The Shark Valley Loop inside the Everglades National Park is a great way to adventure travel through the interior of the “river of grass” and to see wildlife up close. The Everglades National Park is an enormous swath of 1.5 million acres of land in south Florida. Without a boat the wilderness is very difficult to penetrate. The park is a playground for canoeists and kayakers, but not so much for hikers.
There are very few hiking trails in the Everglades, so this is why the Shark Valley Loop is definitely a worthwhile stop for visitors. There are other hiking trails like the Anhinga Trail and a few down closer to Flamingo, but they are very short in nature. The Shark Valley Loop is 15 mile loop and the road is concrete and flat, so it is very easy to walk on it. The only caveat is there is hardly any protection, so make sure to bring suntan lotion, a hat, and rain gear.
There is a guided tram that circumnavigates the loop, but I definitely would recommend hiking it. This way you can stop and look whenever you want and are not at the whims of the driver, the guide, and other passengers. I am sure the guides do a wonderful job and it is nice to have an expert guide on hand, but the hike is more of an adventure. 15 miles seems like a long distance, but there is absolutely no elevation gain. The hike will take 3-6 hours, so one should definitely pack water and a snack or two.
The trams are $18.25, so the hike is for the budget minded as well as the adventurous. Another benefit of the hike is peace and quiet. On the day I hiked the trail I did not see a single person on the trail except for when the tram passed, so there were many delightful moments of solitude. Another great option is to bike the 15 miles. The tram service offers bike rentals at $7.50 an hour.
The wildlife is spectacular here. There are no sharks here, but the canal adjacent to the walkway are lined with turtles, alligators, and an occasional snake. When I hiked the trail it was in January and the alligators had just recently hatched from their eggs, so baby alligators were everywhere. There batches of them piled on top of each other.
As one would expect from Florida the bird life was also tremendous. The highlights include wood storks, herons, egrets, ibises, osprey, anhingas, purple gallinules, and perhaps a roseatte spoonbill if you are lucky.
There is an observation tower at the end of the loop where one gets a scenic panorama of the river of grass. When many think of the Everglades they think of trees and swamps, but most of the park is a vast river of grass, which is what gives the Everglades its name. This 11 mile road allows great vantage points for visitors to see the true Everglades.
The Shark Valley entrance is about 25 miles west of the Florida Turnpike (SR 821) on the Tamiami Trail (US 41). The cost to enter the Everglades is $10.00 and this is good for 7 days, so save your receipt if you are planning to later visit Flamingo south of Miami.
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