For many people, the ideal Florida vacation includes beach, sun, sand and a cold margarita. While the beaches of South Florida are certainly some of the best in the world, there is much more to the region than beaches, theme parks and crocodiles.
Hiking in Florida might not be touted as the main tourist option, but if you get tired of sunbathing and Disney World isn’t something that you enjoy, consider one of these five top hikes in South Florida.
What to Bring
Before we jump into the top hikes, however, there are a few things that you need to take into account to be best prepared for your hike, especially if you are planning to hike in the heat of summer. The temperatures in South Florida during the summer months can routinely reach into the high 90´s. Coupled with the humidity and the sun, hiking in Florida requires you to be prepared.
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First and foremost, you´ll want to bring plenty of water. While this may seem like common sense, water is heavy. Consider bringing a camel back to facilitate carrying around enough water. Sunscreen is also a must, especially for light-skinned people. If you are planning on making a backpacking trip out of your excursion into the South Florida wilderness, a lightweight camping hammock with a built-in mosquito netting will offer you a comfortable night´s rest while also protecting you from the sometimes vicious bugs.
In order to carry enough water, sunscreen, camping hammocks and the other necessities of life with you, you´ll want to invest in a quality backpack. You can find a good rundown on the great backpacks here.
Top Four Hiking Trails in South Florida
This beautiful trail is doable for pretty much any type of hiker. A 2.5 mile round trip trail will take you through some beautiful wetlands and flatwoods scenery. It is also a great spot for observing all different types of wildlife, including dozens of species of birds, mammals, and reptiles. One of the great things about Florida hikes, is that a little bit of rain shouldn’t scare you off as this will only cool things down to a comfortable temperature. Consider doing this hike during a soft rainfall. Once the rain stops, the bird song in the forest canopy will offer a unique symphony for your ears.
If you are in South Florida and have gotten tired of the beach scene, consider taking a trip to the Everglades National Park. This unique ecosystem of wetlands and marshes will make you feel like you’ve gone back in time to the Jurassic Era and you´ll be expecting to find some prehistoric dinosaur pop around the next bend of the trail.
This trail starts at the Royal Palm Visitors Center, just four miles from the park entrance and is actually a paved boardwalk making this hike easy for all types of people. But don´t let the ease of the hike fool you. As you walk over a fresh water sawgrass marsh, you´ll almost be sure to find all sorts of fascinating creatures including alligators, turtles, anhingas, herons, and egrets.
This beautiful state park isn´t well known but offers some great hiking trails without a lot of crowds. If you are looking for a great place to experience native Florida fauna, this state park is an inexpensive option. You can also rent canoes or bikes to experience different aspects of the park. For birdwatchers, the quietness of the park and the relatively few amount of tourists makes this park a great place to add a few birds to your life list.
Just outside of Miami, you´ll find Biscayne Bay which is actually a national park. Despite the relative proximity, you´d be hard pressed to find an environment that is as different from the beaches of Miami. This national park is filled with mangrove islands whose green lushness beautifully contrasts with the turquoise waters.
The Spite Trail is found on Elliot Key. This seven mile hike will take you through the center of the island with mangrove and unique hardwood forests. If you have your own boat, you can dock at the far end of the island where secluded beaches make a great way to end your hike.
South Florida: Much more than beaches
Next time you´re planning a trip to Florida, consider taking a day or two (or more) to get away from the crowds and experience the unique tropical ecosystems of wetlands, marshes, and mangrove forests that are teeming with wildlife and natural beauty. These four trails offer a view into a side of South Florida that few tourists ever see.