Shark Valley Loop Trail, Shark Valley Area, Everglades National Park, Florida
Shark Valley Loop Trail - 15.4 miles
Shark Valley Area
(GPS: N 25 45.385 W 80 45.994)
|Round-Trip Length:||15.4 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||7' - 7' (50' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+43' net elevation gain|
Shark Valley Loop Trail - 15.4 Miles Round-Trip
The Shark Valley Area is located in the center of a vast saw grass marsh prairie. Stretching 100 miles from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico, this freshwater ecosystem harbors abundant wildlife. Interspersed within the prairie are hardwood hammock tree islands. Unlike the flat marsh prairies which surround them, these tree islands grow tall and dense; housing mahogany, strangler fig, palm and gumbo limbo trees. They are literally islands encircled by the slowly moving river that forms the Everglades.
Watch a video of an American Alligator and Great Blue Heron battling in the waters of Shark Valley: http://www.youtube.com/protrails
The Shark Valley Loop Trail is an ecological highlight of Everglades National Park. Perched on the northern border of the park and teeming with interesting flora and fauna, this 15.4 mile trail loops through a grand saw grass prairie, offering close-up views of biological diversity.
The loop trail can be hiked or biked. In addition, a 2-hour narrated tram ride offers visitors an opportunity to sit back, relax and listen to a park interpreter explain the natural history of the Shark Valley area. Biking is recommended for those wanting to complete the entire loop in a timely fashion and bikes can be rented at the Shark Valley concession area.
This trail description follows a counter-clockwise route, as recommended by the park.
Leaving from the behind the main concession area, the Shark Valley Loop Trail heads south along a paved roadway and continues past the Bobcat Boardwalk Trail split (see related trails above).
The Shark Valley trail follows a drainage canal which acts as a lifeline to the area's wildlife. Handicap accessible with negligible elevation gain, the paved roadway makes for easy footing and even easier biking.
On either side of the trail, opportunities for wildlife viewing are endless. Alligators frequent the canal, as do birds including the Great Blue Heron, Anhinga, Tricolored Heron, Turkey Vulture, Great Egret and countless others.
At .5 miles, the Otter Cave Hammock Trail splits to the left. A worthwhile diversion, the Otter Hammock Trail leads through a hardwood hammock environment and meets back up with the Shark Valley Trail. Bikes are not allowed on the Otter Hammock Cave Trail but can be parked at the split and retrieved upon return.
Continuing past the second Otter Hammock split, the Shark Valley Loop Trail continues south. At the 2.0 mile mark, views of the open saw grass prairie become visible with hardwood hammocks dotting the horizon. For the next few miles, you are immersed within the prairie on either side.
At the 7.0 mile mark, there is the 65 foot-tall Shark Valley Observation Tower, open to the public. There are bike racks at the base of the tower, as well as restroom facilities. The top of the observation tower offers visitors a 6 story high - 360 degree view of the saw grass prairie. Due to the deeper waters surrounding the observation tower, large alligators are almost always around. Large turtles also frequent the waters under the tower.
After enjoying time at the Shark Valley Observation Tower, the trail will loop around and head north along the east side of the loop.
The east side of the loop is wide open and gently zig-zags through the saw grass prairie. Wildlife is generally less visible on this side of the loop yet this area seems a bit more wild than the west side. Alligators can still be seen, as can multiple species of wading birds.
From the Shark Valley Observation Tower, the paved trail leads 8.4 miles back to the Shark Valley parking area.
- N 25 45.385 W 80 45.994 — Shark Valley Loop Trailhead
- N 25 39.485 W 80 45.994 — Bike parking for Observation Tower
- N 25 39.363 W 80 45.986 — Top of Observation Tower
- Entrance fee to the Shark Valley area is $10.00. This fee is also good for the entire park at any entrance for 7 days. Operating hours at Shark Valley are generally from 8:30am - 6:00pm, 365 days a year. Always call the Shark Valley visitor's center for current information and potential closures. All vehicles must be out of the Shark Valley parking lot by 6:00pm.
- There are 3 ways to enjoy the 15.4 mile Shark Valley loop trail. You can hike the trail, bike the trail or take a 2-hour interpretive motorized tram ride. The tram ride is narrated by a concession naturalist or Park Ranger and is recommended for people with less mobility or for those simply wanting the easiest way around the loop.
- Tram Schedule: during peak season from December through April, reservations are recommended for the tram ride. Tram schedule is as follows for December through April: Every hour on the hour from 9am through 4pm. From May through November, tram rides are available at 9:30am, 11:00am, 1:00pm and 3:00pm.
- Ranger-led activities are led on a seasonal basis. Contact the park prior to your visit for upcoming events.
- Bikers should allow 2-3 hours to complete the loop. Bikes can be rented at the Shark Valley Visitor's Center or can be brought by visitors. Bikes must be returned by 4:00pm.
- Hikers should allow 6 - 7 hours to complete the loop.
- The Shark Vally Loop Trail is a concrete path / road which is entirely exposed. Be prepared for heat, rain and potential thunderstorms.
- At the half-way mark, there is a 65 foot-tall observation tower with restrooms and a water fountain.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- There is no camping or backpacking within the Shark Valley area. Day use only.
- Due to the heavy concentration of wildlife as well as tram / human activity, there is no fishing allowed at Shark Valley.
Rules and Regulations
- Keep at least 15' from all wildlife. Disturbing wildlife is illegal and violators wil be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law
- Bikers and Hikers must come to a complete stop for the Motorized Tram which shares the trail with visitors. Bikes can be rented at the Visitor's Center on an hourly basis.
- Littering is illegal and violators will be subject to heavy fines
- Hikers and Bikers are encouraged to take the trail in a counter clockwise route
- Roller blades, scooters and other similar devices are not allowed within the park
- Due to noise pollution and its adverse affect on Shark Valley wildlife, generators of any kind must be turned OFF at all times at the Shark Valley parking area
Directions to Trailhead
Shark Valley Visitor Center is located on Highway 41 (Tamiami Trail) 25 miles west of the Florida Turnpike from exit 25 (S.W. 8th Street).
From the Naples area, take U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail) approximately 70 miles east to Shark Valley.
Everglades National Park
40001 State Road 9336
Homestead, FL 33034-6733