Date: January 13, 2012
Total Distance: 1.81 miles
Time to Completion: 55:07 (min:sec)
Elevation Gain: 0
Terrain: Primarily paved with sections of natural trail
* Map to Trailhead now included at end of article!
The New Year has been kind to Hiking with Impunity thus far, providing us with ample opportunities to sample hikes outside of our native Pennsylvania (with even more along the way later this year!). This time, Hiking with Impunity would land in South Florida thereby making it our mission to head to the Everglades and experience even a little of what hiking in South Florida has to offer. Out of the three hikes that we would go on, each tweaked the Florida experience differently, and each were completely worthwhile. While this first hike in the northeast portion of the Florida Everglades could be considered more of a scenic hike, it's an experience that people like us from the northeast portion of the country won't soon forget!
Using the book Hiking South Florida and the Keys, by M. Timothy O'Keefe as well as Sandra Friend's website Florida Hikes!, we were able to map out the best way of fitting three different hikes in one day. Our first stop was Shark Valley which included the Bobcat Boardwalk Trail and the Otter Cave Hammock Trail. Upon reaching the shark valley visitor center, we needed to pay a small fee to gain access to the park ($10 for a car). Shark Valley consists of a 15 mile paved trail that can be utilized by hikers and bikers as well as the tram that provides travelers with a two hour tour. At approximately the half way point, an observation tower can be found. As we wanted to attempt to hike at three different locations, we opted for a nearly two mile abridged hike which would consist primarily of an out and back with one small loop.
Beginning from the visitor center, we followed the paved trail, passing Bobcat Boardwalk on the left and heading straight along to Otter Cave Hammock trail. It took less than five minutes before we had our first encounter with a sleepy alligator. We saw dozens of gators as we hiked along the path - some basking in the sun right off the side of the trail, while others guarded their babies in the gator holes. National park service recommends maintaining at least a fifteen foot distance between yourself and the reptiles. While it is tempting to get ever-closer in the hopes of getting that perfect shot, it's best advised to heed the warning and stay outside of the fifteen feet distance recommended.
Upon reaching the Otter Cave Hammock trail, we made a left into the first entrance onto a primarily dirt trail with areas of limestone. Looking on the ground, one could see many random, cavities — formed from acid rain draining off the overhanging vegetation.
After finishing this short loop, we turned around and headed back out the way we came, making a right onto Bobcat Boardwalk before reaching the entrance. This amazing structure allowed visitors to walk from the one side of the main trail to the other side which exited the park.
Heading back to the visitors center, we saw one final alligator sunning itself on the side of the trail. It blinked slowly as we walked past. They truly are amazing creatures — but we were more than happy to see that they had more interest in dozing than the people walking by.
Next stop: Big Cypress Swamp! Coming soon to Hiking with Impunity.
You can check out our photo gallery from this hike by clicking here!
”Hiking” Mike Magro is the primary contributor and editor of Hiking with Impunity. Always on the look-out for a good hike, Mike is hoping to get through the rest of the year having minimal to no injuries while on the trail.
Follow Me on Twitter
Map to Trailhead: