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Everglades Itinerary: How to Spend 4 Days in Everglades National Park

An alligator laying on the side of a swamp.

Everglades National Park is huge, and there is so much to see and do. The best Everglades itinerary includes one day in each district, allowing you to see the best of what the park has to offer. Here’s how this Floridian spent 4 days in Everglades National Park and my full Everglades itinerary.

This post was updated on April 2, 2020. This page may contain affiliate links.

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An image of the sun setting over a swamp. The text on the image is encouraging you to download a 4-day Everglades itinerary by signing up for e-mail notifications.

Everglades Itinerary, Day 1: Gulf Coast

A group of pelicans on a spit of land.

The Gulf Coast area of Everglades National Park is unlike the rest of the park in many ways. Instead of gators and crocodiles, you’re more likely to spot dolphins and manatees. This side of the park has two major attractions: boat tours and canoe/kayak trips.

There are a variety of waterways and canoe trails located here. Most famously, you can glide through the Ten Thousand Islands area. Rangers offer guided canoe trips in the busy winter season, but you can also rent your own at the visitor center. More information about ranger-guided trips and programs is listed here.

Boat tours head out into the Gulf of Mexico for the potential of spotting larger sea mammals. This includes Bottlenose dolphins and the adorable manatee. You’ll also see a diverse array of birds. Tours are run exclusively by the park’s concessionaire, Everglades Florida Adventures. You can reserve tours here. Soon, they’ll be offering an additional tour through the mangrove forests in the area.

Where to Stay: River Wilderness Waterfront Villas, Everglades City Motel, Ivey House

Everglades Itinerary, Day 2: Shark Valley

An alligator laying in the swamp near cypress trees.

On the second day, you’ll drive to Shark Valley via Big Cypress National Preserve.

First, stop at the Big Cypress Welcome Center in Ochopee. Here, you’ll have a chance at viewing manatees, alligators, and wading birds.

Continue along the Tamiami Trail toward the Oasis Visitor Center on the other end of Big Cypress National Preserve. You’ll pass by the world’s smallest post office on your route, which is worth a quick stop for photos. It’s about the size of an outhouse! There are also short trails and interpretive waysides that are worth stopping at if you have time.

Lastly, pop in the Oasis Visitor Center for another chance to see alligators. I’ve never stopped here and not seen dozens of them basking in the sunlight. It’s a great location for birdwatching as well.

A wood stork in grass.    Two turtles on a log.

If you can, add the Loop Road to your itinerary – we saw an incredible number of creatures on our drive, including birds, alligators, and turtles. The road begins a few miles west of the Oasis Visitor Center and will lead you back to US-41 near Shark Valley.

Once you arrive at Shark Valley, grab tickets for the Shark Valley Tram. You can also reserve online in advance. If you’re interested and can adjust your schedule accordingly, the tours at 11 a.m. include a park ranger. The best side of the tram is the left side, behind the driver.

A trail  leading to the Shark Valley observation tower.

If you don’t want to pay for the tram, you can also hike the Tram Road or rent bicycles and bike your way to the Observation Tower at the middle of the road. In total, this loop is 15 miles.

Next, go for a short walk on the Bobcat Boardwalk Trail. This boardwalk will lead you through a typical South Florida landscape of tropical forests and sawgrass.

Shark Valley also offers a wide variety of ranger programs. Read more here.

Where to Stay Near Shark Valley: Miccosukee Resort, Best Western Plus, Holiday Inn, Courtyard, DoubleTree

Where to Stay Near Royal Palm: Long Pine Key Campground: Hoosville Hostel, Best Western, Quality Inn, Travelodge, Baymont, Garden Inn

Everglades Itinerary, Day 3: Royal Palm

A close-up photo of a cormorant with its beak open slightly.    An anhinga in a tree with its wings outstretched.

Next, begin day 3 of your Everglades itinerary down the main road through Everglades National Park. Drive south from Shark Valley to reach the Homestead entrance of the park.

Begin at the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, exploring the exhibits offered here. If you haven’t yet, consider picking up a junior ranger book and completing the activities to earn a special badge. If you complete the books at all three Florida national parks in the area (Everglades, Biscayne, and Big Cypress), you’ll even receive a free patch!

Next, drive a short distance to the Royal Palm Nature Center. Here, two excellent trails begin: the Anhinga Trail and the Gumbo Limbo Trail. Both are short and easy to complete quickly. The Anhinga Trail provides great opportunities for viewing wildlife and is another place I’ve seen too many gators to count on my visits to the Everglades. The Gumbo Limbo Trail will walk you through another traditional Floridian landscape filled with beautiful gumbo limbo trees.

An aerial photo of the Everglades.

NPS Photo

If you have time, consider a stop at the Nike Missile Base Historic Area. Rangers conduct guided tours here in the afternoons from December through March. Check the park’s calendar to review dates and times.

If you’re up for a longer walk, check out the Long Pine Key Trail. It begins at the end of the Long Pine Key Campground.

The next stop along your drive is the Pa-hay-okee Overlook. Another short boardwalk trail, this will lead you to a platform to overlook the “river of grass” that is Everglades National Park.

Depending on the amount of time you have left, there are some additional stops on your way to the park’s Flamingo district. Take another short stroll at Mahogony Hammock, eat a picnic lunch at Nine Mile Pond, or go for a walk at West Lake.

Where to Stay: Flamingo Campground, Flamingo Eco Tents

Everglades Itinerary, Day 4: Flamingo

Two people in a canoe.

NPS Photo

On your final day in Everglades National Park, spend the majority of your time in the Flamingo district, my personal favorite.

