The wildest and most remote section of the Florida Trail, the traverse of the Big Cypress Swamp north of the Southern Terminus in Big Cypress National Preserve 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.
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. This one is to the WEST of Oasis and this one is to the EAST of Oasis. The greater the recent flow, the deeper the swamp will be.
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.
An easy ramble from the I-75 MM 63 rest area north along Nobles Grade through Big Cypress National Preserve, this wildlife-rich 8-mile segment of the Florida Trail offers several loop options for day hikers and backpackers.
Traversing the wet wilds of the Big Cypress National Preserve, this 30.3 mile segment of the Florida Trail is its most remote part, and is the toughest backpacking trip in Florida. It’s a hike like no other in the world.
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.
Florida Trail Videos (Big Cypress)
How to order a copy of The Florida Trail: Florida’s National Scenic Trail, our limited edition full-color coffee table book that tells the comprehensive story of the first 50 years of routing, building, maintaining, and enjoying our statewide National Scenic Trail.
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.