If the devil ever raised a garden, the Everglades was it.James Carlos Blake
About the Park
Everglades National Park is one of the world’s most extensive wetlands and the largest subtropical wilderness remaining in North America. It is composed of an enormous stand of protected mangroves and is home to many rare and endangered species. The Everglades not only provide a home for many fish and wildlife, but it also provides drinking water to over 8 million people in Florida.
Check out the view of the boardwalk at the park!
Live it up!
Best Things to do in the Park
- Go for an Airboat ride through the Everglades and spot alligators
- Visit the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center to learn more about the park and see some great exhibits
- Hike on the Anhinga Trail. This is an easily accessible paved and boardwalk trail
- Take a ranger led tour. You can find out the list from the visitor centers
- Go on an early morning kayaking tour and see a sunrise
- Take the Shark Valley Tram ride along a 15-mile paved trail
We thought our trip to Everglades National Park in Florida was one of our favorite experiences as we toured the country seeing all the parks. We took an eco-tour and learned so much. Plus, there were dolphins! Who wouldn’t want to see them playing around our boat?
Size of Park
1.5 Million acres
Largest mangrove ecosystem in Western Hemisphere
A trip to Florida should include visiting the Everglades National Park. Located outside Miami, the park contains one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. The park is spread across 1.5 million acres of land. This tropical and subtropical habitat has also been designated as a Wetland of International Importance, an International Biosphere Reserve, and a World Heritage Site.
Everglades National Park is considered the largest subtropical wilderness in the country and is visited by at least one million tourists every year. This massive network of prairies, forests, and wetlands offers an incredible opportunity to those who want to experience raw nature.
The park has three main entry points; the Gulf Coast Visitor Center, Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, and the Shark Valley area. In this rugged landscape of Everglades National Park, you will find tropical hardwood hammocks, freshwater prairies, and hundreds of animal, bird, and plant species. It doesn’t matter if you visit the park in the dry or wet seasons; the park’s beauty captivates everyone. Check out our video from season one here!
Best hiking trails
Whether you want to hike or walk, Everglades National Park in Florida has various trails that allow you to explore its habitats. The trails in Everglades are categorized into Pine Island Trails, Shark Valley Trails, and Flamingo Trails. Of course, you can always hire an airboat or a pontoon to explore via waterways.
Anhinga Trail is one of the Pine Island Trails and is considered an easy trail. Most visitors prefer this trail because it’s only .8 miles long and can be completed in 15 minutes. In addition, the trail is open throughout the year and offers some beautiful views regardless of the season.
The trail can be accessed from the Royal Palm Visitor Center. The trail winds through a sawgrass marsh, so you can safely observe turtles, alligators, egrets, and many other birds. Pets and bicycles are not allowed on the trail.
Pa-hay-okee Overlook Trail is a small loop that only takes 3 minutes to complete. While this trail may not be for avid hikers, it is an excellent place for walking and bird-watching.
The trail has a raised observation platform on the boardwalk from where you can see a “river of grass.” You will see tall grass moving with the slow breeze for miles. This place is also quite popular for its sunset views.
Shark Valley Tram Trail
The Shark Valley tram Trail passes through the Shark Valley and is a challenging 15-mile trail. The trail can take more than 4.5 hours to complete and provides panoramic views of the Everglades. Wildlife in the area is found in abundance during winter. In summer, the trail is especially popular among bikers due to its long distance. It’s a great trail to run, too.
Long Pine Key Bike Trail
Long Pine Key Bike Trail is almost 15 miles long, which is why only a few people opt for this route. This track is usually deserted and is more suitable for hikers, campers, and backpackers. The trail is also a critical habitat due to the Florida leafwing and Bartram’s scrub hairstreak butterflies found in the area.
Coastal Prairie Trail
The entire Coastal Prairie Trail is moderately challenging as it is almost 12 miles long and is suitable for those who want to go hiking or running in the park. However, the trail should be traversed carefully due to the presence of some critical flora and fauna.
The trail ends at Clubhouse Beach, and on your way, you will pass open prairies of coastal plants. Hikers are advised to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts as there are many bugs and mosquitos in the area. Once you reach the beach, you will find tons of shells and crabs!
Camping in the Park
Camping is the best way to experience the wilderness in Everglades National Park in Florida. The park has three campgrounds; Long Pine Key Group Campground, Long Pine Key Campground, and Flamingo Campground. All these are great options whether you are visiting solo or with family.
Long Pine Key Group campground
Located seven miles from the park’s entrance, this campground is peaceful, well-maintained, and contains spacious campsites that provide much-needed privacy. Staying at this campground offers easy access to wildlife, fantastic hiking trails, and educational ranger-led programs. The campsites include restrooms that have potable water spigots. However, campers need to bring their firewood.
It is located 38 miles south of the main park entrance and has 3 group sites, 40 walk-up sites, 234 drive-up sites, and more than 100 RV sites. This campground is the most popular in Everglades, which is why campers should book months in advance, as slots can fill up quickly. Camping here allows easy access to kayaking and fishing as the campground is connected to the Ten Thousand Islands. The campground features a marina store, solar-powered showers, drinking water, and flush toilets. Some parts of the Flamingo Campground are closed during the wet summer months.
Long Pine Key Campground
The Long Pine Key Campground opens seasonally from November to May. The sites here are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. There is one large group campground and 108 drive-up spots. You will find flat private camping spots, clean restrooms, potable water, and a picnic area with fire grates. The toilets do not have showers, and campers must bring their firewood.
Camping options near the park
If you cannot find a camping site in Everglades, you can always look for suitable campgrounds in Homestead. Some of these campgrounds include Homestead Trailer Park, John Pennekamp Campground, and the Boardwalk RV Resort. Most locals recommend John Pennekamp Campground, which is only 33 miles away from Everglades National Park and includes electric hookups, water, grills, and picnic tables.
Shark Valley is a geological depression situated at the head of the Shark River Slough and is the most popular viewpoint in Everglades for animal viewing. Visitors can see birds, alligators, and turtles safely in the valley.
Shark Valley is named so because of the two nearby waterways: Little Shark River and Shark River. While these waterways contain several shark species, you won’t find any sharks in the valley.
Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center
Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center is the place you should visit for a good overview of the Everglades! There are several exhibits here that provide interesting information regarding the park.
Visitors should arrive here early in the morning to peacefully explore the area without worrying about the crowds. The Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center is 38 miles from the Flamingo Center and contains multiple short hikes and viewpoints.
Pa-Hay-Okee Lookout Tower
Located almost 13 miles from the Anhinga Trail, the Pay-Hay-Okee Lookout Tower offers an aerial view of the Everglades’ natural landscape. You can see the Shark River Slough, which flows from the northern part of the Everglades National Park.
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