Weekend Backpacker: Miami
Welcome to the jungle! Strangler figs dangle from gumbo limbo trees while monster philodendrons wave their umbrella-size leaves from the sides of mahogany trees. The six-mile loop trail at Collier-Seminole State Park is the most tropical backpacking outing in the United States, where a tangle of jungle presses up against the Big Cypress Swamp. The tallest royal palms in the state grow here the tallest in the world is said to grow along this trail and thousands of exotic trees and shrubs densely populate the tropical hammocks. Where the jungle meets the Everglades' sea of grass, the lush vegetation gives way to miles of sawgrass, salt marsh, and mangroves. It's truly a botanist's paradise, and enjoyable to explore.
Take I-95 to I-595, Alligator Alley, which connects with I-75. Head south on US 41; the park is about seven miles south of the US 41/SR 951 junction. Driving time: Two and a half hours.
Backpackers must register at the park office and get the lock combination to open the gate to the trailhead. The trail is on the side of US 41 opposite the park entrance, 0.7 miles south, with a parking area behind the locked gate. The state park entrance fee of around $3.25 is charged.
Rangers will have a simple map of the loop trail at the park office. For a detailed map, the Florida Trail Association map SF-9, Collier-Seminole State Park Trail can be purchased from the Florida Trail Association; visit their website for an order form.
The primitive campsite along the trail (watch for blue blazes off the main white-blazed trail) is one of the prettiest in Florida, set high and dry in a tropical hammock. No campfires are allowed, and no water is available at the campsite. Because of the heat and humidity year-round, park officials recommend each hiker carry at least 4 quarts of water for an overnight trip. Bears have frequently been seen along this trail; be sure to use bear bags. Depending on the time of year and the amount of rainfall, some of the hike can get pretty swampy. Wear boots that are up to the challenge of a mile or more of ankle-deep water. When passing by the Miccosukee Indian settlement, resist the temptation to sneak up on the village from the trail visitors are welcome from the US 41 access, but the natives don't like hikers walking from the forest into their village.
Collier-Seminole State Park
20200 E. Tamiami Trail
Naples FL 34114
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication