A massive ecosystem spanning more than a million acres, where rainfall slowly makes its way southeast in a shallow sheetflow to nourish the mangrove marshes along the Gulf of Mexico, Big Cypress is a mosaic of open prairies with diminutive cypress, lush cypress strands, and pine islands.
Many public lands protect this sensitive resource known as “the Western Everglades,” including Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, and Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, America’s own Amazon with abundant bromeliad and orchid species.
Discover the beauty of the Big Cypress ecosystem along its trails. The Florida Trail provides the most immersive experience, but there are dozens of much shorter trails and boardwalks to explore.
Trails and Parks within the Big Cypress ecosystem
- Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki - Set in a 60-acre cypress dome on the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki museum of Seminole culture provides an introduction to the tropical outdoors of natural South Florida's swamps in which the Seminole Tribe has lived for more than a century.
- Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk - East of Naples, the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk at Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park offers a peek into a notable natural landmark, a stand of virgin cypress.
- Big Cypress National Preserve - Protecting the heart of the Big Cypress Swamp, Big Cypress National Preserve was established in 1974. Exploring its lush subtropical landscapes means wading through crystal-clear swamps or paddling its channelized rivers.
- Billie Swamp Safari - With airboat and swamp buggy rides as well as interpretation of native species, Billie Swamp Safari is an attraction providing immersion into the Big Cypress Swamp, ancestral home of the Seminole Tribe since the 1800s..
- Collier-Seminole Hiking Trail - A wet and wild 6-mile loop into the watery wilderness of the Big Cypress Swamp, the Collier-Seminole Hiking Trail provides a challenging wade into beauty
- Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary - Weaving beneath a canopy knit by old-growth cypress trees in a majestic swamp forest, the boardwalk at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is one of Florida's best hikes
- CREW Corkscrew Marsh - Explore the northwestern boundary of Corkscrew Marsh - one corner of a massive conservation area surrounding Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and protecting the watershed feeding the swamp - on a series of trails that traverses through pine flatwoods, oak hammocks, and palm hammocks.
- Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park - It’s the Amazon of North America, home of the ghost orchid. Protecting more than 85,000 acres, Fakahatchee Strand is Florida's largest state preserve and most certainly our wildest.
- Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge - The longer of two loops at Florida Panther NWR guarantees a wet walk through panther habitat of wet pine flatwoods and cypress domes
- Florida Trail, Big Cypress North - 8.0 miles. An easy ramble from the I-75 rest area north along Nobles Grade, this wildlife-rich segment of the Florida Trail offers several loop options for day hikers and backpackers.
- Florida Trail, Big Cypress South - 30.3 miles. Traversing a vast wilderness in the wet wilds of Big Cypress National Preserve, the southernmost segment of the Florida Trail is the toughest backpacking trip in Florida
- Kirby Storter Boardwalk - An accessible walk through the habitats of the Big Cypress Swamp, Kirby Storter Boardwalk gets you up close to the wonders of nature in Big Cypress National Preserve
- Leslie M. Duncan Memorial Trail - At Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, the Leslie Duncan Memorial Trail is a short, accessible exploration into the habitats of the Big Cypress Swamp
- Naples Botanical Garden - At Naples Botanical Garden, buildings, landscaping, and nature live in harmony, with a delicate balance of natural spaces and lush gardens accented with art achieved.
- Roberts Lake Trail - 8.2 miles. Now the Roberts Lake Trail, the former Loop Road to Oasis section of the Florida Trail is now blazed blue. It is where sawgrass and cypress meet, where the Everglades and Big Cypress blend.
- Royal Palm Hammock Trail - At Collier-Seminole State Park, the short and intriguing Royal Palm Hammock Trail is a wild but gentle introduction to the habitats protected by this park. Although the boardwalks are slippery, you can explore the coastal prairie and mangrove marsh without getting your feet wet.
- Sabal Palm Trail - Slosh for up to 3.5 miles on a very wet walk in the Big Cypress Swamp along the Sabal Palm Trail at Picayune Strand State Forest near Naples.
- Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve - Winding 1.4 miles through the slough, the broad wheelchair-accessible boardwalk at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in Fort Myers leads you into a dark cypress strand
- Tamiami Trail Triathlon - 3.0 miles. Trying the hiking portion of the Tamiami Trail Triathlon in summer is a little crazy, but we wanted to check it out. The swamp is lovely, but the loop uses a rough OHV road
- Tree Snail Hammock Trail - At Tree Snail Hammock, you enter a world inhabited by rare and tiny creatures—the colorful and endangered liguus tree snails of South Florida.
Articles about the Big Cypress
- Crossing Big Cypress (Feb 2019) - It's Florida's roughest, wettest, weirdest backpacking trip, best tackled with friends. Along this 30 mile stretch of the Florida Trail in the heart of Big Cypress National Preserve, immersing in the swamp is the point of the hike. Sandra tackled it as the final stretch of her multi-year 1,110-mile section hike of the Florida Trail, end-to-end.
- The Ghost Orchid (Jul 2015) - On a guided swamp walk into the Fakahatchee Strand, I discover how difficult it is to spot a ghost orchid on your own, let alone keep your bearings in this tangled tropical wilderness
- Summer at Corkscrew (Jun 2015) - There is a special magic surrounding a summer hike through Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, where ghost orchids dance high above in the soft green canopy created by the ancient cypress protected here
- Kicking off Hiker Season with Primrose (Jan 2014) - On January 5th, we loaded up Primrose and headed south, traveling parallel to the Florida Trail for much of the trip, starting out at Christmas. Driving south of Tosahatchee, we continued through the Deseret Ranch where we spotted our first two Florida Trail thru-hikers walking up the highway. Although they are not keeping online journals, …
- The 2014 Florida Trail thru-hiker Kickoff (Jan 2014) - When we started hearing a lot of buzz about friends and friends of friends headed to the Florida Trail this season, we figured that our new book The Florida Trail Guide and the talks we’d done at venues like ALDHA and Trail Dames had worked some magic. Sure enough, nearly a dozen people we knew …
- Hiking with two new friends (Jan 2013) - JK discovers that the weird rash on his legs since hiking south of Lake Okeechobee isn't poison ivy at all, but something much more rare and creepy, a parasitic invasion.
- Ice cream and patchwork (Jan 2013) - On my first day on support crew, the group decided to try a slackpack day. So we were up early, much too early. The faster hikers wanted to get out on the trail by 5 AM. Slack packing would mean that we didn’t have to break camp at Big Cypress Campground, and the hikers wanted …
- On the Reservation (Jan 2013) - Leaving the wilds of the Big Cypress Swamp, the trail followed an old road for most of the distance. After a right hand turn on a large main road, I followed the blazes and other hikers footsteps. I stopped while crossing a canal to tend to a few hot spots on the bottom of both …
- In the Dark (Jan 2013) - After our wonderful reception at the I-75 rest area, several hikers decided to backtrack a bit and camp. I decided to push on and try for a few more miles. I was rested and filled with good food. It wasn’t long after I made it through the north I-75 gate to Nobles Road that the …
- Crossing the Big Cypress (Jan 2013) - On Friday, our group of Florida Trail hikers left our group camp at Trail Lakes Campground and, with Chuck Norris and Tigger providing transportation, headed to the Florida Trail at Oasis Visitor Center in Big Cypress National Preserve. We were there for the FNST Southern terminus monument dedication. Lots of folks from the Loxahatchee Chapter …
- Seminole Reflections (Nov 2012) - Returning to the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation for the first time in a decade, I remember my visits of the past and celebrate the present with John with a panther sighting.