Snaking through an oh-so-slender slice of the rocky Okeechobee Ridge, the relict shoreline of Lake Okeechobee, the Rafael Sanchez Trail stays in deep shade for its 5.7 mile traverse of this skinny stretch of forest, with ancient cypresses and massive ficus trees overhead. Sandwiched between US 441 and a vast expanse of farms, you can’t get lost, and your turnaround point is determined by the distance you want to hike.
Location: Port Mayaca
Length: 5.7 miles
Lat-Lon: 26.986849, -80.617104
Fees / Permits: free
Bug factor: moderate to high
Open dawn to dusk. Use mosquito repellant. Be cautious of poison ivy.
From the city of Okeechobee, drive south on US 441 to the Port Mayaca Bridge and take the turnoff to the right just before the bridge to the Port Mayaca Recreation Area. Alternatively, use SR 76 from Indiantown to reach US 441 and drive north across the bridge, turning left to enter the recreation area. Once you drive down the hill towards the St. Lucie Canal, turn left and drive beneath the bridge to access the trailhead on your left.
Watch for orange blazes in the forest beyond where the trail emerges from the woods in several spots to traverse the entrance road to a farm or to use the highway bridge to cross a waterway. Be careful of traffic at these crossings. The trail is otherwise easy to follow and a bit rugged underfoot due to roots and rocks.