Shark Valley At Everglades National Park

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By: Jennifer Agress

Shark Valley: Gateway to the Everglades

Shark Valley is the first entry point from Miami to the unmatched natural beauty of the Florida Everglades. The area is located just 25 miles west of the Florida Turnpike. Visitors here won’t find any sharks, though: Shark Valley is named for two of its estuaries, the Shark River and Little Shark River, nearby waterways that are home to several shark species. Rather, visitors to Shark Valley are likely to encounter alligators, turtles and a wide variety of majestic birds including roseate spoonbills, great egrets and double-crested cormorants. Shark Valley is surrounded by ridges that reach as high as 20 feet above sea level, hence its name. The scenic Shark Valley can be explored in a variety of ways – on tram tours, by bike or on foot.

Shark Valley Tram Tour
Explore Shark Valley from the comfort of an open-air tram. 

Shark Valley Tram Tours

Trams take visitors on a guided two-hour nature tour of Shark Valley, led by local naturalists who describe the wildlife, plant species and ecological features that make the Everglades so special. The trams make a stop to allow explorers to climb up the spiral ramp to the 65-foot-tall Shark Valley Observation Deck to enjoy panoramic views of the Everglades that extend for 20 miles. These trams are open-air vehicles, perfect for taking photos of the varied wildlife within the sawgrass prairies of Shark Valley. All tram tours are operated by Shark Valley Tram Tours, an authorized concession of the National Park Service.

Family on bicycles stopping and looking at an alligator.
Biking in Shark Valley

Shark Valley by Bike

Shark Valley’s 15-mile, flat, paved road is ideal for bike riding. With so much fascinating wildlife to stop and see, a bike ride through Shark Valley typically takes two to three hours. Traveling on two wheels allows for up-close views of sunbathing alligators and turtles, wading native birds and more. Riders can either bring their own bicycle or rent one from Shark Valley Tram Tours.

Shark Valley Walking Trails

Shark Valley’s walking trails are a great way to immerse yourself in the unique environment of the Everglades. Check out the paved paths and boardwalks of Shark Valley’s three major walking trails. 

Tram Road Trail: As its name implies, this is the flat, paved road used by Shark Valley Tram Tours. Along the 15-mile loop, climb up the observation tower for panoramic views, and don’t miss the alligators, herons, egrets, snail kites, deer, turtles and other wildlife watching opportunities. The walking portion of the Tram Road Trail starts directly behind the Shark Valley Visitor Center and turns off Tram Road into a hardwood hammock just behind the observation tower. While this is a popular route for walking, it is also used for biking and, of course, tram tours.

Bobcat Boardwalk Trail: Branching off from Tram Road behind the Shark Valley Visitor Center, the 1.5-mile Bobcat Boardwalk Trail winds through a sawgrass slough and tropical hardwood forests on an easy-to-navigate wooden boardwalk. Open all year, it’s a great trail for kids and beginners. Allow plenty of extra time for photo-taking opportunities. 

Otter Cave Hammock Trail: Starting half a mile behind the Shark Valley Visitor Center, also off Tram Road, the Otter Cave Hammock Trail is a rough limestone trail that meanders through a tropical hardwood forest and passes over small streams via footbridges. Although this out-and-back trail is just a quarter of a mile long, it’s known for its plentiful wildlife. The trail is known to flood during the summer, so check with the visitor center before you head out to make sure conditions are good for walking.

Birds in the Everglades
Shark Valley is home to hundreds of bird species including great egrets. 

Shark Valley Visitor Center

The Shark Valley Visitor Center is the only commercial, air-conditioned building in Shark Valley. Visitors should head there to rent bicycles, sign up for a tram tour, meet up with a tour or buy books, postcards and other souvenirs from the gift shop. In the lobby, visitors will find a short film about the Everglades, as well as two educational exhibits: one on plume hunting in the 1800s and the other on water conservation in the Everglades. The visitor center is also the only place in Shark Valley where visitors will find restrooms and vending machines. The Shark Valley Visitor Center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Directions and Parking

Shark Valley is easily accessible from Miami, via the Florida Turnpike and the Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41). Parking is available at the Shark Valley Visitor Center. An entrance fee to the park is charged.

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