Everglades National Park
Florida, USA

This unique habitat features diverse flora, wildlife, and ecosystems. You can find everything from prairies to tropical hammocks to marine estuaries. The Everglades has two distinct seasons - dry and wet. The dry season is in winter. Since Florida has warm winters, the park is popular among tourists as well as birds. It is also when ranger programs are held. The west season is from April to November and is typical hot, humid, and buggy.

If you're coming from the West Coast of Florida, you'll enter through the Gulf Coast Visitor Center. This is in Everglades City and is the destination for anyone looking to explore the Ten Thousand Islands. This system of magroves and waterways is only accessible by boat. A 90-minute tour can be booked, or you can rent canoes or kayaks. If you do rent, try the Turner River Canoe Trail for a long paddle through mangroves. Wilderness camping is available here.

The Shark Valley Visitor Center is in the middle of the park and offers a video. Guided tram tours can be picked up here. For hiking, there are two short trails. The Otter Cave Hammock Trail is a .25-mile one-way interpretive limestone trail that goes through tropical hardwood forests and traverses a small stream. Bobcat Boardwalk is a popular .5-mile one-way boardwalk trail through sawgrass and more tropical hardwood.

On the eastern side of the park is the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center in Homestead, FL. and the Shark Valley Visitor Center (Miami, FL). This center features a video and trails, know as the Pine Island Trails. Enjoy the short and shady .4-mile round trip Gumbo Limbo Trail. For more jungle-like atmosphere, the .5-mil round trip Mahogany Hammock Trail is a worthwhile boardwalk excursion. I highly recommend the Anhinga Trail. It's a .8-mile round trip through a sawgrass marsh that is full of alligators, turtles, and a varity of birds. If you want to see more pines, the short Pineland Trail is for you. Bicyclists can enjoy the much longer Long Pine Key series of trails.

In the south of the park, you'll find the Flamingo Visitor Center. This small center is used infrequently, but is a good launching point for backcountry hikes and has a boat ramp, handy marina store, a campground (the only other frontcountry campground is Long Pine Key Campground), and wilderness camping. There are several hiking and canoeing trails nearby. Snake Bight Trail is a 1.6-mile one-way unmaintained hiking trail that meanders through dozens of tropical trees and countless birds. There is a boardwalk at the trail end. Kayakers and canoers can enjoy the easy route to Nine Mile Pond or a more challenging route through the mangroves of Hell's Bay.

Happy Travels!