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Six Best South Florida Hiking Trails

While South Florida is known worldwide for it’s sandy beaches, tropical ambiance, and raucous nightlife, under its glitz is a unique landscape, unlike anywhere in the United States. Interconnected waterways reveal lush mangrove forests, mysterious swamps that stretch for miles to the Gulf, and hidden passages that are so close to the city, get feel a world removed. These are the six best hikes in South Florida.Spite Highway Trail, Biscayne National Park
Many people forget that Biscayne Bay, encompassing the waters and mangrove isles jutting beside Downtown Miami, is a National Park, with protected trails, wildlife, and forests on turquoise waters. On Elliot Key, the Spite Trail is a seven-mile walk-able highway, traversing through the center of the key, through mangrove and hardwood forests. Small creatures are plenty, and the bright hue of tropical flowers adds liveliness and color. Elliot Key has campsites, boat docks, and picnic areas leading to a hidden and secluded beach at the far end.Fire Prairie Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve
Big Cypress National Preserve encompasses a large swath of Southwestern Florida. As old-growth trees rise out of the watery landscape, bears, panther, and alligator roam freely near the Tamiami Trail. The Fire Prairie Trail feeds into open grasslands, bordered by dense hardwood forests and teeming with life. Settle down in the secluded campground before following the five-mile out-and-back trail where deer graze on sawgrass, and reptiles crawl across the roads, to nest and cool-down in the nearby canals. This is South Florida’s famed, protected land.Snake Bight Trail, Everglades National Park
Jutting into Florida Bay, the Snake Bight Trail is an easy 1.6-mile boardwalk, bringing hikers between tropical trees, exotic birds, and large alligators. The trail gazes out into Florida Bay, as hikers walk along one of the southernmost points of the continental United States. Flamingo is where most of the backcountry sites are found, and while some of the sites, such as Clubhouse Beach, are accessible by foot, many are found by renting a boat or canoe. Be sure to ask about sleeping on one of the wooden chickee hut platforms built above the water. Pitching a tent or hammock while the gators slither in the water below is not an experience to soon forget.

Alhinga Trail, Everglades National Park
The Alhinga Trail is one of the most famous trails in the Everglades. During the dry season, this short boardwalk, less than a mile long is teeming with birds, fish, and a variety of marsh bound wildlife. The well-maintained trail starts from the Royal Palm Visitor Center, as hikers walk past tropical trees, mangroves, and emerge onto an open marsh. The sunset over the swamp is one of the most spectacular in the state, and the trail is accessible to children and wheelchairs. For wildlife lovers, this is the trail that they want to be on.

Oleta River State Park Trail, Oleta River State Park
While the trails at Oleta River State Park are generally used for mountain biking, the boardwalk that cuts through the forests is excellent for hiking through lush mangrove forests. What makes Oleta River such a popular park is its vicinity, nearly in the center of North Miami. 16-miles of trails spread throughout the park, and the hills slightly rise, with a big drop off at the end, which makes it a favorite of hikers, mountain bikers, and trail runners alike.  In the hustle and bustle of a large city like Miami, Oleta River provides a welcome escape.

Virginia Key, Virginia Key Mountain Bike Park
With over five miles of mountain bike and hiking trails ranging from beginner to advanced difficulty, Virginia Key sits between Key Biscayne and Miami Beach, offering a point of seclusion between two of the most popular places in the city. While the trail is primarily used for mountain biking, it’s wide and varied for hikers or trail runners. The trail ends on pristine beaches overlooking the Miami skyline, and it’s not uncommon to see turtles, dolphins, and a variety of birds flying between Biscayne Bay’s mangrove islands.

by Michael Restivo

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