It’s Florida’s roughest, wettest, weirdest backpacking trip, best tackled with friends. Along this 30 mile stretch of the Florida Trail in the heart of Big Cypress National Preserve, immersing in the swamp is the point of the hike. Sandra tackled it as the final stretch of her multi-year 1,110-mile section hike of the Florida Trail, end-to-end.
Florida Trail, Big Cypress
38.3 miles. Everglades City, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, & Naples
The wildest and most remote section of the Florida Trail, the traverse of the Big Cypress Swamp north of the Southern Terminus in Big Cypress National Preserve leads hikers through ghostly savannas of ancient, bonsai-like cypress, traverses vast sawgrass prairies, and plunges into lush cypress strands and domes. Once the trail reaches Interstate 75, its character changes. While the hiking is easier, following old roads, there is a daunting array of wildlife, including a gauntlet of massive alligators.
Covering more than a million acres, the Big Cypress Swamp is a rain-fed system. It flows southwesterly, a seasonal river a few inches to a feet feet deep and nearly 40 miles wide, nourishing the mangrove fringe along Florida Bay. Man-made obstructions, including highways and canals, impede the natural wash of water across this tropical landscape. The swamp is home to the highest concentration of orchid and fern species in the United States.
Winding deep into the wilds of Big Cypress National Preserve, this is the most remote section of trail in the state of Florida. The landscape is likened to the savannas of Africa, but also has pockets of rainforest-like botanical beauty enveloped in thick humidity. Hiking here means ankle-to-knee deep wading for several days. Day hiking options are limited to out-and-back wades from the trailheads. Overnight trips can be launched on loops that lie north of the two trailheads providing access to this section.
To get a handle on water depths in Big Cypress, it’s worth looking at the volume of controlled outflow passing under US 41 from the canal along the highway, and compare it to the historic data on the graphs. This one is to the WEST of Oasis and this one is to the EAST of Oasis. The greater the recent flow, the deeper the swamp will be.
Wear a bright orange shirt or vest during hunting seasons. Check the FWC website for hunting season dates.
You will get your feet wet hiking this portion of the Florida Trail. Waterproof boots are of no use here since water will occasionally be over the tops of your boots and will get trapped inside.
Hammock hangers will appreciate their significant advantage over tents in this section. No matter which you bring, tent or hammock, don't expect to pack it dry for the duration of your hike through Big Cypress.
Rubber-band a coffee filter around the intake of your water filter. It will eliminate most of the fine silt present in the water. You may find yourself field-stripping and cleaning your filter more than once on this section otherwise.
Don't rush. It's a beautiful and unusual place for a backpacking trip, worth savoring along the way.
- Florida Trail, Big Cypress North- An easy ramble from the I-75 MM 63 rest area north along Nobles Grade through Big Cypress National Preserve, this wildlife-rich 8-mile segment of the Florida Trail offers several loop options for day hikers and backpackers.
- Florida Trail, Big Cypress South- Traversing the wet, wild landscapes of the Big Cypress National Preserve, this 30.3 mile segment of the Florida Trail is its most remote part, and is the toughest backpacking trip in the state of Florida. It's a hike like no other in the world.
- Roberts Lake Trail- No longer officially part of the Florida National Scenic Trail, the Loop Road to Oasis section of the Florida Trail is now blazed blue. This is where sawgrass and cypress meet, where the Everglades and Big Cypress blend.
- Tackling the Tamiami Trail Triathlon- Trying the hiking portion of the Tamiami Trail Triathlon in summer is a little crazy, but we wanted to check it out. The swamp is lovely, but the loop uses a hiker-unfriendly OHV road
On Friday, our group of Florida Trail hikers left our group camp at Trail Lakes Campground and, with Chuck Norris and Tigger providing transportation, headed to the Florida Trail at Oasis Visitor Center in Big Cypress National Preserve. We were there for the FNST Southern terminus monument dedication. Lots of folks from the Loxahatchee Chapter […]
Since its debut on a hand cart this January during the thru-hiker season kickoff at Oasis Visitor Center, we’ve been eagerly awaiting the permanent placement of the Florida Trail Southern Terminus marker in Big Cypress National Preserve. The marker was put in place yesterday, December 12. Said Bob DeGross, Chief of Interpretation and Public Affairs […]
An easy ramble from the I-75 MM 63 rest area north along Nobles Grade through Big Cypress National Preserve, this wildlife-rich 8-mile segment of the Florida Trail offers several loop options for day hikers and backpackers.
Traversing the wet, wild landscapes of the Big Cypress National Preserve, this 30.3 mile segment of the Florida Trail is its most remote part, and is the toughest backpacking trip in the state of Florida. It’s a hike like no other in the world.
JK discovers that the weird rash on his legs since hiking south of Lake Okeechobee isn’t poison ivy at all, but something much more rare and creepy, a parasitic invasion.
After our wonderful reception at the I-75 rest area, several hikers decided to backtrack a bit and camp. I decided to push on and try for a few more miles. I was rested and filled with good food. It wasn’t long after I made it through the north I-75 gate to Nobles Road that the […]
On January 5th, we loaded up Primrose and headed south, traveling parallel to the Florida Trail for much of the trip, starting out at Christmas. Driving south of Tosahatchee, we continued through the Deseret Ranch where we spotted our first two Florida Trail thru-hikers walking up the highway. Although they are not keeping online journals, […]
This morning marked the first time that Florida Trail thru-hikers could get their picture taken in front of a terminus marker as found, say, on Springer Mountain in Georgia or Mt. Kathadin in Maine. Although the monument isn’t in place yet – the chunk of limestone hadn’t arrived – here’s a look at the marker […]
No longer officially part of the Florida National Scenic Trail, the Loop Road to Oasis section of the Florida Trail is now blazed blue. This is where sawgrass and cypress meet, where the Everglades and Big Cypress blend.