At West Lake, the Mangrove Trail loops through a forest that has seen its share of hurricane-related damage, from salty mud flats deposited by Hurricane Donna to the storm surges of 2005 from Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma. Yet this walk still leads you through a shady tunnel, showcasing the protector of Florida’s coastline, the mighty mangrove.
Location: Everglades National Park
Length: 0.4 miles
Lat-Long: 25.214318, -80.850822
Fees / Permits: none
Bug factor: moderate to annoying
Restroom: Yes, at the picnic area
From the Flamingo Visitor Center, follow Main Park Road north for 7 miles to the West Lake sign on the right. Turn right and park near the “Mangrove Trail” sign.
Follow the boardwalk into the shady mangrove forest, where bromeliads of various shapes and sizes cling to the gnarled branches of the mangroves. Giant leather ferns rise from the forest floor. During the dry season, spiders spin webs between the thousands of pnumatephores protruding from the sand like tiny fingers. These are the breathing roots of the black mangroves. You reach the beginning of the loop. Turn left to walk out to West Lake.
Red mangroves line the edge of the lake, standing tall on their roots. The roots are covered with a layer of thick salt, which the plants transpire as they soak in the brackish water. There are benches where the boardwalk heads out farther to give you great views of this massive lake. The boardwalk returns to the shade of the mangrove forest, completing the loop. Continue straight out to exit.