Complementing Shark Valley’s popular bike and tram trail and Bobcat Boardwalk, the Otter Cave Trail gets you out into the Everglades at a walking pace, where you’ll see much more wildlife. Although the park considers the Otter Cave Trail to include the paved access to it, the natural trail is very short but very beautiful. It is frequently flooded, so check at the visitor center before you start your journey.
Length: 1 mile
Lat-Long: 25.747233, -80.766517
Fees/Permits: Entrance fee of $25 vehicle, $20 motorcycle, $8 cyclist/pedestrian. Good for one week.
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Bug factor: extreme
Restroom: at the trailhead
The parking area is open 8:30-6. Use the paved tram road to access the trail. At times of high water, the trail will be flooded and warnings will be posted at the trailhead. You may still get your feet wet on this hike even when the trail is open.
More about Everglades National Park
From the junction of SR 997 (Krome Ave) and US 41 west of Miami, drive 18 miles to the Miccosukee Reservation; the park entrance is on the south side of the highway.
Walk behind the Visitor Center and follow the paved trail paralleling the canal. In spring, look carefully for newly hatched alligators and young waterfowl. On both sides of the pavement, the canals provide a never-ending show of wildlife. This narrow paved road was built in the early 1940s for oil exploration in the Everglades.
After 0.6 mile, you reach the trailhead for the Otter Cave Trail on the left. Enter the tunnel of tropical vegetation – sparser right now due to the ravages of Hurricane Wilma – and cross over a clear flowing stream with several pools. This is a scenic spot where wildlife gathers. Look for baby alligators and wading birds.
The footpath becomes a flat rocky surface underfoot. Notice and be cautious of the many small solution holes. Some of them are rather deep. Look down into them and see how they form a Swiss-cheese network of passageways right under your feet. This is the bedrock of the Everglades, allowing water to flow within a protected aquifer just below the surface. There is one large hole right in front of the bench.
The trail curves to the right, passing under more tropical hammock. It skirts a large cypress tree with knees poking out of the footpath. You are paralleling a narrow natural waterway to your right. Notice the change in pitch of the water as it drops down small shelves of rock—tiny rapids. The trail ends all too soon by emerging at the paved trail. Don’t be surprised to see a large alligator guarding the culvert that directs the natural stream into the canal.
Turn right. You reach the trailhead again at 0.8 mile. Continue walking along the pavement back to the visitor center to complete the hike.