A series of trails interconnected by roadwalks make up the Eastern Continental Trail, a hiking route spanning the East Coast from Key West through Quebec, more than 4,800 miles.
First hiked by John Brinda, then popularized by Sunny “Nimblewill Nomad” Eberhart in his book Ten Million Steps, it begins right here in Florida.
Major Trails of the ECT
Existing trails are connected by roadwalks to make up the Eastern Continental Trail. Major components of the ECT include:
|108||Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail|
|40||South Dade Greenway|
|220||Alabama ECT Roadwalk|
|339||Pinhoti Trail (AL & GA)|
|59||Benton MacKaye Trail|
|138||International Appalachian Trail (IAT) Maine|
|586||IAT New Brunswick / Quebec|
There are connecting roadwalks between a number of these existing trails which add at least another 50 miles to the route.
While many choose to end their hike at Cap Gaspe, Quebec, the trek can be extended by continuing north through Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, for another 556 miles.
This extension is part of a route is described in detail by Nimblewill Nomad in Where Less The Path Is Worn as the “Trail of the Ancients,” following the Appalachian Mountains from Flagg Mountain, Alabama to Belle Isle, Newfoundland.
Florida’s Eastern Continental Trail
The components of the ECT in Florida are:
|108.3||Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail|
|9.9||US 1 roadwalk Key Largo|
|39.6||South Dade Greenway (levees/dirt roads)|
|10.6||Everglades & Francis Taylor WMA (levees/dirt roads)|
|23.3||US 41-Loop Road (roadwalk)|
|8.2||Roberts Lake Trail (footpath)|
|1052.6||Florida National Scenic Trail (footpath with ~150 miles of roadwalks)|
|45.4||Florida Trail Blackwater (footpath)|
All ECT hikers start their hike at the Southernmost Point in the United States, a marker found in Key West at the southernmost spot with public access.
It is 200 miles between the Southernmost Point in Key West to the Southern Terminus of the Florida Trail at Oasis Visitor Center.
From Key West, the route follows the The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail, a paved bike path and bike route through the Florida Keys.
A roadwalk along US 1 from Key Largo followed by a hike up the Southern Glades Trail gets you to the mainland just a couple miles outside the gates of Everglades National Park along CR 9336.
Resupply between this point and the start of the Florida Trail must be planned and requires going off trail to communities to the east of the trail route.
From this road to the southern terminus of the Florida Trail is 60.7 miles of roadwalk on dirt roads / levees and paved roads, followed by 8.2 miles on a wade through Robert’s Strand.
North of Key Largo, there is only one small convenience store that hikers walk past on the Miccosukee Reservation, with irregular hours. You will not find supplies again until the Seminole Reservation.
There is also a large convenience store / small truck stop 1.5 miles east of the trail route at Dade Corners, cattycorner from the Miccosukee Casino & Resort along US 41.
Camping and Hostels
Selected camping and hostels south of the Florida Trail
MM 0 Seashell Motel and Key West Hostel, 305-296-5719, 718 South St
MM 4 Leo’s Campground, 305-296-5260, 5236 Suncrest Rd
MM 5 Boyd’s Campground, 305-294-1465, 6401 Maloney Ave
MM 34 Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge & Campground, 305-872-2351, 33000 Overseas Hwy
MM 38 Bahia Honda State Park, 305-872-2353, 36850 Overseas Highway
MM 61 Jolly Roger RV Park, 305-289-0404, 59275 Overseas Hwy
MM 102 Key Largo Campground, 305-451-1431, 101551 Overseas Hwy
MM 103 Pennekamp State Park, 305-451-6300, 102601 Overseas Hwy
MM 104 Kings Kamp RV Park, 305-451-0010, 103620 Overseas Hwy
MM 132 Hoosville Hostel, 305-363-4644, Florida City (7.8E of trail)
It’s smart to reserve hostels / campsites / hotels in this area in advance, since winter is the busy season in the Florida Keys.
The first two weeks of December have the cheapest rates for hotels in the Keys. AirBnB is a good option as well.
Stealth camping isn’t recommended in the Keys as what few forested areas you encounter are dense with poisonwood, a toxic tree with sap far more irritating than poison ivy. However, there are those who have done so successfully. Ask in online forums for tips.
Florida ECT Trail Segments
Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail
Florida Keys to US 41
This segment includes 9.9 miles of roadwalk along busy US 1 with fences on both sides of the highway, followed by 39.6 miles along three different trails used by offroad cyclists and water management trucks along the South Dade Greenway system along the eastern edge of Everglades National Park.
US 41 to Florida Trail southern terminus
As you head north decision points are west or east along Lake Okeechobee (west recommended) and west or east around the Orlando metro (Western Corridor vs. Orlando/Ocala sections). In the Yellow River Ravines of the Eglin section take the Blackwater section north from a prominent trail junction.
Eastern Continental Trail Videos
Taking a ride through the Everglades on one of Miami-Dade’s most remote offroad bike trails made for “Bill and John’s Most Excellent Adventure.”
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.