The wildest and most remote section of the Florida Trail, the traverse of the Big Cypress Swamp north of the Southern Terminus is like no other hike in Florida.
Crossing Big Cypress National Preserve, it leads hikers through ghostly savannas of ancient, bonsai-like cypress, traverses vast sawgrass prairies, and plunges into lush cypress strands and domes.
Once the trail reaches Interstate 75, its character changes. While the hiking is easier, following old roads, there is a daunting array of wildlife, including a gauntlet of massive alligators.
Covering more than a million acres, the Big Cypress Swamp is a rain-fed system. It flows southwesterly, a seasonal river a few inches to a feet feet deep and nearly 40 miles wide, nourishing the mangrove fringe along Florida Bay.
Man-made obstructions, including highways and canals, impede the natural wash of water across this tropical landscape. The swamp is home to the highest concentration of orchid and fern species in the United States.
Winding deep into the wilds of Big Cypress National Preserve, this is the most remote section of trail in the state of Florida.
The landscape is likened to the savannas of Africa, but also has pockets of rainforest-like botanical beauty enveloped in thick humidity.
Hiking here means ankle-to-knee deep wading for several days. Day hiking options are limited to out-and-back wades from the trailheads.
Overnight trips can be launched on loops that lie north of the two trailheads providing access to this section.
Our Florida Trail Books & Guides
Disclosure: As authors and affiliates, we receive earnings when you buy these through our links. This helps us provide public information on this website.
To get a handle on water depths in Big Cypress, it’s worth looking at the volume of controlled outflow passing under US 41 from the canal along the highway, and compare it to the historic data on the graphs.
Do not bring your dog with you. Dogs are not permitted on the Florida Trail in Big Cypress.
Wear a bright orange shirt or vest during hunting seasons. Check the FWC website for hunting season dates.
You will get your feet wet hiking this portion of the Florida Trail. Waterproof boots are of no use here since water will occasionally be over the tops of your boots and will get trapped inside.
Hammock hangers will appreciate their significant advantage over tents in this section. No matter which you bring, tent or hammock, don’t expect to pack it dry for the duration of your hike through Big Cypress.
Rubber-band a coffee filter around the intake of your water filter. It will eliminate most of the fine silt present in the water. You may find yourself field-stripping and cleaning your filter more than once on this section otherwise.
Don’t rush. It’s a beautiful and unusual place for a backpacking trip, worth savoring along the way.
Loop & Side Trails
These trails intersect with the linear Florida Trail in Big Cypress.