Pine Glades Lake Trail

This trail doesn't really have a name. In fact it's barely acknowledged by park officials. But if you stop at the visitors' center on your way in and ask for a map of the Long Pine Key Trail (bicycles permitted), you'll receive a photocopied, hand-sketched diagram on a single sheet of paper. Here's what to do with it: Drive nine miles from the park entrance and look for a dirt road on the left (south) side of the park's main thoroughfare. The intersection, marked by a stop sign for drivers re-entering the main road, is the beginning of the Long Pine Key Trail. Park there or drive on to Pine Glades Lake, about a half-mile, where you'll find an unimproved parking area. The hike-and-bike trail formally begins at a nearby gate. Less than a mile ahead the trail forks, with the main branch continuing straight. Take the smaller fork to the right. (Bicycles prohibited.) In time you'll exit the pinelands and the vistas will open wide as you enter the savanna. Here you'll experience the Everglades' vastness and subtle beauty like nowhere else -- broad plains of sawgrass punctuated by hardwood hammocks shimmering like distant islands, the sky a dome of richly saturated blue highlighted by brilliant white clouds, hawks circling high, screeching in the distance. It's as if you've intruded on a hidden and private world. Roughly three miles ahead the trail turns sharply and runs parallel to an old canal carved from the oolite bedrock. In the dry season expect to encounter alligators. Herons and egrets fish the banks throughout the year. You can continue all the way to the junction with a paved road (it leads to the Daniel Beard Research Center), just prior to which a side trail heads north and hooks up with the Long Pine Key Trail. The loop back to Pine Glades Lake adds up to roughly thirteen miles. Some people may find the canal portion of the trail somewhat tedious. If so, consider following it for a mile or so then doubling back, retracing your path. Total distance will still be roughly thirteen miles but you'll get a double dose of the magnificent savanna. Bring plenty of liquids and insect repellent.


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