Everglades National Park offers outdoor experiences ranging from wheelchair-accessible boardwalks and paved trails to rugged adventures in harsh wilderness habitats, including tropical forests filled with poisonous trees, coastal prairies with a base of sticky marl mud, dense mangrove forests dense with mosquitoes, and rugged, swiss-cheese like karst with jagged edges.
Fees: $10 per vehicle, good for one week at all entrances
Permits: Permit required for backcountry camping. Fees apply in winter months.
Visitor Centers (East to West):
Ernest Coe Visitor Center, 40001 SR 9336, Homestead
Flamingo Visitor Center, near the end of Main Park Road, Flamingo
Shark Valley Visitor Center, 36000 SW 8th St, Miami (along US 41)
Gulf Coast Visitor Center, 815 Oyster Bar Lane, Everglades City
“There are no other Everglades in the world.” So began River of Grass, the 1947 classic by Marjorie Stoneman Douglas that helped to call attention to the need to protect this vast and unique ecosystem. Dedicated on December 6, 1947 by President Harry S. Truman, Everglades National Park was the culmination of decades worth of effort to preserve and protect the uniqueness of South Florida, with visionaries like Ernest Coe, David Fairchild, John Pennekamp, and Ms. Douglas leading the charge. Within the 2,358 square miles of Everglades National Park, the park boundaries protect the largest sawgrass prairie in North America, and the largest mangrove forest in the Western hemisphere, and dozens of intriguing and rare habitats like tree islands and pine rocklands. Landscapes are majestic here, with sweeping panoramas of marsh and cypress.
There are four separate entrances to the park, the most well-known of which is the Main Park Road at Homestead, which leads to most of the park’s hiking trails and the developed campgrounds that are best visited in winter. Shark Valley, along US 41 (Tamiami Trail) west of Miami is also a popular destination with a paved biking/tram loop and nature trails. The Gulf Coast Visitor Center and Flamingo Visitor Centers anchor the two far-flung outposts of the 99-mile Wilderness Waterway, one of the wildest paddling trips in America.
Most of the hiking trails in the Everglades are short and tame, letting you sample these wild habitats – and their delicate inhabitants, like the liguus tree snails – without plunging into the thick of them. But for those who like their wilderness wild, two backpacking trips – Old Ingraham Highway and Coastal Prairie Trail – provide the opportunity to get out there on your own.
Explore Everglades National Park
- Anhinga Trail - For most visitors, the Anhinga Trail is their first glimpse into Everglades National Park. It's short, and the alligators are right there: hard to miss.
- Bayshore Loop - Providing a walk through the mangrove-lined edge of Florida Bay and the unique coastal prairie habitat within a short loop, the Bayshore Loop takes you what's left of the fishing village of Flamingo.
- Bear Lake Trail - Paralleling the former Homestead Canal, the Bear Lake Trail takes you on a journey through tropical hammock and mangrove forests along a road scooped from the canal diggings.
- Bobcat Boardwalk - The 0.3-mile Bobcat Boardwalk at Shark Valley is a popular destination in winter and spring to see migratory and nesting birds.
- Christian Point Trail - The Christian Point Trail is one of the more challenging trails in Everglades National Park, leading you deep into the mangrove forest along Florida Bay.
- Coastal Prairie Trail - Ready for a wilderness challenge? On the Coastal Prairie Trail, battle mosquitoes, unrelenting sun, and deep and sticky marl mud to camp at remote Clubhouse Beach.
- Gumbo Limbo Trail - At Royal Palm Hammock in Everglades National Park, the Gumbo Limbo Trail is a gentle paved path that gets you up close and personal with a tropical hammock and its oolite holes.
- Guy Bradley Trail - Named in honor of the first game warden in Everglades, who gave his life protecting the birds, this paved walk offers excellent views of Florida Bay and insight into why Everglades National Park now exists.
- Mahogany Hammock Trail - Mahogany Hammock is a tree island, a tropical oasis in the Everglades “river of grass,” where the short boardwalk trail immerses you in the jungle-like hammock.
- Old Ingraham Highway - Opened in 1922 as the first motorway to Flamingo, the crumbling pavement of the Old Ingraham Highway now provides up to 22 miles of backpacking into the heart of the Everglades.
- Otter Cave Hammock Trail - Complementing Shark Valley’s loop trail and Bobcat Boardwalk, the Otter Cave Trail gets you out into the Everglades at a walking pace, where you’ll see more wildlife.
- Pa-Hay-Okee Boardwalk - For a sweeping panorama of the "River of Grass" from a personal perspective, get out of your car and walk the short Pa-Hay-Okee Boardwalk at Everglades National Park.
- Pinelands Ecotone - Unnamed, un-blazed, and wild, on an old jeep road, the Pinelands Ecotone is an extraordinary hike between two rare habitats – pine rocklands and sawgrass prairies.
- Pinelands Trail - The Pinelands Trail is a showcase for South Florida’s weird and wonderful karst, a limestone bedrock that’s full of Swiss-cheese like holes, in a tropical forest where colorful tree snails make their home.
- Snake Bight / Rowdy Bend - The Snake Bight Trail in Everglades National Park leads you a wild place where tropical forests meet the mangrove shorelines of Florida Bay, where crocodiles cruise the saline shallows and mosquitoes thicken the air.
- West Lake Mangrove Trail - At West Lake, the Mangrove Trail loops through a shady tunnel, showcasing the protector of Florida’s coastline, the mighty mangrove, along the shores of a brackish lake.
- Florida’s toxic trees (9/22/2015) - Southeast Florida is home to two poisonous trees, the poisonwood and the manchineel. Learn how to recognize them so you don't get too close, and find out how truly dangerous they are.
- Adding to the Life List (7/21/2015) - Although John is a native Floridian, our research trip to South Florida became an opportunity for him to see many natural "firsts" in Florida that most people have on their life lists.
- Ten Thousand Islands (and more) (6/26/2015) - Where the waters of Big Cypress and the Everglades meet the Gulf Coast, the Ten Thousand Islands are a maze of mangrove forest: the second largest mangrove forest in the world, bested only by Bangladesh
- Nature’s Way (5/8/2006) - Visit the Everglades late in April? To me, this was absolutely foolish but, due to personal circumstances, necessary. I prepped like I’d never prepped before. Long sleeved shirts. Long pants. Mosquito headnets. Gallons of water. Many cans of bug spray. A healthy paranoia about getting out of the car. We stopped at Robert is Here […]