Destinations | North America

12 Best Hikes in the Everglades – Florida Hiking Trails

2 Mar 2021 | Destinations, Florida, North America, Outdoors

Located in South Florida is the beautiful Everglades National Park – a heaven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. From easy boardwalks to untouched wilderness, these 12 best hikes in the Everglades have something for everyone!

12 Best Hikes in the Everglades: Florida Hiking Trails 

About Everglades National Park, Florida

Everglades National Park in Florida is a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, and a Wetland of International Importance. The park is home to numerous rare and endangered species like the West Indian manatee, American crocodile, and the elusive Florida panther.

Everglades protects an unparalleled landscape of wetlands, coastal mangroves, sawgrass marshes and hundreds of wildlife species. 

Areawise, it occupies 1.5-million-acre of wetlands, on the southern tip of Florida. 

Hiking in the Everglades

** Disclaimer: This post contains affiliated links which means that purchases made through these links reward Bey of Travel a small commission without any additional charge for the purchaser.** 

To access the National Park, there are entrance fees

  • The annual entrance pass fee for Everglades National Park is $40 USD
  • Seven-day entrance passes start at $20 USD for a private vehicle, $15 USD for a motorcycle, and $8 USD for an individual
  • Persons under age 16 are admitted free
  • If you are a frequent National Parks visitor, use your America – The Beautiful Pass.

There are four separate entrances to the park. 

  • Main Park Road at Homestead is the most popular of them all. This entrance leads to most of the park’s hiking trails. Visitor Center: Ernest Coe Visitor Center, 40001 SR 9336, Homestead
  • Shark Valley, along US 41 (west of Miami) is also a popular destination with a paved biking/tram loop and nature trails. Visitor Center: Shark Valley Visitor Center, 36000 SW 8th St, Miami (along US 41)
  • The Gulf Coast Visitor Center and Flamingo Visitor Centers (home to 99-mile Wilderness Waterway). Visitor Center: 
Hiking in the Everglades
You can spend anywhere from a quick day trip, a weekend to a full week paddling through the Everglades. There are easy nature hikes and walks to strenuous backcountry trips of 99 miles (following the Wilderness Waterway Trail) to satisfy beginner and advanced outdoor adventurers. 

The northern entrance of Everglades National Park, makes it easy for vacationers in Miami to head there for a day trip. There is a 15 mile paved loop road with an observation tower, which provides a scenic view and drive to explore the national park.

If you are planning to explore more of Everglades (with overnight stay), consider staying at Everglades City. Keeping this city as a base will allow you quick access to the park. This town sits right on the park’s western border and is home to the Gulf Coast Visitor Center. 

Note that the best time to visit Everglades National Park is from November to March. November is a rainy season in Florida, and you can expect to sight alligators during this time. In the winter months, you can check out a variety of birds, and wildlife is at its best. 

In the next section, I will share my packing checklist for exploring Everglades. 

Hiking in the Everglades

Preparing for hikes in the Everglades

Here are essential tips to prepare for your hike, and items to include in your packing list!

Essential Tips for Everglades 

  • Start early: You must start early, especially if you are on a day trip. Starting early will help to make the most of your trip.
  • Easy – moderate or difficult trails: For challenging trails, it is important to be physically prepared. In this post, I have included easy hikes or walks that can be undertaken by any one. 
  • Check the Weather: Always check the weather, seasonal closures, and business and sightseeing alerts prior to your trip. Be aware of changing weather conditions (possible rain or thunderstorms). 
  • National Parks Pass: Don’t forget the Park Pass.
  • Buy Travel Insurance: Always get travel insurance for trips! 
  • Leave no Trace: Be a responsible traveler, and do your bit to safeguard and preserve the environment.
  • Note that pets are not allowed on any of the park’s trails at the Everglades. 

