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.
An overview of the Florida Trail through Big Cypress, including a trail map, is in our full-color guidebook Florida Trail Hikes. You’ll also find full details for two Big Cypress hikes – an overnighter and a day hike – in this book.
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Guthook Guides GPS-driven map-based guide to the Florida National Scenic Trail with thousands of waypoints from The Florida Trail Guide. Works offline. For iPhone and Android.
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.
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.
Guthook Guides GPS-based maps and logistics for hiking the Florida Trail. Available for iPhone and Android.
These are the trail segments that make up the Florida Trail through Big Cypress National Preserve, south to north
30.3 miles. Traversing a vast wilderness in the wet wilds of Big Cypress National Preserve, the southernmost segment of the Florida Trail is the toughest backpacking trip in Florida
Loop & Side Trails
These are trails that intersect with the linear Florida Trail in Big Cypress
8.2 miles. Now the Roberts Lake Trail, the former Loop Road to Oasis section of the Florida Trail is now blazed blue. It is where sawgrass and cypress meet, where the Everglades and Big Cypress blend.
Articles about the Florida Trail in Big Cypress