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Best Place to Hike Miami 2009 - Shark Valley

Shark Valley

Shark Valley

36000 SW Eighth St.

West Dade, FL 33194

305-221-8776

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OK, smart guy, with your white-boy dreadlocks and stickered-up Nalgene bottle hanging off of your carabiner, let's just get this out of the way: Miami is to hard-core hiking as Aspen is to serious scuba diving. We get it. If you're looking to tackle a totally wicked 5.6-grade slope, hop the next flight back to the Rockies and leave us the hell alone.

But if you're willing to give Florida-style hiking a shot — think billowing saw grass and lush hammocks as far as you can see, with alligators slinking menacingly across your path — you can't beat Shark Valley.

Head west out of Miami on the Tamiami Trail, drive a half-hour past the half-dozen cheesy airboat rides and the Miccosukee bingo hall, and you'll see the entrance to the park on your left.

Inside, there's a 15-mile paved loop right through the heart of the Everglades, with an observation tower at the midway point offering all-the-way-to-Key West views of the River of Grass. If asphalt isn't hard-core enough for your tastes, muddy side trails cut through the swamp, where blue herons fish in gator holes and otters swim right past. Frankly, we'll take it over Colorado any day.

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