Added by Jenn Z
Few places are as wild as Big Cypress. Home to gators, venomous snakes, the Florida panther, turtles, lizards, deer, black bear, and nearly 200 species of birds, Big Cypress will expose you to some of the most rugged terrain in Florida.
This 5-mile swamp walk begins off of Loop Road. To get there, take the Tamiami Trail into Big Cypress National Preserve and turn onto Loop Road (a right turn if coming from the west, a left turn from the east) at Monroe Station. About 2.2 miles down the gravel road, you will see signage for the Gator Hook Trailhead. The trailhead will be on your left, along with picnic tables, pit toilets, and ample parking.
Depending on recent rainfall, the beginning section of the trail may be under a few inches of water or mud. Take your time walking over the potholed limestone trail, and a sturdy walking stick is strongly recommended. Hopefully you aren’t afraid of getting a little dirty or wet, because sections of the trail will be in knee-deep or waist-high water.
Part of the trail follows the old logging tram that was used to transport cypress trees out of the swamp, and you’ll walk over wooden remnants of the track. Along the route, you’ll encounter diverse habitats and plant life, such as bald cypress, dwarf cypress, air plants, and if lucky, ghost orchids.
Although the trail is marked with yellow blazes on the trees (orange blazes mark the Florida National Scenic Trail), it can be very easy to get lost out here. Be sure to research your route before setting out, and if you plan to explore farther off trail—for example, to check out one of the inviting cypress domes—a compass or GPS is recommended.
After your hike, head to Joanie’s Blue Crab Cafe for some post-hike beer and grub, and if you’re lucky, local country crooner Raiford Starke will be playing.
Note: The Oasis Visitor Center offers guided hikes in the winter months. Check the preserve’s website for the latest schedule.
- Walking stick
- Long pants
- Long-sleeved shirt
- Sturdy sneakers or hiking shoes that can be tied tightly
- Change of clothes for the ride home
- Camera and waterproof casing
- Plenty of water
- Bug spray
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