By Keely Weyker, Director of Engagement & Outreach
Looking for a weekend adventure to get you and your family out of the house? The Everglades is a perfect way to enjoy a change of scenery.
If you’re looking to take your canine family members out with you this weekend, then you’ve come to the right place!
With the close quarters of living in South Florida, we are often looking for little escapes with our best friend. That solitude can be found in the Everglades.
Let me start off by saying, yes, there are alligators. And, yes, alligators can be dangerous, especially around pets. You are wise to be concerned. However, taking necessary precautions, the most dangerous thing for you and your dog in the Everglades is the heat.
As you embark on your Everglades exploration with your four-legged friend, be sure to keep them on a leash that is no more than 6 feet long and bring plenty of water. It’s important to keep a close eye on them to reduce the risk of heat exhaustion and predators. Also, do not allow your pup near or in the water, no matter how refreshing it might seem.
Now before I start listing places to go, just know that our National Parks and National Preserves do not allow dogs on the trails, so, unfortunately, those will have to be strictly two-legged trips. With that said, here are what I consider the best spots:
JONATHAN DICKINSON STATE PARK:
My #1 favorite place to go is Jonathan Dickinson State Park, a Florida State Park and historic site located in Martin County, Florida, between Hobe Sound and Tequesta. First off, the drive through Hobe Sound is already a high point as you cruise along Florida’s Atlantic coast and spot some of Florida’s most beautiful nature spots.
This state park offers numerous trails, but I recommend taking the white loop, which allows only hikers. The other trails throughout the park are mixed-use with bikers and horseback riders. Therefore, the white loop is a less-congested path, where you and your pup can safely enjoy the trail.
Part of this trail is a unique Sand Pine Scrub so be prepared to walk through some sand. There are beautiful wildflowers that line the trail, and we have even seen a few deer cross the path in front of us.
IF YOU GO:
Location: 16450 S.E. Federal Hwy. Hobe Sound FL 33455
Cost: $6 per vehicle
Hours of Operation: 8 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year
The next place that we often escape to is the Conservation Greenway off of Atlantic Boulevard at the Sawgrass Expressway in Broward County.
This trail is a 48.4-mile greenway levee, offering a biking trail from Parkland to Miramar. In addition to the Atlantic entrance, there are 4 other trailheads: Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Sawgrass Recreation Park, Markham Park, and Everglades Holiday Park.
I suggest taking the trail that goes straight out into the Everglades, which offers an elevated view of the Everglades and a serene waterside trail. To illustrate the extent of the view this trail offers, you can see a palm tree out in the Everglades that is 2.5 miles away! The great part of this trail is that you can turn around at any time so you control the distance.
The best time to hike this trail is either early in the morning or just before one of those famous Everglades sunsets. This trail unfortunately does not have any shade so be sure to bring a hat, sunscreen and lots of water.
IF YOU GO:
We recommend bringing bug spray along with long-sleeved, breathable clothing. Be sure to keep a close eye on your pup; gator sightings are common in this area so, once again, please keep your dog on a tight leash.
Visit https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/florida/greenway for more information on Conservation Greenway Levee for directions and safety regulations set forth by the trail.
COLLIER SEMINOLE STATE PARK
The last place on the list is Collier Seminole State Park which is located off Tamiami Trail east of Naples. If you are traveling to this park from the East Coast be sure to roll down your windows and exclaim a big “Woohoo” as you go over the two recently-constructed bridges that are restoring the flow of freshwater back into Everglades National Park, as nature intended.
The trail I recommend going to is the Prairie Hammock Trail, which is just up the road from the main entrance.
Be sure to register at the ranger station before you depart. They will also give you the inside scoop on wildlife recently observed by visitors. If you are into Florida history, part of this trail is the historic Old Marco Road. Keep an eye out for Gopher Tortoises that are excellent at hiding in plain sight.
IF YOU GO:
Location: 20200 Tamiami Trail E., Naples FL 34114
Cost: $5 per vehicle
Hours of Operation: 8 a.m. until sunset, 365 days
This is the end of my list but hopefully the start of many hiking adventures with your four-legged friend!
And once again, a friendly reminder to keep your dog close, on a leash, and away from the water, even if they give you the biggest puppy dog eyes.
***Please review and ensure compliance with applicable federal, state and local law***