Read next | TWO DAYS IN MIAMI 

Packing for Everglades

  • Water Bottle: It is essential to bring plenty of water on your hikes. Get this water bottle, and fill it up before your hike. You can also easily clip this water bottle to a backpack
  • This backpack is of a nice size, and also waterproof
  • Carry a backpack or shoulder bag to store lunchbox or health/nutrition bars on your hike
  • Hiking Shoes: Wear sturdy shoes for hiking. This is important to keep your feet protected on your trails.
  • Moisture-wicking clothing is helpful to keep the body dry when you are up and about. These clothes help to pull the sweat away from your body. I recommend long sleeves tops, and pants, as it can also protect you from extreme heat (and bugs) at the Everglades.
  • Bring a light jacket for earning morning or winter hikes. Remember to layer on
  • Quick Dry Towel
  • Mosquito/bug repellents: Insects, including mosquitoes and a variety of biting flies, may be present year-round at the Everglades National Park, and severe in the hot, humid summer months. Highly recommend carrying a mosquito repellent with you.
  • Don’t forget your sunscreen lotion and deodorant
  • Bring your Camera

 

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12 Best hikes in the Everglades National Park: Hiking in Florida

Pa-hay-okee Overlook Trail

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Length: .25 miles (0,4 km)
  • Starting Point: 12 miles/19.3 km from the Main Park Road entrance
  • What to expect: Short boardwalk

Pa-hay-okee Overlook Trail is a short boardwalk trail that leads to a lookout tower and offers amazing views of wildlife and the nearby areas. 

The trailhead is located near the Main Park Road, about 12 miles from the park entrance.

West Lake Trail

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Length: 0.5 miles (0.8 km)
  • Starting Point: 31 miles/49.8 km from the Main Park Road entrance
  • What to expect: Boardwalk, route through mangroves 

West Lake Trail is a shaded boardwalk trail, which can be accessed off of Main Park Road about 31 miles from the park entrance. This is an easy hike that passes through mangroves to the edge of West Lake. 

Hiking in the Everglades

Anhinga Trail

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Length: .8 miles (1.2 km)
  • Starting Point: Royal Palm Visitor Center
  • What to expect: Wildlife, biodiversity

Anhinga Trail is a short and easy trail that welcomes you to the park’s unique biodiversity. In this route, you’ll see alligators, turtles, birds and many others, in a natural habitat. 

The trailhead to Anhinga is located next to the Royal Palm Visitor Center.

Bayshore Loop

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Length: 1.3 miles (2 km) loop
  • Starting Point: Flamingo Campground, Coastal Prairie Trail
  • What to expect: Coastal trail, mangroves, waterfront views (no bikes allowed)

Bayshore Loop is an easy walk that allows you to taste the wonders of challenging coastal trails like Coastal Prairie, and Christian Point. This is a 1.3 mile loop that goes through mangrove-lined edges of Florida Bay, and takes you to the fishing village of Flamingo. 

Along the way, you get to check out the waterfront, and go bird watching along the shore. 

 

Hiking in the Everglades

Bobcat Boardwalk

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Length: .3 miles (.48 km) round trip
  • Starting Point: Miccosukee
  • What to expect: Bird watching, great for winter and early spring

The Bobcat Boardwalk at Shark Valley is an easy hike that allows you to see migratory and nesting birds. It is a popular trail in the winter months when migratory birds abound, and in the early spring months as well.

To reach the starting point of the paved loop, head to the Miccosukee Reservation area, and then access the park entrance on the south side of the highway.

From the Visitor Center, follow the paved trail paralleling a canal. In a few steps, you will arrive at the Bobcat Boardwalk trailhead on the left. 

You can follow the paved loop south to the start of the trail, and then return back the same way you came, or use the paved loop to return to the parking area. 

Pinelands Trail

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Length: .4 miles (.64 km) round trip
  • Starting Point: Flamingo
  • What to expect: Tropical landscape

Pinelands Trail is a short and an easy walk for all hiking levels. It is also wheelchair accessible. 

This trail showcases pine rocklands and tropical forest-like landscape. You can check out liguus tree snails, and tropical trees like Jamaican dogwood and more. 

The pine rocklands here are one of the rarest remaining habitats in Florida.

Gumbo Limbo Trail

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Length: .4 miles (.64 km) round trip
  • Starting Point: Starts from the Royal Palm Visitor Center/ Royal Palm Hammock
  • What to expect: Wonderful flora – trees, ferns and air plants

Gumbo Limbo Trails is an easy hike of .4 miles, round trip. This route is also wheelchair accessible. 

The trail takes you through a world of gumbo limbo trees, royal palms, ferns, and air plants. It crosses a short boardwalk as you hike along. As the trail ends, you will emerge from the woods facing the visitor center, adjacent to the parking area.

The route is about four miles (6 km) away from the main park entrance/Ernest Coe Visitor Center.

