were very clean and airy and nice. I was surprised. There is also another shower area there but there were naked people showering when I passed by so I wasn’t going to take a picture. Naked… yes. There’s always a surprise when you run down here, I’ll say that.
Sanibel Island is really a great place to run (or bike) if you ever get a chance. You will never run out of trail and you will never run out of interesting things on your trails, that’s for sure! Head towards the Lighthouse if you want some shaded run routes or if you want to see some great views.