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.