Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park

Walking & Hiking

Everglades is the third-largest national park in the contiguous United States, after Death Valley and Yellowstone. Of course, Everglades does have more water and waterways. For this reason, the longest "trails" in the park are designed for boat and canoe travel. There are also numerous short, self-guiding trails for walking that introduce visitors to the unique flora and fauna of southern Florida. Trailheads are well marked. Most hikes begin just off the main road.

All of the nature trails are open year-round for hiking, conditions permitting. To avoid the worst of the mosquitoes, stay on designated trails away from the grass and walk during midday. Evening and early morning hours, when there is little breeze, are when the little critters seem most voracious. Wear insect repellent, long-sleeved shirts, long pants and a head cover. It may be necessary to follow these precautions even in the winter. 

Shark Valley Visitor Center

At 15 miles, Shark Valley Loop Road: Used for tram rides, bicycling, walking and wildlife viewing. An observation tower provides a panoramic view. In wet weather, roads may be temporarily under water. Check at a visitor center.

Bobcat Boardwalk: 0.4-mile, 30-minutes, this boardwalk trail starts immediately south of the visitor center, crosses an open sawgrass prairie, and enters deep into a bayhead dominated by coco plum and red bay.

Otter Cave Trail: 0.2-miles, this trail starts half a mile from the visitor center and leads through a hardwood hammock. Butterflies and birds are often seen.

Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center

At four miles, Anhinga Trail: 0.8-mile, 50-minute round-trip, this trail winds through Taylor Slough where you may see alligators, turtles, marsh rabbits, anhingas, herons and egrets.

At four miles, Gumbo-Limbo Trail: Less than a 0.5-mile, 30-minute round-trip, this trail meanders through a shaded and jungle-like hammock of royal palms, gumbo-limbo trees, lush ferns and orchids.

At six miles, Long Pine Key: This network of more than 43 miles of connecting trails ranges through unusually diverse pinelands that are home to approximately 200 types of plants (30 of which are found no-where else), white-tailed deer, opossums and raccoons.

At seven miles, Pineland Trail: Less than a 0.5-mile, 30-minute round-trip, the trail loops through pinelands and a variety of small, flowering plants. The densely pitted limestone bedrock that under-lies all of southern Florida can be clearly seen from this trail.

At 13 miles, Pahayokee Overlook Trail: Less than a 0.2-mile, 15- to 30-minute round-trip, this boardwalk trail ends with an observation tower that gives visitors a sweeping view of the "river of grass." Red-shouldered hawks, red-winged blackbirds, vultures, deer and even an occasional alligator may be seen.

At 20 miles, Mahogany Hammock Trail: Less than a 0.5-mile, 30-minute round-trip, this trail winds through a dense, junglelike hardwood hammock where the largest living mahogany tree in the United States grows. Bright and colorful liguus tree snails live in the hammock as do golden orb weaver spiders.

At 31 miles, West Lake Trail: Less than a 0.4-mile, 30-minute round-trip, the trail wanders through a forest of red, white, black and buttonwood mangroves beside a brackish lake. (Man-groves act as hur-ricane barriers, protecting inland areas from storms.) This mangrove forest is a birthplace for sea life such as shrimp, spiny lobsters, stone crabs, snapper and mullet.

Flamingo Visitor Center

Christian Point Trail: 3.6 miles, two- to-three hours round-trip. 

Snake Bight Trail: 3.2 miles, two-to-three hours round-trip. This mangrove lined trail is excellent for bird watching. Be prepared for mosquitoes.

Rowdy Bend Trail: 5.2 miles, three- to-four hours round-trip. 

Coastal Prairie Trail: 15 miles, one- to two-day trip. 

Trails begin near Flamingo and lead into coastal prairies found in the park's southwestern section. Salt-tolerant plants such as cactus and yucca grow in the prairies, as well as hardwood hammocks.