The Myakka Canopy Walk is the most popular short trail in Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, one of Southwest Florida’s largest state parks.
It could be because it’s very easy to find, is family-friendly, and has a well-defined footpath, nice and broad. It could be because of the Canopy Walk itself.
Before everyone in Florida went nuts adding ziplines and canopy walks to their nature attractions, this was THE real deal, the first canopy walk in Florida.
It was modeled after ones used by scientists in the rainforests of South America.
It provides both an intimate look at the live oak canopy and a sweeping panorama of the Myakka River basin from its 76 foot observation platform.
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Length: 0.8 mile loop
Trailhead: 27.246417, -82.302700
Fees: $6 per vehicle
Restroom: Nearest is a drive to the Myakka Outpost
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM to sunset. Leashed pets welcome on the Boyleston Trail but not on the Canopy Walk and Tower.
Park staff may close the Canopy Walk and Tower due to dangerous conditions like inclement weather or flooding of the surrounding forest.
Visitors staying in the campground have the opportunity to visit this trail during the off hours.
From I-75 exit 205, drive 9 miles east on SR 72 to the park entrance on the left. Follow the park entrance road to the trailhead, which has a sign on the right. If you reach the Y in the road for the concession area, you’ve gone too far.
This hike consists of two trails: the original William S. Boylston Nature Trail and the Canopy Walk Trail built to provide access to the Canopy Walk.
From the parking area, turn to the right to walk through a hammock of large oaks and cabbage palms, the understory very open so you can see marshes on both sides.
Almost immediately ahead you see the staircase for the Canopy Walk. Most people only walk up to this attraction instead of doing the full loop.
You’ve entered at the exit, so you have to go to the second tower to start the climb. There are brochures about the tower and its origins at its base.
Afraid of heights? There are benches here so those who are timid about walking the narrow walkway in the treetops can sit and wait for those who are not.
It’s well worth the climb up the stairs. There are interpretive signs all the way up to tell you what you will see in the canopy.
When you reach the Canopy Walk (which has a limit of four people), step gingerly. The walkway rolls with you in a forward motion like riding a wave as you cross it.
You are in the tops of the live oaks, nose to nose with bromeliads and resurrection fern, and can clearly see goldfoot fern on the cabbage palms.
Once you cross the walkway, there is another climb to the 76 foot mark of the observation tower. The view is expansive.
It’s primarily a panorama of forest, but off to the left side you see the slender ribbon of the Myakka River snaking up to Upper Myakka Lake.
After you’ve enjoyed the view, climb back down the tower to continue your walk. Continue in the same direction on the nature trail, passing the tower you climbed up.
The cabbage palms are thick with goldfoot fern and shoelace fern, the live oaks heavily draped in bromeliads. An interpretive sign explains canopy exploration methods. You reach a trail intersection at 0.2 mile with a bench.
To the left, the short trail to the Canopy Walk returns to the parking area. Turn right to begin a counter-clockwise walk of the interpretive nature trail.
William S. Boylston Nature Trail
Passing the next bench, you are firmly in this riverine hammock of cabbage palms and oaks, their fronds and leaves quivering in a constant rustle from the wind.
A live oak, split down the middle, is heavy in resurrection fern. The trail makes a sweeping curve as you walk beneath live oaks laden with resurrection fern and bromeliads.
Come to a boardwalk with an observation spot with bench on a marsh. An interpretive sign talks about the big bromeliads you see in the canopy.
These include water pots, pineapple airplant or giant airplant, that trap water in their cuplike leaves.
Meandering past an open spot in the understory, the trail narrows down, edged by saw palmetto.
The view ahead is still a grand canopy of oaks ahead, every fiber on the bromeliads lit by the fire of sunlight, sending pinkish-orange hues into the universe.
Whether seen far above or close at hand it’s a spectacular sight. These trees look downright furry resplendent in their bromeliad cloaks.
Walking through another slightly open understory spot at a half mile you spy a heart in the forest: on the right, the limbs of a live oak come together to create a heart-shaped keyhole.
Although the path has been roughed up a little by hogs it doesn’t matter, as you spend most of your time looking up at the gorgeous gardens overhead.
Saw palmetto defines the corridor, and the canopy opens up a bit. Here, the sand live oaks are stripped of their limbs. A wall of cabbage palms defines the edge of a wetland area.
As the trail curves into a shadier forest canopy, walk in the continued splendor of cabbage palms and live oaks, the fronds sunlit, catching shadows of bromeliads.
The corridor of saw palmetto leads to openness as you approach a bench. It looks out onto a prairie area off to the right through the trees, which can get wet after a heavy rain.
Interpretive signs point out potential wildlife sightings such as screech and barred owls.
Walk between columns of cabbage palms to access another boardwalk with observation seat overlooking this wet prairie as it crosses it.
Leaving the prairie to re-enter the oak and palm hammock, you can see scattered pieces of palms fallen throughout the open understory.
One dead oak is a natural sculpture, its whirly swirly bark covered in patches of red blanket lichen and other lichen, shield moss, and golden polypody.
The natural arcs of plant life in this forest make it a visual feast. Off to the right you can see a willow marsh between the trees.
Reaching a trail junction connector to the Canopy Walk, continue straight ahead to the parking area, completing a 0.8 mile walk.
See our photos of the Myakka Canopy Walk
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
T. Mabry Carlton Reserve is less than a dozen miles from downtown Venice but wild enough that the Florida panther roams these woodlands along the Myakka River floodplain.
Oscar Scherer State Park
A stronghold for Florida scrub jays north of Venice, Oscar Scherer State Park is an important island of biodiversity in an increasingly overdeveloped region.