The Florida Trail

Big Cypress National Preserve
Florida alligator keeping a low profile (Photo © Photodisc)
Trail at a Glance
Length : 42 miles
States : Florida
Difficulty : Potentially waterlogged
Season : Winter and early spring
Use : Moderate to low
Condition : Fair to poor
More : Florida Trail Association

The Big Cypress National Preserve adjoins the north side of the Everglades National Park, covering over 700,000 acres of cypress sloughs, pinelands, tropical hammocks, and freshwater marshes. The entire FT starts its northward journey here, and it starts off with a bang. The trail here is rough, rugged, and remote, while passing through some incredible scenery. Have you ever walked through a dwarf cypress swamp? The FT leaves Loop Road and wastes no time in initiating hikers into swamp slogging through picturesque cypress sloughs, crossing Roberts Lakes Strand, where water far outweighs dry land, eventually reaching the Tamiami Trail, at US 41.

The FT continues north beyond the Tamiami Trail. Wet feet are the norm here, too. Hikers must also contend with crossing muddy swamp buggy roads. But this inconvenience is well worth the views. It’s not all watery though; cypress soughs often give way to pine islands and prairies, offering continually changing landscapes. These pine islands allow camping and are also habitat for deer. And where there are deer, there is the Florida panther—deer is its preferred fare. The panther needs remoteness, too, and the Big Cypress has plenty of that, especially farther north on the FT. Tree islands become more lush, with palms and eventually tropical trees, such as gumbo limbo and Simpson stopper. In the extreme north of the preserve, cypress trees once again dominate, and the tree islands act as dry waysides for resting and camping.

During the 1800s, it was in the expanse that is now the Big Cypress where the Seminoles hid, outfoxing U.S. troops until the federals gave up searching for the wiley American natives. Backpackers will find that the trip on the FT from Loop Road to I-75 is one of the most unique trips ever, and will understand why the Seminoles chose the Big Cypress to make their last stand.

Published: 3 Mar 2003 | Last Updated: 8 Nov 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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