Protecting the heart of the Big Cypress Swamp, Big Cypress National Preserve was established in 1974 to prevent further incursions of development into this sensitive rain-fed ecosystem. Exploring its lush subtropical landscapes means wading through crystal-clear swamps or paddling its channelized rivers.
Fees and permits: Most access is free. Camping fees charged. OHV permits required. Backcountry camping (free) permits required; sign in at kiosks or check in at a ranger station prior to your trip.
Visitor Centers: Big Cypress Swamp Visitor Center, 33000 Tamiami Trail East, Ochopee, 239-695-4758; Oasis Visitor Center, 52105 Tamiami Trail East, Ochopee, 239-695-1201
Nearby: Everglades City, Naples, Miami
Big Cypress National Preserve protects a landscape of dramatic proportions, more than 1,125 square miles undeniably rich in botanical beauty from the broadest expanses of prairie to the tiniest spout of a whisk fern in the crook of a wizened, ancient bonsai-like cypress. The Big Cypress Swamp encompasses a series of shallow linear cypress strands stretching north to south, with names like Robert’s Strand and Skillet Strand, as part of a large mosaic of tropical hammocks, marl prairies, pine rocklands, pine flatwoods, and the mangrove fringe.
Bisected by the Tamiami Trail (US 41) and Alligator Alley (I-75), the preserve offers numerous opportunities to explore, either on foot or by kayak. The southern terminus of the Florida Trail starts at the Oasis Ranger Station, plunging backpackers into several days of wading through swamps up to hip-deep at times.
Explore the Preserve
- 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
- Roberts Lake Trail - No longer officially part of the Florida National Scenic Trail, the Loop Road to Oasis section of the Florida Trail is now blazed blue. This is where sawgrass and cypress meet, where the Everglades and Big Cypress blend.
- The Tamiami Trail Triathlon - 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 hiker-unfriendly 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.