Top Hiking Trails in Everglades

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By: Shayne Benowitz

For active adventurers and anyone who loves spending time in nature, a hike through Everglades National Park is one of the best ways to experience the park’s subtropical wetlands, sawgrass prairies and pine rocklands. There are a wide variety of hikes to choose from of varying lengths, from loops of less than a mile to connecting trails that span dozens of miles. No matter what section of the Everglades you visit, a trailhead with plenty to discover is nearby. 

Hikes Near Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center

Many of the top hikes are accessible from the Royal Palm entrance and the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, which is closest to Homestead in South Dade, about an hour’s drive from downtown Miami.

Gumbo Limbo Trail

Located near the Royal Palm Information Station and Bookstore, the Gumbo Limbo Trail is one of the most accessible Everglades nature walks. At less than half a mile, it’s a great trail for families traveling with younger children. A paved loop meets a boardwalk where you’ll walk through a dense tropical hardwood hammock towards a waterway surrounded by royal palms, ferns, and, of course, the trail’s namesake gumbo limbo trees with their red peeling bark (this tree is sometimes called the "tourist tree" for that reason). This trail is a birder’s paradise where you’re likely to spot egrets, great blue herons, cormorants, purple gallinules and other colorful wading and migratory birds, as well as zebra butterflies and tree snails. When you reach the water, keep your eyes peeled for turtles and even an alligator or two. 

Anhinga Trail

At just under a mile, the Anhinga Trail is located near the Royal Palm Information Station and Bookstore and is another great trail for families. You have the option to explore this paved loop on your own or join a ranger-guided hike (note: some ranger-led programs are temporarily suspended due to covid-19 precautions). The trail is named for the anhinga bird you may spot perched on trees or diving for fish in Taylor Slough. There’s also a good chance that you’ll spot alligators sunbathing on the shore or swimming through the waterway. Make sure to keep your distance from bodies of water while exploring. With its sawgrass prairies and slough, Anhinga Trail is a good place to spot wildlife. Look for turtles, herons, egrets and other animals.

Pinelands Trail

Roughly two miles from the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, the Pinelands Trail is a half-mile paved loop through a variety of habitats, including pine rockland, prairie and hardwood hammock. An information kiosk marks the trailhead where you’ll set out through a slash pine rockland forest surrounded by craggy limestone, saw palmettos, pine trees, Jamaican dogwood and gumbo limbo trees. Take your time to soak in the scenery and look for tree snails and wildflowers. Pine rocklands are a rare habitat found only in the Everglades, the Florida Keys and some parts of the Bahamas – making the Pinelands Trail a unique treasure.

Long Pine Key Trails

For active adventurers up for a challenging trek, the Long Pine Key Trails are a series of connecting trails that span up to 22 miles throughout the Royal Palm section of the Everglades. Many of these trailheads are found near the Long Pine Key Campground. While these trails are open, not all of them are actively maintained by park staff, so hikers should be prepared for trails covered with vegetation or branches. If this doesn’t deter you, you’ll be wowed by the hardwood hammocks, waterways and wildlife along the way.

Hikes Near Flamingo Visitor Center

Flamingo is about an hour's drive from the Ernest F. Coe Visitor's Center on State Hwy. 9336 through the park. A common way to explore the park is to enter at the Ernest F. Coe entrance and follow the road between the two visitors centers, making stops along the way.

Guy Bradley Trail

Once you’ve reached the Flamingo Visitor Center, the Guy Bradley Trail extends just over a mile west along the Florida Bay on a paved trail ending at an amphitheater and the area’s impressive campgrounds. The trail offers a unique vantage point of an important part of the Everglades, the bay that its slough flows into. Here, you’ll spy pelicans and wading birds such as herons, egrets and ibis. The park is named for Guy Bradley, Audubon warden and deputy sheriff of Monroe County at the turn of the century, and your view south is his former jurisdiction, the Florida Keys.

Hikes Near Shark Valley Visitor Center

This park entrance is about an hour away from downtown Miami. This visitor center offers a tram tour along Tram Road – a paved road popular for hiking and biking. There are also a few trails in the area.

Tram Road

This road is perhaps the most popular trail near the Shark Valley Visitor Center. An observation tower marks the half-way point of Tram Road. If you’re not up for walking the entire road, you can rent a bicycle from Shark Valley Tram Tour Company.  

Otter Cave Hammock Trail

Shark Valley is also home to the quarter-mile Otter Cave Hammock Trail. This trail is an offshoot of the paved tram road roughly a half-mile from the visitor center. The craggy limestone trail meanders through a tropical hardwood hammock and over footbridges across a stream. It’s common to spot gators in this part of the park and you’re also likely to spy ospreys and butterflies.

Bobcat Boardwalk Trail

This half-mile long boardwalk stretches through sawgrass slough and tropical hardwood forests. The  boardwalk is wheelchair accessible. You can spot migratory birds, alligators and other wildlife along this boardwalk trail.

Plan Ahead

While the Everglades are open with COVID-19 safety precautions in place, always call or check the park’s website for alerts and closures before making your journey. Various portions of the park sometimes close unexpectedly due to weather events, flooding and other issues. Don’t forget your sunscreen, a hat, bug spray, snacks and plenty of water to stay fueled and protected during your hikes. 

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