Best Place To Hike (2000)

Unpaved section of Loop Road

Think of this potholed byway as a very wide hiking trail through an expansive swamp. It is one of the only consistently dry pathways for hoofing available in the preserve. About a half-hour west of Miami, the Tamiami Trail swerves northwest, a curve known as 40-Mile Bend at the eastern frontier of the Big Cypress preserve. If you are traveling west from the Magic City, take a left (south) here on to State Road 94, the Loop Road Scenic Drive. Follow the pavement until it ends, then park your vehicle and lace up your walking shoes. So peaceful is this zone you can hear the trickling of water as it flows through culverts beneath the road, er, trail. Alligators great and small like to lounge in the pools, while egrets and herons hang out nearby. Gilded garfish also frolic here. It is possible, but less likely, to spot deer, otter, and wild boars. For a little structure, hikers can start out with a walk on the very short Tree Snail Hammock Nature Trail, which offers an educational overview of plants and animals in Big Cypress. For a more adventurous and soggy experience, continue west for five more miles in your automobile (or on the bicycle you hauled out) and find the southern end of the Florida National Scenic Trail, which heads north into the stately saw grass and magnificent muck of the Roberts Lakes Strand. Don't forget bug repellent.


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