One of the wilder places showcasing a remaining piece of the grand hammock that once stretched from Miami down along Biscayne Bay, Matheson Hammock Park is a popular swimming and picnic destination along the bay. The remnant hammock is across Old Cutler Road atop the rugged limestone karst of the Atlantic Coastal Ridge. While a short hike, it’s rather rugged thanks to a terrain punctuated with deep holes and crowded with tropical trees. The 1.4-mile trail can be tricky to follow, but is well worth a walk in the woods to see this rare habitat.
Location: Coral Gables
Length: 1.4 mile round-trip
Lat-Long: 25.682117, -80.271600
Bug Factor: moderate to annoying
Restroom: in the main portion of the park (fee)
From US 1, take Red Rd east to Old Cutler Rd. Turn north and drive past Fairchild Gardens before reaching Matheson Hammock Park on the right. Park your car in the nearest parking area to the park entrance. The trailhead kiosk is along the paved path to the picnic area.
From the kiosk, follow the paved path back past the picnic area and restrooms to the start of the trail; turn right and walk through a short stretch of tropical hammock. You emerge at Old Cutler Rd. Carefully cross the road and continue across to the trailhead for the West Hammock Trail. This trail forms a loop through a shady tropical hammock, with thick foliage and outcroppings of limestone. Watch for caves and sinkholes along the trail, where ferns grow lushly around their edges. Just imagine—this is what much of Coral Gables used to look like!