The Florida Everglades is a massive wetland that covers more than 700 square miles in the southern part of the Sunshine State, filled with hundreds of native animals and thousands of plant species that thrive in the hot, humid environment. It is a great place to see the natural beauty of Florida, but it can be challenging to navigate if you’re not a Florida native or familiar with hiking in a swamp. If you’re interested in hiking through the Everglades, here are a few tips and tricks to help you plan your perfect Florida vacation.
Stick to the Trail
There are miles and miles of trail both paved and unpaved, throughout the Everglades. It can be tempting to go off the beaten path, especially if you’re an experienced hiker. Unless you’re used to hiking in the swamp though, you might find yourself stuck in a bog somewhere just like that poor horse from The Neverending Story.
Sticking to the trail ensures that you can enjoy your hike without worrying about getting lost, stuck or eaten by an alligator.
Take to the Water
There are so many rivers, creeks and waterways in the Everglades that it would take you a lifetime to explore them all. Many of these waterways are too shallow or too clogged with vegetation to be navigated by traditional boats, but that doesn’t mean that you’re stuck with kayaks or paddleboards. Airboats are a great way to explore the Everglades because they use a giant fan attached to the back of the boat to propel them around. The shallow keel and lack of a standard outboard motor allow the airboat to navigate very shallow or clogged waterways. Plus, you’ve got a knowledgeable captain to help you spot hidden wildlife.
Bring Bug Spray and Sunscreen
Many of the species native to the Florida Everglades are of the six-legged insect variety, and many of them are just as happy to feed on you as they are to feed on the deer, snakes and alligators that call the great swamp home. Bring bug spray or dress appropriately – long pants, boots and long sleeves to keep ticks off of you and discourage mosquitoes and other blood-sucking insects from seeing you as a food source.
At the same time, you’re going to need something to protect you from the harsh Florida sun. Bring a good sunscreen that is rated as water resistant or waterproof and reapply every 80 minutes to two hours to ensure that you don’t get sunburned during your hike.
This is especially important if you live in an area that doesn’t usually have high humidity – the humid air tends to suck the moisture right out of you and can leave you dehydrated before you even know it. Make sure you stay hydrated throughout your hike. Bring sports drinks or other beverages that help to restore lost electrolytes to keep your body balanced while you’re exploring this natural wonder.
The Everglades has hundreds of square miles for you to explore, even if it isn’t as big as it used to be. When it was declared a national park in 1947, there were more than 2,300 square miles of wetlands, but construction projects have reclaimed many of these over the years. What remains is a protected national treasure and if you have a chance to hike it, you absolutely should.
Scott Huntington is a writer from central Pennsylvania. He enjoys working on his home and garden with his wife and 2 kids. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington