This eye-opening hike can be custom tailored to any ability or fitness level and will take you through some of the best, unspoiled, native wilderness in South Florida.

First, you'll arrive at the Collier County Rest Area (26.1674944,-81.0806947) off of the Everglades Parkway. You can either park in front of the rest area, or on the paved area directly north of it near the trailhead. Walk through the pedestrian gate and make your way toward the Florida National Scenic Trail kiosk. Please sign in (and out on your way back with any pertinent information about what you saw on the trail). The kiosk will depict the different routes available to you. If you're a beginner, simply choose one of the shorter routes. All of them loop back to the kiosk. I chose a 16 mile route, and it was fairly challenging.

You'll start out heading almost directly north on the Florida Trail, and you'll be able to head east down the various trails (each marked with their respective blaze colors denoted at the kiosk). There are several campgrounds available on the various trails. I visited the Panther and Carpenter Camps (both were essentially the same). All are primitive (no water or bathrooms) and have room for quite a few tents (at least five or six).

You can make this a day hike or easily stretch it out into a day or two of camping and backpacking.

The trails will take you through some Pine Rockland (one of the original ecosystems of South Florida), a few small swampy areas, some open prairies, and (especially on the blue trail) a few overgrown patches of subtropical jungle.

Depending on the route you take and recent rainfall, you'll probably come across a few spots on the trail that'll be a little muddy. Carefully head through the wet areas, but stay on trail so you don't disturb any of the natural area off-trail. You'll find plenty of birds and small mammals, and the occasional alligator (don't worry, just give them plenty of room and walk around them as widely as possible).

NOTE: I found there to be ample cellular service across the entire area (with my AT&T phone).

Pack List

  • Map NPS Trail Map and/or the USGS
  • Compass (optionally supplemented with a GPS receiver or the GPS on your smartphone)
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen
  • Extra clothing
  • Headlamp (or flashlight)
  • First-aid supplies
  • Firestarter
  • Matches
  • Knife
  • Extra food
  • Water or Filtration device (plenty of water along the trails)
Show More
RT Distance 16 Miles
Elevation Gain 0 Feet
Activities Camping, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Trail Type Loop
Features
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
Picnic Area
Scenic
Wildlife

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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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