Top 10... Shark Valley Trail, Everglades
Bike with Gators!
The American alligator is a symbol of Florida. On this ride, you literally bike with (and around) many of these awesome symbols. You'll also see a variety of birds, turtles, and small fish. Located off the Tamiami Trail (US 41) near the Miccosukee Indian Reservation west of Miami, Shark Valley is a 14.5 mile paved loop. Bikes can be rented at the information center, or bring your own. A tram tour ride is available, bikes must stop when the tram passes. The Bobcat Boardwalk and Otter Cove offer short walks. The 65-foot observation tower offers panoramic views of the "river of grass." (More photos below.)
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|End Points: US 41 (Tamiami Trail)
Mileage: 14.5 miles
Location: Dade County (See map, left)
Nearby Points of Interest: Miccosukee Indian Reservation, Miccosukee Resort and Casino, Miami Beach, Everglades, Florida Keys, Big Cypress Preserve.
THE BEST TRAIL SECTIONS TO RIDE... and additional comments by MUDFISH
Shark Valley is truly one of the most unforgettable bicycle rides in America, if not the world. This is a loop trail leading south to an observation tower and back. The western side is straight with a canal on the right. You'll see far more alligators, birds and other wildlife up close on this side. While gators usually bask on the side of the trail (a tram runs every 20 minutes in season), sometimes one will simply crawl out to the middle and plunk down. So you learn to ride around, or wait for the next tram to chase it off. During a cool winter day, it's common to see 50 - 75 alligators (or more!) on the ride out to the tower.
The eastern side is curvy, with no canal running along side, so there are usually fewer gators to be seen. This is the newer section. Instead of a canal, it was built with fill creating three small lakes near the end of the ride. While this side was built in a more "environmentally friendly" manner, the wildlife obviously prefers the canal.
During the day, wading birds fan out into the everglades to feed, In the evening, they flock to alligator holes to roost. (This keeps the birds safe from raccoons and other predators.) One very popular alligator hole is next to the Park Visitor's Center. Beginning near sunset, you can watch as thousands of birds flock in to roost right in front of you. A captivating scene!
For a unique view, during a clear night with a full moon, ride to the observation tower to watch the sunset (park outside the main gate). On the ride back, you will not need a light! With moonlight reflecting off the river of grass like a mirror, you can't tell when twilight ends and night begins. During the cooler months, local bike clubs often meet here for this moonlight ride, so you won't be alone.
It's in a remote location, but well worth a trip (cool weather only)! Again - unforgettable!
BOBCAT'S PHOTO GALLERY along the Shark Valley Trail (hover over photo for larger view)
|Snake Bight - 1.6 miles to Florida Bay. Tropical hardwood hammock, bird watching. Bicycles allowed except on the dock; off-road biking.|
|Rowdy Bend - 2.6 miles - Overgrown old road bed joins with the Snake Bight Trail. Bicycles are permitted; off-road biking. A workout!|
|Long Pine Key Nature Trail - 7 mile continuous nature trail from the Long Pine Key campground. Bicycles are permitted; off-road biking.|
|Old Ingraham Highway - Near the Royal Palm Visitor Center, 11 miles. Open to bicycles. Rutted, but a hard-packed surface.|
- Be sure to get the seasons right. You'll also see far more alligators and other wildlife on a cool day in late fall or winter.
- Avoid the summer! There is no shade against the heat and humidity, the mosquitoes will swarm you, and thunderstorms and hurricanes are a threat.
More Information on Shark Valley, Everglades National Park (opens in a new window):
Shark Valley Trail, Everglades National Park, Unique Florida Biking.