If you didn’t take a ranger-guided canoe trip on the Gulf Coast, why not go on one here? Canoes are provided free of charge. Tours last about 3.5 hours and meet at 8 a.m. More information is available here. You can also rent a canoe or kayak and adventure out on your own. There are plenty of canoe trails in the area, including Nine Mile Pond, West Lake, Hells Bay, and Noble Hammock. Stick to these marked trails unless you’re skilled at reading nautical maps.

If you’d prefer not to take part in water-based activities, there are also some hiking trails. A popular option is the Coastal Prairie Trail, which goes along the coast through forest and prairie landscapes for 7.5 miles (one-way). It leads to a backcountry campsite, which you can reserve with a backcountry permit. The Snake Bight Trail is another popular and shorter option. It’s quite overgrown and can be muddy.

A flock of white and black birds flying over a pond.

NPS Photo

Another excellent option in the Flamingo area is birdwatching. Hundreds of tropical wading birds flock to Everglades National Park, especially in the winter. A great place to seek out some exciting species is Eco Pond. If you walk the Snake Bight Trail, you may be lucky enough to see a flamingo. It’s extremely rare to see flamingos, but this area is the best chance for sightings in the United States. If you’re hoping to see a specific species or you’re interested in what has been seen lately, this is a great resource. Some of my favorite species include the Wood Stork, great blue herons, flamingoes, and burrowing owls.

Where to Stay in Flamingo: Flamingo Campground, Flamingo Eco Tents

Where to Stay Near Homestead Entrance: Hoosville Hostel, Best Western, Quality Inn, Travelodge, Baymont, Garden Inn

What to Pack for Everglades National Park

An assortment of camping and hiking gear you may want when visiting Everglades National Park

Packing for a trip to the swamp can be tricky. Depending on the time of year, temperatures can range from over 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day to 50 degrees once the sun goes down. If you’re visiting in the summer, it may rain every day. Here’s a list of things you may need, with some items varying based on the season you decide to visit.

General Packing List

A collection of items you should pack for a trip to any national park, especially if you plan on hiking.

  • A reusable water bottle
  • Moisture-wicking Layers: You’ll want short- and long-sleeve shirts to wear underneath your jacket. In the summer, you may also want a tank top. Choose polyester over cotton.
  • Jacket: I always have a packable down with me on trips. I also love this new jacket I got a few months ago, as it’s very light yet warm. Synthetic is a good alternative to down if you’re worried about rain or snow.
  • Hiking Pants or Shorts: My favorite hiking pants can be found here. As a taller woman, I also love Columbia’s pants because they offer long sizes.
  • Hat: Depending on the season, you’ll need a winter hat or summer hat.
  • Gloves or Mittens: Gloves are critical if you’re visiting in the winter.
  • Wool Socks: Smartwool is my favorite brand for wool socks. Make sure to get wool so your feet stay warm and dry.
  • Camera: I had my trusty Canon Rebel T5i, my Canon Powershot SX620, and a GoPro with me on my most recent trip to the Everglades.
  • Tripod: If you’re hoping to take decent photos of sunsets or wildlife, I’d strongly recommend carrying a tripod with you.
  • Hiking Boots and Sandals: I love my Keens, and will never choose another brand for my everyday boots. I always camp in Crocs because they’re comfortable and lightweight.
  • Backpack: I recommend this simple North Face pack, but you may also want this water-resistant Patagonia pack if you’ll be doing a lot of water-based activities. Check out my post on the best daypacks for women for more options.

 

 

Every hiker should always carry the ten essentials with them. These include:

A collection of the ten essential items for hiking: shelter, water, food, matches, tools, a light, insulating layers, navigation, sun protection, and first-aid

  1. Navigation systems: map, compass, and/or GPS
  2. Sun protection: sunscreen and/or ballcap
  3. Insulating layers: synthetic or down jacket, rain jacket, hat, gloves, and leggings
  4. Illumination (flashlight or headlamp)
  5. First-aid kit
  6. Something to light a fire: lighter, waterproof matches, and/or fire starter
  7. Repair kits and tools: pocket knife, duct tape, screwdriver, and/or scissors
  8. Emergency shelter: tent, bivy, tarp, and/or space blanket
  9. Nutrition: food for both meals and snacks
  10. Hydration: water bottle, water treatment (LifeStraw or SteriPen), and water

For Camping: The Basics

For more of my recommendations, check out my post on my favorite outdoor gear.

A baby alligator laying in green shrubs. Photo taken while visiting Everglades National Park.

Everglades National Park Gear

When visiting someplace new, it’s always fun to read the guidebooks and become more acquainted with the area. Maps are handy, too. I also love to read more about its history. In the Everglades, you can’t visit without reading about Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s fight to save the river of grass.

Pin How to Spend 4 Days in the Everglades

The best Everglades itinerary includes one day in each district. Download the free itinerary, written by a Floridian and national parks expert. | Everglades Itinterary | #everglades #nationalparks #florida The best Everglades itinerary includes one day in each district. Download the free itinerary, written by a Floridian and national parks expert. | Everglades Itinterary | #everglades #nationalparks #florida The best Everglades itinerary includes one day in each district. Download the free itinerary, written by a Floridian and national parks expert. | Everglades Itinterary | #everglades #nationalparks #florida The best Everglades itinerary includes one day in each district. Download the free itinerary, written by a Floridian and national parks expert. | Everglades Itinterary | #everglades #nationalparks #florida

Top 10 Things to Do in Everglades National Park • Riley's Roves

Monday 2nd of March 2020

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