When visiting south florida and looking for something active to do we recommend the Shark Valley National Park bike loop! There are no other places like this, dare we say, in the world! This 15 mile loop gives you unobstructed access to all of the wildlife that the Everglades has to offer. You’ll see all kinds of birds, snakes, lizards, fish, and of course alligators! Now we don’t mean maybe you’ll come across one or two if you’re lucky, we mean you may have to swerve around alligators laying across your bike path. Don’t worry just use caution when you encounter them, they’re very docile and don’t seem to react much to people. As you can see by these pictures, all taken during our last visit.
Shark Valley is located on the border between Collier and Miami-Dade county in the heart of the everglades right across from the Miccosukee Indian’s restaurant. It is a national park and current admission is $10 (they encourage use of credit cards). Most of us don’t travel with our bikes so don’t worry they offer rentals for $9/hr, but be warned they are beach cruiser style. If you’re lucky enough to have your own bike in this area bring it, as a 15 mile beach cruiser ride is no walk in the park (although you can walk in this park instead of bike). The parks name is funny and often gets asked “Why is it called Shark Valley”? The everglades (and Florida in general) is very very flat and this location happens to be lower lying than its surroundings, plus it happens to be near Shark River, hence Shark Valley. Not because one part of the trail is windy like a sharks fin (seriously we heard this).
At the park you’ll find a large amount of educational signs and tours. There is the common tram tours, but the more unique tour is the everglades walking tour. This tour guides you into and through the muddy waters of the everglades to really get up close and personal with the wildlife. Half way down the the 15 mile path is the 65 foot observation tower offering an amazing 360 degree view and a nice break with restrooms at the bottom. The initial road and tower were originally built by an oil company, but the oil they extracted was too loaded with impurities to be cleaned with the older technology so they left it to become a park.
Helpful hints for those who go. If you have the luxury of timing your trip in the year, to observe the most wildlife we suggest going in the “dry” season of South Florida. Meaning if you can go between November and March the water levels will be lower and the temperature cooler. This means that the birds will be around, Alligators sunning, and mosquitos almost non existent! Even though it is completely flat don’t mistake how powerful a steady wind can be on the curvy section of the path so bring plenty of water to stay hydrated. The bike ride will take about 2 1/2-3 hours to complete depending on speed and how often you stop to say “oh look a gator!”
The park is located at 36000 SW 8th St., Miami, FL 33194 and is quite easy to get to with any GPS system so next time you’re looking for a way to explore South Florida, get close to nature, and be active go check it out!