Eco Pond Trail

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Length: .5 miles (.8 km) round trip
  • Starting Point: On the right past the Flamingo Visitor Center
  • What to expect: Bird watching, views

Eco Pond is an easy trail of .5 miles long (round trip). 

As you walk around this freshwater pond, you are welcomed to the sound of a variety of wading birds, ducks, songbirds, and other wildlife. Oftentimes, you can also sight alligators and Florida softshell turtles.

Hiking in the Everglades

Bear Lake Trail

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Length: 3.5 miles (1.2 km) round trip
  • Starting Point: Flamingo Campground, Coastal Prairie Trail
  • What to expect: Bird watching, views

Bear Lake Trail is a moderate level hiking trail that takes you on a historic journey. The route has remnants of early developers attempting to drain the coastal prairies around Cape Sable.

The trailhead can be accessed from the Flamingo Visitor Center. From there, follow Main Park Road north for 0.5 mile to Bear Lake Road. Starting at the trailhead, it leads you down a corridor surrounded by tropical forest, and the mangrove-lined canal called the Bear Lake Canal. 

At the end of the hike you will see Bear Lake’s scenic views!

Christian Point Trail**

  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Length: 4.3 miles (6.9 km) round trip
  • Starting Point: Flamingo Campground
  • What to expect: Rugged terrain, prairie, mangrove forest, buttonwood forest, tropical trees, and other flora

The Christian Point Trail is considered to be one of the challenging trails in Everglades National Park. Although open, this trail is not maintained. 

To access the trail, head to the Flamingo Visitor Center, follow Main Park Road north for 0.8 mile to the Christian Point trailhead on the right. 

The hike starts in a mangrove forest, and then enters a wet area (accessible via a boardwalk). Once you cross the mangrove forest, you will enter a small prairie, which opens onto a large marl prairie. 

On the far side of this prairie lies Snake Bight, a part of Florida Bay. As you proceed further you will enter a forest of buttonwood and black mangroves, and finally see views of Snake Bight and the rest of Florida Bay. 

Best hikes in Everglades

Coastal Prairie Trail**

  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Length: 7.5 miles (12 km) one way
  • Starting Point: Flamingo Campground
  • What to expect: Coast views, extreme/challenging terrain

Coastal Prairie Trail is a challenging route in the Everglades. Although currently open, the trail has to be traversed carefully and cautiously, as they are not maintained. There could be vegetation, or other flora and fauna that could pose hurdles to your hike.

This trail takes you back in time, to the time when this route was used by cotton pickers and fishers. Along the way, you will find prairies of succulent coastal plants. 

Coastal Prairie Trail begins at the rear of Loop “C” of the Flamingo Campground, and ends at Clubhouse Beach. Note that a permit for backcountry camping is required.

Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Length: 5 miles (8 km) loop
  • Starting Point: 31 miles/49.8 km from the Main Park Road entrance
  • What to expect: Marsh and mangroves 

Nine Mile Pond is a canoe trail. All of 5 miles, you can expect to spend 4 to 5 hours to leisurely paddle this loop. You can see alligators, wading birds, turtles, and fish on this trail. 

Ensure you carry rain gear, snacks, PFD for each canoeist, an extra paddle, and waterproof bag for gear. 

Hiking in the Everglades

After Everglades National Park, what next?

Florida has so much to offer to its visitors. Yes, there are beaches, and artsy quarters, it is natural gems like the Everglades that will pleasantly surprise you. 

If you love eco-adventures, you must add Biscayne National Park to your bucket list. It is easy to explore this national park from downtown Miami. 

Biscayne showcases aquamarine waters, emerald islands, and fish-bejeweled coral reefs, combined with maritime history, from pirates to shipwrecks. 

Big Cypress National Preserve is another site to visit after the Everglades. Big Cypress is mainly a cypress swamp (of rainwater). It is also located close to Miami, just like Bisayne. 

Can’t visit now? Check out these virtual tours and experiences from the Everglades National park

Important note: There are a few trails at the Everglades National Park which although open, they are not maintained. You must travel them at your own risk!

These include – Coastal Prairie**, Christian Point**, Bear Lake, Long Pine Key Bike Trail, Snake Bight, Rowdy Bend. 

Pin: Best Hikes at the Everglades National Park Florida Guide

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