After an exhilarating airboat tour in Everglades City, we headed towards Shark Valley, which has an observation tower that provides amazing panoramic views of the heart of the Everglades.
Right before arriving at Shark Valley (Stop #1), we stopped at Miccosukee Restaurant for lunch. This is a restaurant on the Miccosukee Reservation. The restaurant menu provided lots of variety, which included some traditional Native American dishes, like Frybread, alligator nuggets, and Indian tacos. I’m still kicking myself for not trying their tacos, but I was a bit concerned about having that sit on my stomach and all the walking we would be doing that afternoon.
After leaving with stuffed tummies, just a 10th of mile down the highway was Shark Valley. Since we were there in peak season, we had to park on the main highway and had a trek a good ways to the entrance.
This sign prompted Rob to pull up the park website to try to get more information about Shark Valley.
I snapped this picture of Drew & Caitlyn as we waited for Rob to research. Notice the bird with the pencil-stick legs sneaking up behind them.
There so many different species of captivating birds in the Everglades.
After Rob had thought he read all the pertinent information, we walked the rest of the way to the entrance, paid the $10 fee, and then walked to the visitor center.
Along our walk we saw some lazy gators.
After going inside the Shark Valley Visitor Center and getting more information, we came to realize it’s a 15 mile loop that you can walk, take bike ride, or tram ride to the tower. All of the bikes were in use and the tram was sold out for the day. Needless to say, we didn’t do enough homework before coming to Shark Valley. So we trudged all the way back to our car upset that we had wasted $10 and boogied on to Stop #2, which was Royal Palm Visitor Center that has 2 trails.
We were happy to learn when arriving at Royal Palms that since we kept our receipt from Shark Valley, we wouldn’t have to pay any at anymore Everglade National Park entrances for the rest of the day! We ambled through the Gumbo Limbo Trail. This is 0.4 miles round trip, which is also wheelchair accessible, but bikes are not allowed. This trail is shaded by gumbo limbo trees, royals palms, and ferns.
The Anhinga Trail is a wheelchair accessible 0.8 miles round trip hike, that meanders through sawgrass marshes, dotted with turtles, gators, anhingas, herons, egrets, as well as other species.
Here is what the Anhinga Trail is named after. The Anhinga is a bird that we found scattered in many places throughout the Everglades.
They often sit perched like this one. We laughed every time we saw one sitting with it’s wings stretched out.
Such clear water. When I think of marshes or swamp areas, I never pictured that it would be so clean.
We jumped back in the car to drive to our Stop #3, which was the Pahayokee Trail. It was so interesting how each trail we went to was so different. The Pahayokee Trail boasts an elevated observation deck along the 0.16 mile boardwalk loop that skims the top of the sweeping river of grasses.
Stop #4, The Mahogany Hammock Trail is 0.5 mile boardwalk trail that winds through dense, hardwood canopy overhead with abundant vegetation of gumbo limbo trees, air plants, as well as the largest mahogany tree in the U.S.
Stop #5 is down at Flamingo, which if you refer back to the map you see how far south it is. We ended up turning around at Mahogany Hammock to head back North so we could hop on Hwy 1 towards Marathon Key. We kept going back and forth about whether to trudge on to last stop in the everglades, but that would have added a substansial amount of time to our day and daylight was limited. In hind-sight, I wish we would have just gone on down, so we have seen everything there is to see in the Everglades National Park. Live and learn!
Stay tuned for the next part of Florida tour, which included an early morning in Key West!
Here’s a couple more post about the Everglades…
Everglades Airboat Tour and Gator Show