Tree islands are tropical oases in the Everglades “river of grass,” punctuating the sawgrass prairie where there is a slight bit of elevation, enough to make an enormous difference in the flora. I’ve always loved Mahogany Hammock, probably because it’s one of the first trails I ever remember walking on in Florida, back in the 60s. Its length makes it perfect for families with small children, but watch out for the poison ivy that slips through the boardwalk rails!
Location: Everglades National Park
Length: 0.4 mile
Lat-Long: 25.323567, -80.832083
Fees/Permits: Entrance fee of $25 vehicle, $20 motorcycle, $8 cyclist/pedestrian. Good for one week.
Bug factor: moderate
From the Ernest Coe Visitor Center, follow the Main Park Road for 21 miles towards Flamingo. Turn right at the sign for Mahogany Hammock and follow the road for 1.7 miles to the parking area at the trailhead.
The hike starts out by crossing a virtual moat in the Shark Valley Slough, coming up to a stand of paurotis palms. The loop starts here. In either direction, you’ll encounter stately ancient mahogany trees, peeling gumbo-limbo, and the mysterious and vaguely sinister-looking strangler figs. Although the hurricanes of 2005 tore the roof off the forest and sent a jumbled wreck of fallen trees and root balls across the forest floor, this hammock still feels like a jungle. Since it’s a boardwalk loop, there’s no risk of getting lost, so enjoy the immersion and watch closely for wildlife.